Recently I’ve been working on a fantasy story. I’ve got it outlined pretty well, and I’ve planned ahead so the writing itself is going well, but the problem I’ve been running into most often has been naming the places and characters.
I’ve always paused when I’m thinking of a name, since I feel that the name is an important descriptor.
If it is a person, I want the name to be representative of the character in some way. That’s easy enough in languages I’m familiar with, but when the character is from another culture, that means surfing the internet, looking up the meanings of names and finding one that matches the character. Even my gaming characters have carefully considered names.
The same holds true for locations. The name has to feel right or it distracts me from the story. I try to take into account geography, the culture and history of the people, and what I want or need the location to be in the story. Again, I can turn to online databases for inspiration, but it is not as easy as just adding syllables together.
All these choices can be more difficult with science fiction or fantasy stories. Aliens and non-humans aren’t generally going to be called ‘Bob’ or ‘Helen’, from the planet ‘the Green One’, at least not without some back story, and having the names seem at least remotely related can be a chore.
Multicultural historical or modern stories have this problem, though a concentrated internet search can bring up enough information to get past them.
I try to figure out a lot of this information before hand, to avoid pausing as I write. But I cannot anticipate every need, so I often use placeholders, typing in something in brackets (i.e. [Green Valley]) so that I can come back later and fix it. I found this works better than typing in something sloppy and getting attached to a sloppy name.
Names are important, and should take a least a moment to consider before deciding on one. If you have any exercises on naming characters and places I’d be happy to learn about them.
Until next time, keep on writing!