Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More on Names

finished chapter 41; 73,090 word count

Writing Tip: How does one find names, or create names for characters and locations? I have several methods.
Phone book. I open the directory to a page and look for long names. Then I separate two or three into lists of syllables. I scramble the syllables and put them back together until I find a combination I like.
I do the same with names in a friend's family.
I take off the first letter of a friend's name and use what is left.
I do a modified pig latin thing with friends' names. For villains, I use celebrities I am NOT fond of.
I look up meanings in the website that gives you the word (like light) in dozens of languages.
I call my language professor friend and ask him to think up a cool name for something. That's how I got Wulder, which is an anglo-saxon word used for God. Actually it is only part of the word.
I had a friend who worked at Compassion bring me a list of names of children around the world. That's how I got kimen.
The one thing I avoid like the plague is alphabet soup names. Things like A'argriotisdaree'motarbtusnottabyph. Even my tumanhofer names are pronouncable by standard phonic rules.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I have struggled in naming my characters and have always wondered how great authors (such as you) came up with them.
    Thanks again for this tip.

  2. Hmm. I've used the 'scramble a friend' method before, but I can't wait to try out some of the others!
    I had always wondered how you got 'Wulder'. =)
    Is there a specific website that you use when looking up meanings in different languages?

  3. Thanks for posting this, and satisfying my curiosity!

    I did the scramble-a-name thing for two characters--both characters are based on real people and I used those people's modified names (and the one is a villain based on a celebrity, too--I didn't know others did that, too). I've never thought of using the phone book, though. Great idea.

    I know this question was aimed for Mrs. Paul, but I'd like to share a website I love for names and their meanings/origins:


  4. I love choosing names for my characters. If they are from a specific ethnic group I look up a website with baby names for that culture: eg. Irish baby names, Jewish baby names, etc. I do also use friends' names too. But what I love most is just making a name up from scratch.

  5. Thank you! I'm passing this on to my daughter, who is writing a "short story" for her fantasy lit english class (I am the teacher) that has turned into a novel.