If you’re a writer, naming stuff is important, and all the more so if you write in a genre outside our real world. Worldbuilding as extensively as I do, I could probably devote an entire naming post to the various aspects of my worldbuilding.
Yeah, okay, that’s totally happening.
When initially drafting this post, I intended to write a simple overview, but the draft immediately mushroomed. It was clear that even skimming the surface was too much for one post. So, there’ll be more than one, but I’m not sure how many. I do know I’ll end with titles (chapters, novellas, novels, etc.) so I can unveil the title to a renamed novel.
Beyond that, though … good gosh, there’s so much I still need to cut down my expectations. After all, there are characters (this post), glossary terms, locations, and titles. Some names I remember their inspiration like I did so yesterday, but some are lost to memory.
I have some character naming conventions, but they aren’t an exact science. I always reserve the right to be flexible and bow to creativity so long as it doesn’t detract from the story. Sometimes, a name is simply so perfect I have to use it.
Think: Haughly Nillerwell.
As with all my worldbuilding, I try not to be obsessive and instead lean towards flavoring instead. For instance, I’m no Tolkien level linguist, nor do I want to be. My Old Elf language is consistent (it has simple conventions and small dictionary). That’s enough for flavoring.
The same applies to names, and a lot depends on how many are needed in a particular category.
I’m going to oversimplify here.
Wizard and sorcerer names are derived from elements on the periodic table because they’re both similar to obsessive scientists. The first wizard introduced in the Kovenlore Chronicles is Palladon, whose name is derived from palladium.
Sorceress Crimson ignores the convention. She’s unconventional & the lone sorceress in existence. There are other reasons, but they’re spoilers.
I named Crimson’s talking crow, Mazatta, the same way. I wanted an exotic (to me) sounding name that was unique.
Witch names are derived from air, terra, or water. For instance, Zephtasha, who’s named for “a soft, gentle breeze.”
Some non-human conventions:
- Ora’eans: certain letters are off limits, hyphenated last names (Ohine Rof-Stra)
- Neanders: one-syllable names with heavy sounds (Crōthe)
- Yettles: unusual, often flamboyant names (Krezwick)
- Hobs: first name longer than last (Yarthat Ast)
- Grolns: long first name with a diacritic, short last name (Mith’myal Tia)
Again, this is an oversimplified and abbreviated list. Too, some peoples are influenced by others in the region and that varies across the continent.
This is a monster-sized topic so I’ll try to be brief.
Given this is another world, there are no Jane and Johns. It’s part of avoiding real world references. That said, names are often derived from a characterizing word and then further culled from ancient Greek or Latin.
Given I need so many human names, flexibility is vital. Too, someone’s role makes a difference. Names can be short (Gash) or long (Savin Tappington).
Important characters require more thought. Ametha’s name reflects her amethyst pendent. Riparia is named for riparian, meaning banks of the river. Talma Loyal’s name is a story in the story, as is Vistanna’s in Stealing Light.
Glistenelle’s full name is Glistenelle Sabre Rivenich Primara. Riparia refers to her as the haughty Temron heiress. The name also refers to her ability to read character via colors.
My favorite male name ever? Orrin Quade. The name sounded like a PI who moonlights in a jazz band (think Dashiell Hammett novels). His partner’s name? Stone Pulsar. Note the slightly celestial sound to both. That reflects the fantasy noir mix often utilized for Pannulus characters.
Another quirk is often (not always) giving protagonists names those who care about them shorten, like Zephtasha (Zeph, Zepha, Tasha).
I spend too much time naming animals because it’s fun.
Riparia’s bay mare, Doppla, is a unique case. That’s a name stolen from my first fantasy novel. It’s cute, friendly, and I wanted to pay homage to that original horse. Doppla is, though, fiercely protective.
Maniff’s horse is Eyyse (ora’ean for vision). A foreign name hinted Maniff’s worldliness and his ability to see through another person’s eyes for days after physical contact.
Aside from Mazatta and Trayla, most animals in the Kovenlore Chronicles are horses. There are some witch familiars with small roles like Cutter the beaver and Charms the ferret.
In Pannulus I went animal sidekick crazy. Shade the fox lives on haunted Cape Caprice. There’s Talma Loyal’s barska cat, Cinder, who lives in fog-choked Duskspell.
Then, there are Zepha’s five rylls (familiars) named for colors, and who wear little vests in primary colors for when she reads to children. There’s steadfast Azure, fiery Cerise, self-important Silver, tranquil Jade, and troublemaker Tawny. Too, each of them reflects some missing element in Zepha’s personality.
So, there are some character insights, and still I struggled to keep the post’s length sane.