Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Names

We are officially starting the second half of April A to Z people! Are you psyched!? I know I am!







Authors and game masters alike regularly face the task of naming characters, places and any other proper noun they wish to incorporate into their story. Choosing a proper name is a task fraught with pitfalls. What if it’s unpronounceable? What if it’s easily confused with the name of a different character? What if it is easily corrupted into something giggle-worthy. This last actually happened to me when I ran with a pre-named villain called of Dekelor. From the first time I uttered his name, my players have responded with an enthusiastic “Dick Lord!” and this wasn’t even a name I made up! This was Wizards of the Coast’s doing... jerks. Granted, WOTC has included poor name choices in its publications before. (see my previous post, Hack & Slash for examples.)

A well crafted name is a powerful thing. It’s memorable, summarizes the essence of the character, is consistent with the language convention for that culture from which it arose, and it rolls trippingly off the tongue. For a GM, however, crafting a fine name for a fine character can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. While authors can take the time to massage their character names into a well molded form that fits the character like a second skin, a GM might have only seconds from the time his or her players say, So what is the shopkeeper’s name to come up with a response without causing a noticeable hiccup in the game flow.A wise GM should have go-to sources for creating character names on the fly. Some might keep a list of interesting names as they hear them, and tick them off as they get used. I have already posted about my go-to sources for names, and I encourage you to check it out. I would, however, like to add a new source to that list.

Metal Singers... specifically, European metal singers often have names that would fit right into a fantasy world. I actually realized this while checking out the blog Mithril Wisdom, another participant in this year’s A to Z. The author, Jamie, has been posting nerd metal songs as his entries. While the videos are mindblowing in their own right, checking out the bands’ websites has yielded a wealth of truly epic names. Names like Peter Stålfors, Jesper Strömblad and Magnus Linhardt. I could populate a dwarven empire on metal singers alone!A wise GM should have go-to sources for creating character names on the fly. Some might keep a list of interesting names as they hear them, and tick them off as they get used. I have already posted about my go-to sources for names, and I encourage you to check it out. I would, however, like to add a new source to that list.

Metal Singers... specifically, European metal singers often have names that would fit right into a fantasy world. I actually realized this while checking out the blog Mithril Wisdom, another participant in this year’s A to Z. The author, Jamie, has been posting nerd metal songs as his entries. While the videos are mindblowing in their own right, checking out the bands’ websites has yielded a wealth of truly epic names. Names like Peter Stålfors, Jesper Strömblad and Magnus Linhardt. I could populate a dwarven empire on metal singers alone!
Metal Singers... specifically, European metal singers often have names that would fit right into a fantasy world. I actually realized this while checking out the blog Mithril Wisdom, another participant in this year’s A to Z. The author, Jamie, has been posting nerd metal songs as his entries. While the videos are mindblowing in their own right, checking out the bands’ websites has yielded a wealth of truly epic names. Names like Peter Stålfors, Jesper Strömblad and Magnus Linhardt. I could populate a dwarven empire on metal singers alone!



Edit: Another technique that works well for generating names... especially for non-human races is to begin with words related to a culture's primary interest. Tolkien did this extensively when naming the Rohirrim (and other characters from his books, I suspect.) Anyway, someone who is not an obsessive linguist could still start with the names of minerals when crafting dwarven characters, or plants for elves. Using this method, I quickly came up with the following:


Dwarves

  • Dendra - from "dendrite" the tree shaped branches of a crystal
  • Auric - from the latin for gold
  • Palladir - derived from Palladium



Elves

  • Bromelia - from "bromeliad" plants that include artichokes and pineapples
  • Lauralus - from "laurales" the order of plants that includes cinnamon and sassafrass
  • Commeline - from "commelinaceae" - the "dayflower family"


Simple as that. What are your go-to sources for picking memorable names?


7 comments:

  1. I love the mental image of an empire of dwarven metal singers! I bet they'd wield battle *axes*!!! Ohhohoho! *knee slap!* ... I wonder if anyone has ever made a guitar out of an actual axe... BAM! http://www.jokeroo.com/pictures/other/axe-guitar.html I love the internet :)

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  2. as a fantasy writer, i have to come up with lots of interesting character names!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com
    Happy A-Zing!

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  3. I agree with you. Finding the right names for your characters is very important. A name says a lot who they are and what they do. Loved your post. Just stopping by to say hi on the challenge.

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  4. Wandering through on A-Z challenge and staying to follow. So true on the names.

    I pity the dwarf who has a secret yearning to play winsome ukelele solos in the face of his metal brethren.

    Amanda
    http://dramadiceanddamsons.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. I don't know, Don "Hi-Ho" has a nice, dwarfish ring to it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Names based in the local language roots are SO important. It's one of the reasons I like Tolkien. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month. My alphabet is at myqualityday.blogspot.com

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    1. Definitely. For folks like me, who are not professional linguists, a combination of Behind the Name's generator and Google Translate can do wonders for giving a fantasy culture a consistent sounding language base.

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