If you’ve followed my blog for very long, you know I love names–their history, their meaning, and finding just the right one for a character. In many kinds of fantasy and science fiction stories, authors have the luxury, or the problem, of inventing names. Below are three sources for names in speculative fiction. Just remember The Golden Rule for Creating Names in Fiction: it must be easily pronounceable.
Perusing world myths is a great way to find names, especially if you read the ones that are less well-known, like Slavic or Celtic.
GREEK AND ROMAN NAMES
- Mael Duin
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
- Mati Syra
Because my oldest is the Nature Nut, we have all kinds of field guides laying around our house. By flipping through them, I’ve discovered all sorts of names that would blend right into any speculative fiction story. In a field guide on birds, I found Calidris, Striatus, Thula. Asio, Strix, and Zenaida. Tyto Albo is the name for barn owls. It also sounds like a great name for the hero of an epic. If I change it to Tyta Albo or Alba Tyto, I have a heroine. If a scientific name sounds–well, too scientific, play with it like I did with Tyto Albo, leading me to the next tip, which is …
Play with Familiar Names
I take a name like Olivia and write it backwards, Aivilo. That’s easy to pronounce for any English reader–Ay-vil-o. But some one might notice I used Olivia backwards. So I change it to something like Raivilo or Ailvilor. You can honor friends by naming characters with disguised versions of their names or hold a contest for readers and disguise the winner’s name.
Writers, what sources do you use for names in speculative fiction? Readers, what are the best names you’ve read in speculative fiction?
This is great. I’m not a speculative fiction author but I like your source of imagination. I write biblical fiction and I find it fascinating to discover the right name for my characters that are not named in scripture.
If a character isn’t working for me, sometimes it had to do with the name. Naming is so important to me.
Yes, I agree.
Cool thoughts regarding the names. For my future writing projects, I’m thinking with what you’ve noted, when I use name it’ll become part of the story’s culture – many of the names having a specific meaning. A crafted name can represent, “joy of joy”, or if the mother dies in childbirth, the child’s name can be the cultural equivalence to “father’s sorrow to joy.” Then there’s the unique name for “born under the summer’s full moon.” These are just some random thoughts of what could be done to add depth and dimension to characters.