Three Things to Know When You’re Naming All the Fantasy Things

currently playing on my iPod: Trustful Hands by The Dø

So you’re writing Fantasy. Woo hoo! Now to have a blast making up crazy-sounding rackety mack à la Tolkein—

STOP.

Slow your dragon, darling.

Great Fantasy isn’t merely going willy-nilly into the imagination fray with an IPA in hand and nothing behind you but the idea that you are the quirkiest lil goof on the Interwebs. Tolkein and all the other kings and queens of the fantastical took time when naming the towns in their worlds, the characters, rivers, seas, ALL OF IT. So take a peek at the sparkling beauts below and make sure you’re doing your Fantasy homework before you kick that leviathan into a gallop.

1. Know the roots language(s) for your world. Get familiar with what meant what before it meant what it does now. Here is an example: Dun means hill in Old English. If you name your lovely fortressed city that sits on a desert plain Castledun, you’ve made a boo boo.

2. Be aware of what readers will see in a name. If all but one of your trolls has a name that begins with R, we will wonder why. If there ends up being no why, we will raise an eyebrow at you. And not in the way you want an eyebrow raised at you.

3. Names also paint pictures with just their shape and sound. A name like Bimmie gives us a different visual than say Llorlongtear. Pay attention to that. (Hey, fun game—tell some kids to draw your characters based only on the names you invented. It is enlightening.)

Okay, I’m finished raining on your elven procession. Just remember: keep it fun, but do your best to make it smart.

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