Saturday, June 04, 2011

Finding the perfect fantasy name


Dave Farland, fantasy author extraordinaire, says that authors should never just choose their fantasy names randomly. They need to have resonance. Therefore, to come up with a good fantasy name for your character/place/animal group/whatever-the-heck-you're-naming you need to have a process. Dave suggests listing words that convey the main idea, and then combining them to come up with a new name.

For example, George Lucas may have used the words: death, dearth, and invader to come up with the name: Darth Vader.

JK Rowling probably did something similar when she came up with name Draco Malfoy. Draco means dragon, the foy sorta of sounds like annoy, and Mal in Spanish means bad (and if I weren't so lazy, I'd check to see if the root is actually Latin--after all, we have words like malevolent, malpractice,and Maleficent. Okay, Maleficent is actually the wicked queen in Disney's Sleeping Beauty, but you can see they totally did the same thing to come up with her name. Mal plus magnificent equals Maleficent.)

I was glad to learn this naming trick since I randomly picked several names when I wrote my science fiction novel, Time Riders. Not long ago, I rewrote the book for the national market (I'll hopefully have news about that next week) and I figured I would do the whole naming thing right this time.

I needed a name for a group of thugs who live outside the city and who kill anyone who isn't well armed. Here's how it worked for me:


Outlaws + Gangsters = Outsters . . . Nope. But the name would work for a cool rock band.

Gangsters + Hoodlums = Ganglums . . . Sounds like a gum disease you get if you don't floss.

Gangsters + Robbers = Ganglers . . . Nah,this one sounds like things that dangle in spiderwebs.

Bandits + Robbers = Bandlers . . . This happens when the clarinet section goes bad.

Bandits + Hoodlums = Bandlums . . . Ditto.

Outlaws + horror = Orrers . . . Either people who row boats or a British person swearing.

Weeds + evil = weevils . . . I get these in my flour sometimes, and they are nasty.

Grief + evil + robbers = Greevers . . . Hmm. Didn't James Dashner use this term for his monsters in Maze Runner? I wonder how he came up with the term.

vikings + robbers = Vikers . . . Success. And I'm not just saying this because every other combination was ridiculous or already in a James Dashner novel. I like Vikers. In fact, I like it so much that I already used it in the original version of Time Riders. It was an insult. So basically, yeah, after this whole exercise, I just ended up stealing from myself.

Authors are totally like that.

18 comments:

Lauren said...

Ha Ha! Your posts always make me laugh.

Also a great Disney villain: Cruela De Vil. :) This one's pretty blunt in what it's tryin' to say.

Cruel, Devil. :)

Melanie Jacobson said...

Great idea + funny = you're grunny!

I think that's a compliment.

Rachel Q said...

Maybe you originally went through the "process" in your head subconsciously the first time you wrote the book. :)

Shelby said...

I am reading way back in your blogs. I am now on the date April 24, 2007. Yes, I am a dork for doing this. Your blog is called 'Tagged Again'. And I to apply personalities to my numbers. I even still do it. You are not alone in the world of number people!

Janette Rallison said...

I had to go back and read the post since I didn't remember it. It's still all true. (Some things never change.)

Hmmm. One of these days I'll have to do reruns on my blogs.

Lulu said...

Haha... thanks for making me smile :) I love reading your posts! I find that the 'tool' you gave us for creating a fantasy name very helpful, I'll have to remember that trick for English next year when I have to write stories! Thanks!

Shelby said...

I am only leaving this comment to see if the pic I put on my profile works...its of my dog not me

Robin Weeks said...

"foi" is French for faith. So it's Dragon Bad-Faith. :)

Too bad there are a limited number of ways to combine names for people who steal from others and are bad. :)

Anne Marie Jenner said...

Ahhh, but when you steal from yourself, who's going to prosecute you? Nobody, that's who!

Although, they did warn us that if we tried to reuse a paper from another class, it would be considered plagarism and get us in instant "F". For what? I give myself permission to use it. There, "used by permission". Nope, you can't steal from yourself in college, only in novels.

~Marie

Janice said...

That book was called Time Riders! Yay! I've been trying to remember the title for forever. I read it while on bed rest with my last pregnancy. I must have read 20 books that month. The story stuck out but the title didn't. lol I'm looking forward to the news next week and I hope you're going to write a sequel too.

Shelby said...

i do not get how weevils are in flour...

Janette Rallison said...

The editor who wants to buy it thinks the story lends itself to a sequel . . . so who knows, that may happen too. (Between fairy godmother books, Slayers, and Time Riders, it may be years before I get to write something that's not a sequel)

And if you've never gotten weevils (small beetles) in your flour/cake mix/rice count yourself lucky. They are horrible little bugs!

the dandelion, herself said...

Maleficent may just be the best villain name ever imagined! It's by far my favorite.

I never thought of actually putting words together to make names - I'm going to be playing with this for days! Thanks!!

Dramagirl said...

Ha! This post made me laugh out loud to every single suggestion. Really though, I think you should've gone with, hmm, Orrers. Because then you could've let them sit around eating oreos all day and using their oar to steer their boat.

Am I making sense? No, I am not. Vikers is a totally perfect name. Congratulations on stealing from yourself!

Krista said...

This is awesome! I was just trying to tackle this last week and just settled for a name until I could find something better. I'm going to try this and see what happens. Thank you!

Shelby said...

Ok, I just wanted to say that Krista is my mothers name. And it is spelled the exact same way. And I am a Leo. Wich you will notice the Krista (not my mom) who posted is too.

Janette Rallison said...

I was just noticing your cute little dogs.

Danielle said...

Haha we were talking about Darth Vader in my German class a few months back and this is what we came up with.
Dart Vater is German for either Evil Lord OR Father Who Wears Black. Blows your mind, doesn't it?