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October 7th, 2005, 11:25 AM
Hi all,

Recently, I purchased this software called Muse Names that has thousands and thousands of names from all cultures of the world as a easy reference when trying to think up of fantasy names for the elements in my story : the people, the lands and the items etc.

However, I realized that fantasy names in general, like those in lots of fantasy books we see on the book-shelves, are too corny, if you know what I mean.
Like Tareas, Kekron, Dahuan etc. And there's a lot more cornier and overly-classy ones.

But I'm kinda scared that if I were to use more natural and down-to-earth names like "The Virgin Forest" or "Bystander's Lake", readers will say "What an unimaginative guy!" etc. :rolleyes:

Of course, I do intend to use fantasy/classy names for a few lands, people, objects(swords etc.), but not all.

Anyone has any advice on this?

Xeon. :)

October 7th, 2005, 11:32 AM
But I'm kinda scared that if I were to use more natural and down-to-earth names like "The Virgin Forest" or "Bystander's Lake", readers will say "What an unimaginative guy!" etc. :rolleyes:

Bystander's Lake! Lol. A classic...

I acutally prefer such names, as they imply folklore.

Michael B
October 7th, 2005, 11:40 AM
But I'm kinda scared that if I were to use more natural and down-to-earth names like "The Virgin Forest" or "Bystander's Lake", readers will say "What an unimaginative guy!" etc. :rolleyes:

If it seems the right name for a place or a person to you then go for it. The first story I had published had a mountain range in it called The Spur. The naming was automatic and feltrtight so I left it. In contrast, it took six attempts to get the name of the main character to one that I felt happy with.

As for lack of imagination, down to earth names are all the rage in Brian Daley's two Coramonde books. At the same time, he also goes for the more exotic. The mix works very well.

October 7th, 2005, 12:06 PM
I am with Dawnstorm with regards to names that imply "Folklore". I have tended to look at the names of places round where I live and the reasons behind the names. They tried to apply the logic to my own work.

In one novel I used Welsh root words for the names of people/places for one country, in fact the whole race was losely based on early Celtic life. Another country was English based, a third made up names, a combination of both English/Welsh as this race had common roots with the first, but went their own way so to speak... Actually the name of their race is Pirate in Welsh... describes them down to a "tee" :eek: ;)

Names of people and places is always a challenge, a name can invoke a lot of baggage in a reader.

Take the city at the heart of the novel I mentioned above... "Volesford"... a city on a river, sited on a ford deep in an oxbow on the River Vole. A weapon in that novel is called my-manwy.... which means my rare or fine one....

October 7th, 2005, 12:07 PM
I don't think you need to buy software - the internet and google could find you a bazillion different names, but making them up is the most fun. Find any Latin/Greek/ .. (pick a language) dictionary and just type in words - try this one for instance: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/enggreek?type=exact&lang=la&options=Sort+Results+Alphabetically type in any word like brave or courage and you get lots of interesting words you can use as names :)

Hereford Eye
October 7th, 2005, 12:33 PM
Any language selected carries baggage that may help or hinder the story. For example, when Holbrook uses my-manwy, in me an immediate expectation of a Celtic - if not pure Welsh - mythos is created so that I expect events and characters to fit into a Celtic culture. If Holbrook delivered a rural Russian culture with the my-manway blade, the lack of verisimilitude would divert me from the story.
Radthorne uses Japanese; I tend to use Chinese Mandarin, others do as kater suggests. What happens when Radthorne uses Japanese is that my first expectation is that there will be an emperor, a samurai class, and a peasant class. When Radthorne does not supply that society, then I must reset my expectations and try to understand what he's up to. That can be as much fun as having my expectations met but, initially, I think it is disconcerting.
I used one of the Greek Muses as a character name in an ongoing story - mostly because I had just been reading about Greek philosophy - and I can see that it doesn't work at all.
Russian, Latin, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Welsh, English, American. Writing cannot be separated from language and language has inherent and ancillary meaning. No matter what we select, there is no excuse to not be aware of the baggage our language carries with it.
I suspect that KatG would opine that anything that diverts the reader from the story ain't good - though KatG would probably phrase it more eloquently.

October 7th, 2005, 06:58 PM
Sure there's an excuse -- we usually don't know all the baggage and history of the word involved. And even if we know some of it, we're unlikely to be able to trace it all the way unless we are linguistic professors. The existence of many words, that could also become names, came up purely by accident, from cultural sources, and most others from one language borrowing from another's. My daughter is learning French and it's become rather fascinating to see how many French roots are in the English language, because the French ran England for several centuries and fought with them otherwise. But the same can be said for Spanish, German, Italian, their precursor Latin, and so on, and vice versa.

My-manwy might have meant rare or fine one, once it got developed, but its antecedent might have meant something slightly different and been spelled differently, and be part of a word from a non-Celt language that then mixed with the Welsh, or a Celt language from another territory, such as the Irish, who liked to come over and fight and interwed with the Welsh. So using it for a different culture as the name for a weapon, why not? If you look in the dictionary and it gives you the origins for a word, even simple words might have developed from sources in up to four different languages, all different versions spelled differently, in different time periods, that eventually morphed into the word. A word in the general, official language might have evolved from a regional pronounciation that then spread and eliminated other competitors from the language.

So if you are writing about Earth's historical past, you have quite a task to deal with, as you do have to at least approximate the genuine historical article. Even there, you make compromises, since if we wrote in actual medieval English, or even just had the characters talk in it, nobody reading it would have an easy time following it. We can't be Chaucer, he's dead and his time is gone. We can try to be accurate within reason and we can give a different take on historical events, but there are limits. But many of us aren't writing about Earth's historical past or even about imaginary countries supposedly on Earth. A lot of us doing epic fantasy make up entirely different worlds, and we borrow a little from here and a little from there, much in the way that languages themselves develop. We take history, languages, cultures and we twist them around like Play-do. So unless the author says that the story takes place in Wales in 1130 A.D., you really can't have expectations of what's going to be in there.

Perhaps the best example of this is my daughter's love for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Charmed" televisions series. One is about a chosen vampire slayer dealing with vampires and demons. The other is about three sister witches dealing with warlocks and demons. Her being a fan of both shows prompts her to ask me questions about why the demons are one way on the one show and another way on the other, why the vampires can turn into bats on one show and can't on the other. The answer she already knows -- because Buffy is about one fantasy universe and Charmed is about another and they do things differently. And that goes for languages in fictional stories too.

As for names, well, I think fantasy authors get a little over obsessed with them. Yes, they can have symbolic import or plot relevance, but really, you could just call them Character A and Character B. Or as then fantasy editor John Silbersack explained to his assistant, who complained about having to remember such odd names in stories, "Just call everyone Fred." The fancy trend in fantasy names came, oddly enough, from the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games, which helped usher in the fantasy genre in the 1970's, and dug up a lot of the folklore and mythic info which gets used today. And which left us with many exceedingly British fantasies that nonetheless had few folk named with British monikors like John or even Gertrude, and a lot named Aranothga the Purple and such. Maybe we could call Tolkein on the carpet as well for throwing in all the Norse Icelandic derivations in LOTR.

Logically, all we really have to worry about is coming up with some sort of internal consistency. And even there, we may fudge a few details. So if you want to make it very straightforward and name things Bystander's Lake and such, I think that's perfectly cool. Of course, I'm a little biased. The way I'm using language and names in my novel is probably going to get me stoned by many folk, but so far, it's working for the story for me. Of course, there are glitches. I realized I'd named a city the equivalent of "beautiful mountain" when it's on a flat river plain. So I'm probably going to change it. But the deal is that if I make everything up, I get to decide what's right linguistically, and if the reader gets distracted by the real world, well, that's the reader's problem because he isn't willing to come play. You've got to be ready to go into the dungeon to have the adventure, after all.

October 8th, 2005, 03:34 AM
Wow, thanks for your advice, everyone! Especially KatG's long long post. :D:)
Yes, I think I should have a healthy mix, as Buddha once said "All things in moderation".
Too much corny names will result in a fake novel with the readers saying "every single item, object, event, place has such a weird name". I mena, imagine a story like that.
On the other hand, a book with "down-to-earth" names in English, like "Bystander's Lake" etc., will appear to be like a total amatuer novel for 7th graders.:D

Thanks all!

October 10th, 2005, 05:11 PM

i agree with Dawnstorm~ those more regular names always make me wonder how they got that name ... like there has to be a story behind it~ i try and create that kinda thinmg in my own work~ purely because i enjoy it ... regardless of what anyone else thinks!! eh heh ^_~

but fantasy names are good for more special things ^_^ ... old names are good too~ like medieval and biblical things~

eee~ but everyones pretty much already said whats needed~

sp turrah and good luck with your writing


October 11th, 2005, 09:58 AM
Thanks Ira-Shanna!

See you and good luck too,