Ask a Book Coach! How Do You Create Fantasy Names and Languages?
Welcome to the first blog post in a series I’m calling:
Ask a Book Coach!
If you ever wanted to pick the brain of a book coach, this series is for you. In this series, I’m sharing the answers to the tough, fun, and sometimes random questions I get from my writers.
This week we are tackling the question:
Hey, Ashly! How do you come up with name (of people, places, things) for your fantasy novel? What about languages (not full-blown languages like Tolkien, but individual words or titles)?
So glad you asked!
When it comes to fantasy names, I like to use other languages as inspiration. For my current work-in-progress, I’m use Latin words and Old English words as inspiration for all the names of places (and things!). To use these or any other languages for inspiration, I simply Google English to ______ translator and then plug in whatever words I think of until I hit on a word that fits.
By going to the same languages consistently I find that my names all sound similar to each other, which is what you want of course.
Pro tip: When picking which language(s) to use for your inspiration, consider what flavor your fantasy world has. I read a book once that was decidedly Arabic in flavor and so all of the made up names sounded very Arabic.
What about naming people?
For my current novel, I inadvertently created a society where most people are named after objects that have some sort of meaning like Hearth, Sheath, etc... so that gives me a place to start when I'm thinking of names--though there are a few characters with regular names like my main character, so it's not a hard and fast rule.
So you might consider if there is a naming convention that your world uses. (Example: I read a book where most people were named after a desirable characteristic--Charity, Chivalry, etc...)
If you don't have a naming convention, I'd suggest using good old baby name books or name generators, and then tweak them to sound like your own if needed.
For good inspiration on this you can try looking at Dungeons and Dragons materials. I know that sounds odd, but they list lots of various names for different races and it's a great place to hear how a name can be altered to make it fit the culture (Here is a link to a post that lists sample names for some of the races: http://brandondraga.tumblr.com/post/66804468075/chris-perkins-npc-name-list).
Here are some great resources for playing around with names:
What if I want to make up parts of a language for my fantasy world?
Using a made up language is a HUGE endeavor that I haven’t embarked on yet.
But I do have some great resources I recommend:
The most important thing is to have fun with it! Settle down with your laptop, dictionary, thesaurus, and other inspiring texts and start brainstorming—write down all your ideas and see where they take you!
Just for fun, here is a photo of a recent brainstorm session I had:
Love this blog series?! Wish you could ask a book coach questions that are specific to YOUR work-in-progress? Working with a book coach is one of the most fun, most satisfying, most effective things you can do for your writing life. A current client of mine recently said this to me:
“I had this moment a month ago, when I thought, "I'm not really going to hire literally the first book coach I've ever heard of without at least getting quotes from other people, too, am I?" And then that's exactly what I did, because I just felt like the way you spoke on your blog and in your Insta lives was exactly the kind of voice I needed in my head while I'm writing. And that was a 100% excellent decision.”
But wait—just who am I? How can you trust me? After all, everyone’s an expert on the internet ;)
Hold on while I take huge slurp of coffee…
Hi! I’m Ashly! I serve writers who want to write an extraordinary story and who are eager to grow as a writer and storyteller. I believe we aren’t born knowing how to write a good story, but have to learn it (just like Yo-Yo Ma wasn’t born knowing how to play the cello). I believe in the power of stories (especially stories in the fantasy genre) to bring hope and life into dark places. I’m an Author Accelerator certified book coach and I’ve been coaching writers in various genres for two years now. I’m honored to be part of the creation of so many beautiful stories (see my testimonials page if you want to read about some amazing writers!!).
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