As if naming our characters wasn’t hard enough. On top of that, we have to name lands, buildings, foods, cultures, mountains even treaties and wars. The list goes on and on. Here’s your guide on how to name a fantasy world.
1. Pay attention to everything around you. You may come across a perfect name in a restaurant sign or even in graffiti. I once got a town name from an item in a craft store.
2. Think about what you want to name, a landmass for instance. What does that land represent to your story or to the people who live on it? Write down a few words. Then, go to a dictionary and a thesaurus and look up those words. Look at how the pronunciation is spelled, even the etymology- the origin of that word. Something in there may speak to you.
For instance, my race of beings can shadow but I didn’t want to call it that. Instead, I looked up the word shadow and its origins. Now, my characters sceadu. It’s pronounced the same, just spelled differently.
If the words you listed aren’t working for you, find their synonyms and try again. Also, I like to use Latin Translations. I wanted a name for my race of being so, I wrote down words that represent them then, I looked up those words’ Latin translation. After that, I pulled parts from each translation until I created a name I liked.
3. Remember, fantasy writers have amazing imaginations. Think of a letter and create a made-up word from that. I thought of “B” and came up with Borterain. It doesn’t have to be the perfect name. It could be incredibly silly. But, at least you have something you could work with. Play around with it. Take some letters out and put new ones in until you create something you like.
4. A comment from a Google+ group drew my attention to Random Name Generator. I do a general name search then, I keep reloading the page. Each time, the name changes. I reload and reload until I come across one I like.
5. Don’t try to name everything at once. You’ll only make your head explode. Instead, group them. For instance, start from big to small. Work on the names of all the landmass in your world, then the different territories within those landmasses- towns within those territories- any mountain ranges, deserts, forests, rivers near those towns.
Don’t try keeping them all in your head. It won’t work. I’ve mentioned my World Building Journal and Evernote in other posts. All names go in either of those places. I also have a colored world map on my wall with territories, cities, towns and geography.
6. The names don’t have to be complicated or even made up. I have towns called Sovereign and Shepherd’s Hook.
World Building is supposed to be fun. Enjoy it. The world you’re creating comes straight from your imagination. It doesn’t have to be anything other than what you want it to be.