This is the second instalment in my series on a Writer’s Tool Kit. If you haven’t read the first one on people watching, you can find it here. Today we will be talking about one of my most practical tools for the pre-writing process.
In case you haven’t been made aware, I love worldbuilding. I love it to the point that I have to restrict myself or risk never starting a story because of all the worldbuilding I do. But one of the things I’ve struggled with is finding names. Not just for characters, but cities, geographical locations, artifacts, events, diseases, technology, taverns, companies, the list goes on.
Sometimes I just know what I want to use for a name for something, but other times, I need a bit of inspiration. For me, this inspiration comes in the form of name generators. Oh, glorious, wonderful name generators.
For the longest time I used one name generator specifically which you can find here. This generator had everything I needed for my fantasy world creation and many of my first novel places and names are inspired by what I found on that generator. But as time went on, I realized that a lot of the names generated on that site were becoming repetitive. And with a world fleshed out with dialects and languages, it didn’t make sense for all of my character names to have iel endings.
Shortly after, I discovered possibly the second greatest writer website on the internet following only Pinterest. I found www.fantasynamegenerators.com. Now don’t be fooled. There is a whole lot more than just fantasy names to be found here. I’m talking everything from star names to herb names to weapon names to geographical names to ship names to (heroic) horse names (and yes heroic horse names are different from run of the mill regular horse names).
The person who created this website has tirelessly put together a seemingly endless collection of names for every purpose imaginable. If you ever need any kind of inspiration for a name I highly recommend checking out this website. In fact, here’s the link again.
How do I specifically use name generators?
It depends. Sometimes I am genuinely looking for names and will take them as they come from the generators. These are more often for filling my world with random citizens with ‘normal’ names that don’t sound as if they should be the protagonists of a novel. Desiree Falcon sounds more protagonist-y than a name like David Cole, for example.
Other times I am looking for names that have more memorability or edge to them. Often I will scour the generator taking first names and trying them out with other last names that the generator comes up with. Sometimes I will create completely new names by taking letters or sounds and putting them together.
Once I have a name that I like, I play with spelling to fit the desired effect the name is supposed to have. For example, adding double letters or replacing ‘i’s with ‘y’s will give the name a fantasy feel. Victoria could become Vyctoria, Vyctorya, or Victorria. Each new spelling gives a certain character to the name which will help dictate how I want to portray the character as soon as they are introduced.
I’ve been talking mostly about people names, but the same principles are true for places (and many other types of names). Below is a simple example of my thought process for coming up with something like a nation name. There’s a list of names coming from the country/nation generator. I go through and pick some of the sounds and letter collections that I like from the list and then combine them.
The first name in red is basically combining two of the names existing from the generator, but then I play with the letters a bit more and come up with a very different couple of names based on the original ideas. In the end I may decide I like the original combination of the two generator names, but I always try to make the names my own. In this case, I like the look of Esminstrea the best.
Name generators have saved me on so many occasions. When the world you write in is completely made up, everything needs names. Famous people, paintings, fairytales, seasons, holidays, cities, franchises. And in the fantasy world, weapons, creatures, potions, books, battles, and taverns all need names and name generators are a great place to get the ideas churning.
Do you use name generators in your writing? If so, feel free to leave links to them in the comments; I’d love to broaden my name generator database!