Picking Good Names in Fantasy and Science Fiction


There is a Temptation, especially WhenWriting fantasy or sci-fi to get … well carried away.

They’re not lizard people, they’re the L! ‘Kan. It’s not the River Rock range, but the Talanaish-Ahsei mountains.

You get the picture.

Now, first of all, strange names do have a place since if you are Trying to Create a vision of a fantasy world, or a science fiction world, you do not want all the wizards named “Tim” and all the land named Las Vegas.

But there is also a great risk of the writer Forgetting the Important point That he’s not writing for the people of far away land, but readers here, and if the readers here find the naming Conventions hard to keep track of, they’ll Likely give the book a pass.

So, for the fantasy or science fiction writer, here are a few considerations:

1. Do not make themself impossible to pronounce.

Watch out for names That use! or ‘, OR that are long chains of letters. Say the name. Does it roll of the tongue, or do you have to sit there and think about how you’re going to say it? If the latter, Consider changing it, especially if it is representative of the other names you have in your story. One unpronounceable name is bad enough … twenty Will Be worse.

Remember, names are a way to keep track of your color, and a major part of That is that most names igniting to be short and easy to say. If you lose that, you lose a good chunk of the utility of a name.

One way to check for this is to find some other story, and insert your names Into a paragraph or two. Do you stumble? Do you find yourself going “Wait, who?” If so, than it’s Likely That the names need to be readjusted.

2. Think about how the name relates to the culture.

In Enska, there are certainties Conventions for names– first name, last name, middle name. In Japanese the family name traditionally comes first. That says something not only about how the name is created, but how it relates to the larger culture. Does your alien or fantasy nation prize family over the individual? Do They Consider some other organization, such as a religion or business group as or more Important than the blood family? Any of Those Can change how the names are Arranged, and traditionally this Can Be Very Important as a way to determiner what your culture considers Important.

This Can Allow you to keep the look and feel of the culture without making use of overly complex names. Take a look at the story snippet below:

Jack frowned. Something was wrong with the man in front of Him.

“You did not give me your clan name, Arlik,” he said.

“I have none. My name is just Arlik, “the grim figure replied.

What does it tell us? It foretells us That having a clan name is evidently something most people have– and Arlik does not have one. What does it mean? We do not know from this, but it’s pretty obviously Important to the character.

In other words, the name now help the story.

Now, you don ‘t want to get too obsessed with that, Because if the reader starts Needing to carry a scorecard to figure out what the name means or why it is Important, then you’re back to the joint problem you have with unpronounceable names– it’s interfering with the reader’s enjoyment of the story. The Importance of the name should not requires some jarring Explanation, or Otherwise interfere with the flow of the story. This does not mean you can not have someone explain it, if say one of your Characters is a visitor or Otherwise uninformed, but it honestly should not requires more than a paragraph, it that. The rule about showing, not telling, also plies here, so if skies, try to weave it Into other things, so you just do not suddenly dump a bunch of information on the reader in something That feels like a class lecture. Going with another sample

“Why did you do that?” Mary snarled, holding military Bruised wrist.

“Did not you hear her name? She’s a daughter of the High King,” Michael told his sister as he hurried down the alley army. “I do not care if you were Trying to keep the army from falling– if you’d touched army it would have been worth Both our heads!”

We don ‘t need a lecture there, but now the reader know that anyone WHO has That last name is obviously Important. We’ve told the reader so … without telling themself if you get my meaning.

Finally, after all of this there’s one last point. Remember, sometimes you have to break the rules. There have been stories, Successful ones, where confusing names were not an impediment to the story, They were the story as the hero had to figure out how to navigate a strange culture. That’s fine, in fact it’s more than fine, it Can Be Necessary, so long as That was your intent. But generally, remember That Name shouldnt help your story, but They should not slow it up.


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