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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fantasy Names

Middle Earth, Gandalf, Lothlorien, The Dragonbone Chair, Paragor, Morgoth--incredibly cool fantasy names. Lots of folks ask me where I get the names for my people and places. So here's a little of what goes into my name-building.

First, names are absolutely CRITICAL. You must get them right. Take as much time as you need, but get them right. Can you imagine Lord of the Rings if Gandalf had been "Bob, the white wizard?" Yeah, me either.

I draw names from all over the place. Sometimes I take bits of several friends names and mess with them to see if they sound like something. Other times I research Norse or Celtic names for things. I have a couple of general guidelines when creating names for fantasy creations:

1. The name should fit the character. By this I mean I need to find a name that sounds like or hints at meaning. Nock and Bolt are archers. Mallik sounds like Mallet, and he wields, you guessed it, a big hammer.

2. Names should be pronounceable. I know, I know, it's fantasy, right? But still, ridiculous names with awkward apostrophes all over the place just bog the reader down. You can get great-sounding fantasy names and still have them obey English rules of pronunciation. Bek'ur'dalphian is just too much of a mouthful. My fantasy names sound otherworldly but you can still sound them out: Aidan, Gwenne, Valithor, Boldoak, etc.

3. Names should fit the culture or race of your creation. If you have a civilization of mountain-dwellers, and they speak in a dialect with a more guttural sound, then create rough, consonant heavy names.

4. I also like names that match the character's bent. If a character is a villain, I like to give them sinister names---BUT I don't want them to be obvious. Paragor, Kearn, Rucifel--all sound evil. Think of Darth Vader, the Sith, Mordor, Sauron--great names.

What are some of your favorite fantasy names?


Astral Pen said...

I'd say Han Solo. Has there ever been a name that's so perfect for its character? From LOTR, I'd say one good name, besides Sauron, is Merry. It's a common word, but it fits like a glove for him. It sounds so right, you wish you could just pluck names like that out of the common vocabulary.

And if I had to pick a name from my childhood favorite series, I loved Shredder from TMNT. :)

- Jason

Anonymous said...

Ooh, Maedhros from The Silmarillion, and King Tirian from Chronicles of Narnia.

Anonymous said...

Mithrandir, the White Wizard. I love it!

Anonymous said...

Oh right, and Nimrood the necromancer and Theido, from The Dragon King Saga.

Shane Deal said...

In my books the language of the Elves became very widely used by the Dwarves before both Elves and Dwarves adapted the modern languages of men in their attempts to become more up to date with the times. As a result you have the Dwarven name Galendrof, but an Elven name Galandor. More modern names for Elves tend to be things like Máiréad, Avalon, Elvonya, Anastasia, etc.

Elvonya... Elven Hope. It hints at the characters courageous nature and future heroine of Elves. (She's currently about the equivalent of a six year old perhaps. Elves age VERY slowly and even the eldest of all Elves Lord Galandor is only known to be old by his long silver hair.)

I love creating names, but I often try to figure out which one I like best. But I use a great deal of names I didn't make up as well. is where I usually go to find names if I can't make one I like.

Well now I'm rambling... *grins*

Anonymous said...

I always thought Valzaan, from the Binding of the Blade, was a wicked cool name.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Hi, Shane

Thanks for the link. I'll have to check that one out!

Amy Browning said...

Arya from Eragon (the book), it just fits so well - she's an elven princess.

Atreu (spelling?), from The Never Ending Story.

Rivendell. Narnia. Aslan. Dumbledore. Taran.

There are surely more faves that I'm just not thinking of right now. I love fantasy names.

PatShand said...

Literature: Voldemort, Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore

Film: Spike AKA William the Bloody, Drusilla, Kr'ph, Lorne, Willow, Glorificus, Winifred, Angel

Funny. Each of the names in literature come from the same series, and each of the names in film come from the same series. I guess if a person (in this case, J. K. Rowling and Joss Whedon) have the talent to make (borrow) a good name, they can surely make more than one!

Shane Deal said...

I keep getting interesting thoughts from reading these.

Amy Browning,
Arya is a nice name, it's actually a real name (From India. It means "Noble" or "Honourable".) It obviously points to Arya being an Elven Princess. As is the Irish name Murtagh... (Sea Warrior) I wonder if Murtagh will do something involving the sea by the end.

Voldemort, Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore

Flee From Death, Severus Snape.... Snape is a village. Albus (White) Dumbledore (Bumblebee.)

Severus is also the name of a saint or two. (Severus of Barcelona for example.)

I once knew someone who went by the name Willow. And if I remember correctly I have a cousin named Angel. Willow would make a good name for an Elf come to think of it.

Interesting names. I must agree.

Wayne, You're welcome. I hope it proves useful. :-D

(And here I go rambling again.... I love names.)

Anonymous said...

I love the names Arya and Murtagh as for names I have created myself, my favorites are Aleske and Rendyn. I have the hardest time with character names. I literally wrestle for hours on end with them! I'm going to check out Sounds cool.

Anonymous said...

Computer posted me as anonymous...oh well. Trying again...

PatShand said...

Sometimes, I feel that fantasy strives to hard to create odd, other worldly names. A lot of the time, calling a character a regular yet interesting name like "Xavier" is better than calling him something like "Xavinthorthialan" (lol, exaggeration, of course). Names can be what grounds a character, the bridge that allows readers to relate to them. That's why I liked the fact that the two main characters of the Door Within, Aidan and Gwenne (sp?), had modern names.

Shane Deal said...


I agree, although the longer unpronounceable names are excellent for evil dark overlords. I can just see it...

"The Dark Lord Xavinthorthialan!"


"Xavinthort...theee... ah, forget it, he who MUST NOT be named...."

I think a lot of times as authors we choose names that have the right feel to us, ourselves, but not always perhaps the best name for a character. But as I firmly believe that as authors we ought to write for God and for ourselves, in which case even if it's not the ideal name, if we like it, it's perfect.

Anonymous said...

I love making up names for my fantasy characters. Sometimes I'll pick everyday names such as Anne, Amy, Eric, Jason, or Martin. Then I like names you don't come across very much like: Eden, Imogen, Merry, Pippin, Aljeron, Edmund and many others. It's the best part of writing a short story or a novel or an epic poem.

Arysta Henry said...

From the Chronicles of Narnia I like Aslan and Puddleglum.
From the Dragonkeeper Series I like Dar, Seezle, Shimeran, Fenworth, Kale and Bardon.
From the Lord of the Rings i like Radagast the Brown, Peregrin Took,
Arwen, and several others whose names I can't remember because of the noise in my house.
From The Door Within i love Aidan and Antoinette, Nock and Bolt, Falon, Kaliam and for some badguys: Rucifel and Paragor.

Anonymous said...

Well, being a fan of the Twins I like Nock and Bolt, but out of LOTR I like Thranduil, Imladris, Lothlorien. From The Children of Hurin: Beleg Cuthalion. From my own story, Flinn! I love Elvish places, Elvish culture, the Elvish language...ahem...let's just say I like Elves! Namarie!

Anonymous said...

Oops! ***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** wrote the above. Hit the wrong button again.

The Writer said...

I really like some of the names in the Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker... Chelise, Johan, Qurong, Martyn, Tanis, and, of course, Teeleh. Ooh, that one sounds evil!

Some from stuff I've written are: Devon (pronounced DEE-vahn), Lia, Lucendo, Morda (doesn't he just SOUND evil?), and Ganther.

Anonymous said...

My names? Well, I made up some fantasy names. (Though they are realistic.) Some include: Marcus, Isaac, Lloyd, Gareth, and others. Though I love your names, keep up the good work!

everlastingscribe said...

I don't worry about naming characters, I'm rather horrible at it so there are long paragraphs that will run 'insert heroes name here' as I go along or 'insert villains name here' ;)

Current favorite name(s) in fantasy: Silvertongue and Dustfinger from Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

All time favorite name in fantasy:
Aslan, from Chronicles of Narnia. There's just something about the sound of that name, it's lyrical and sounds Celtic when you speak it.

Past favorites name(s) in fantasy:

Yosha from Children in the Night. Yosha is a variant of Joshua, like Yeshua. Kale from Dragonspell, her name fit her like a glove, it was short and strong and evoked the sense of a little pebble bouncing down the side of a cliff before the avalanche. And last but not least--
Robbie from The Door Within Trilogy. Yeah, so he didn't get as much page time as some of the others *grumble grumble* his name is short and at the same time carries with it a sense of toughness. Of all the names in the book his is the most jarring to find in fantasy, his is the most 'real' and he's still one of my favorites in that series.

In my own work (currently) the character I've named and hopefully he won't suffer a change, is Mynasthoa. Mynas is a variant of Midas (and we know what happened to him) and the thoa? It's basically there to make the name longer. Real deep, I know.
Well, you can't really shorten Mynas. What would you call him? Nas? My? That'd get confusing quick.

Unknown said...

I'd have to say for some fantasy nams from my stories is Trannar and Scralon for the stories. And a name like Gabrielle for the female charcter. Possibly lenoir for a male good character.

Anonymous said...

Favorite Door Within Names...
Nock and Bolt

Scribe, just saying, I write things with the (Insert Name Here) or (Insert Kingdom Name Here) as well. It gets tiring after awhile for me and makes me want to make up the character name faster. (lol)

Two more of my favorite names that I've made up would be Rivenwynd and Rainefall. They are recent characters of mine, twin brother and sister. All of the other characters in the story simply call them Riven and Raine.

James Somers said...

MOrtis (he's symbolic of death itself), Lucin, MOrdred, Captain Blackborne, Jason Night: agent NIghtstalker, Oliver Theed, etc

Anonymous said...

Names? Wow, that's a hard subject. My golden rule of naming is to make sure it is no mor than two syllables. Or, names such as Grorth, is a terrible name and is hard to pronounce. But names such as Aiden and Kearn are good names. Good work Batson!

Anonymous said...

I love making names up immensly, and sometimes just sit down and write about 15 names in an imaginary family tree. But I do get carried away.
I was just thinking about how one name for a character I made up is way too long. But I like the name. DX And sometimes I make up names that just came to me out of nowhere, but they just don't fit. I might check out that website as well.

Anonymous said...

How do you pronouce the name Kearn? I think it's really cool and say it like "Kern", but was wondering how the author meant it.

everlastingscribe said...

Probably the best character name I have come up with to date is Iason (say it like Jason only with an I sound) Iason is a variant (are you seeing a pattern here yet?) of Jason which is a variant of Jacob which means 'supplanter, heel-grasper, thief' and that's exactly what Iason is. He's a thief and a bully. Aw, but he's such a complex little villain. I like him better than the hero. ;)

Anonymous said...

In LOTR, I'd say Aragorn and Bilbo. Their names just fit them perfectly!

Door Within would be Farix, Valithor (he's my favortite character!), and Falon.

Narnia is Aslan (of course) and Caspian. Even though those are real names, I still like them.

Dragon King Trilogy is Ronsard. The name just sounds heroic, right?

Dragon Keeper Chronicles...hmm...probably Dar and Celisse. "Celisse" sounds like my real name. :-D

Binding of the Blade is Joraiem, Malek (sorry, I know he's evil, but I like the name...sort of like Mallik from Door Within), and Aljeron! Aljeron is a very good name.

Anonymous said...

The Lion Hearted, have you read the entire series of Binding of the Blade? I just received Father of Dragons (book 4) for my birthday, but haven't read it yet. I still need to brush up on Bringer of Storms and read Shadows of the Deep (I think that was what it was?!)

Anonymous said...

Door within:

Binding of the Blade:
Aljeron Balinor

Lantern Waste

Joseph of Arimathea
Father Enoch

Whew! *Wipes forehead*

Anonymous said...

o..o I have to say my fav fantasy name HAS to be Valithor his name just sounds strong and brave!

Anonymous said...

Man, tough question. Here's a list, though it really doesn't cover all that much :)

Kindle(my all-time favorite Door Within character)

Those are from several different sources. Another is my nickname, Avriel, that I came up with on my own. I personally find it very difficult to come up with original names. My names always seem to draw from something I've seen or read, even from years back, so I'm careful to Google my names before I get too attached to them xD

Anonymous said...

Ack, forgot one. Folgrim is one of my favorite characters in Brian Jacques' Redwall series, and I love his name.

Anonymous said...

my favorite name is Breeheehenybrenyhooiehaw from The horse and his boy. It's such a cool name!

everlastingscribe said...

The way a character introduces themselves can show you a lot about themselves. Think about how you learn Stryder/Aragorn's name, you learn more about him by how he introduces himself. Also, in the television show HEROES one of the minor characters (whom I adore) introduces himself in the following way. For those who don't follow the show each character has an unusual ability. 'Claudes' is that he can become invisible. He's not the nicest guy, in fact he's not really even a hero but watch how he introduces himself when pressed for a name.

Me? I'm no one.<---kinda like the guy who put out the Cyclopes eye His name he told the monster was ''Nobody'' and that confused his brothers when they went to get revenge.

"I'm the Invisible Man."<---that is a movie

"I'm Claude Rains." <----he's the actor who played the main character in the movie "The Invisible Man"

Now get away from me. Forget you ever saw me."

So, Claude never, ever tells what his name is. :-D

Shelby Marie said...

I agree with you Scribe! The way a character introduces himself can say much about them.
For instance, I absolutely love the way Nock and Bolt introduce themselves to Aidan in the first book.

Anonymous said...

Me too! They are polite in a funny, quirky way, and that is one reason why I am a fan of the Twins!

Shelby Marie said...

Flinn--They are my very favorite Door Within characters, along with Farix. Yay Nock and Bolt!!!

everlastingscribe said...

Nick names or the way a character's name is shortened by another character can tell you a lot about their relationship. For instance in The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn (if you haven't read it your missing a real treat) Jordan McKell is the main character, a cargo pilot. His partner, Ixil (who is not human and you can kinda guess that by the name) refers to him as "Jordan" but the rest of the crew, hire-ons, refer to him as "Captain " or "Mckell". Jordan's good friends with Ixil and the comradeship they share fits with the personal form of address. The others aboard are rather unsure of Jordan and so using his last name or his rank-title shows distance, as they use first names with one another.
Just interesting to note.

There is also someone aboard that ship called Elena Terra Cameron. Her parents thought they were finished having children, then she was born. :-D Ah, the fun you can have naming characters without going too exotic.

Anonymous said...

Brett, sorry I didn't get back to you!!

I've just finished "Beyond the Summerland," and boy, was it sad! I'm hoping to get "Bringer of Storms" (bk. 2) for Christmas.

nick said...

I love Gandalf. That name is so cool. Thanks for the name tips! : )

Shelby Marie said...

I got Beyond the Summerland for Christmas! Nearly halfway through...

Anonymous said...

Some of my favorite fantasy names of all time are Aslan, King Eliam (I'm sorry if I spelled that wrong, it's been a while since I've read the trilogy), Valzaan, Boromir, Kaliam, and Gwenne. I've actually tried just using names that you would find in the real world, like Roland and Jared, but I find that it's hard to do that for every character and have to resort to online name generators and my own imagination.

Anonymous said...

When I was reading the Door Within I was in the middle of my story. It was soooo funny because I thought of two of the names from the series right before I read them!!!! LOL. They were some guards or random knights or something. I think some of the favorite names are Pippin, Aelic, Gilin, and a few which I am currently using for my story: Nicholette and Gimlyk. TO STRIVEN: I love your name too! I really like the name Mertaug (spell check)

Anonymous said...

Vadanric from The Crown Dual series. SAy it it's awsome!
But my altime favorites are two of my own Dantariel and Arrdon.

Unknown said...

Yesh. I'm starting a book, and my favorite name that I've come up with is Pyron, Lord of Fire.

I need multiple names, and i'm spending hours on end (5 yesterday and 8 today) trying to find a suitable name for some character. I've exhausted all the "Name Gen"s and am very mad.

Anonymous said...

My favorite names are:

Turin Turambar
the Nazgul
Prince Caspian
Severus Snape
Bilbo Baggins
Thorin Oakenshield
and a whole lot of others.
I made up the following names:

and many more

Anonymous said...

I'm writing a book and I find names quite easily in my head.
My favorites in my book are:
Rythniel (I messed up on my other comment)
Sastron (the evil lord)

Places in my novel are:

My book is called the Chronicles of the Elder World, if you have any questions, call me by Chris.

Anonymous said...

I love fantasy names too. I think what really makes them great is the way they fit the character. I don't know which ones are my favorite, but if I named a fantasy character... I think I would call her Jayla Sol. I don't know; it just popped into my head. :)

Unknown said...

I love the name Idrial from the Third Age

Anonymous said...

i love the name Morzan(did i spell it right?) from Eragon! but hes a meany!!!!!

eve ships said...

good article,thx auther!

LydiaGrace said...

Bamarre (two princesses of Bamarre), Tatius (my book in progress), Shasta (Narnia), Aaragorn (LOTR), Pippin (LOTR), Eleanor (just in general), etc. :)

Anonymous said...

I need a name for a king, he is the king of a kingdom called Mythotopia. He is feared by dark arts and loved by nearly everyone in mythotopia. His names needs to be strong but kind. Caring not fierce. But he is powerful. Help me!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think it should be monithalik .
I usely have to make names for my writing class .so dont worry I have to think a lot for names to come to me


Meep said...

I have some names in my Door Within fanfic: Thoram, Mendan, and Turiaan are a few of them! :D

Anonymous said...

Hey I like a lot of the names from THE BOOKS OF BAYERN by Shannon Hale. I am writing a fantasy book too. Her name is Enna too!