Help! How do I Name my Characters in a Young Adult Fantasy Story?

May 6th, 2011 @ 23:14:38When I was creating the series of Legends of Green Isle, one of the biggest obstacles I came across was naming characters. I didn’t want them to sound silly. (I could see them frowning at times when I posed a name that was reminiscent of a comic book hero).

Fantasy characters like my dragons, elves, fairies and the like were dependent upon me to get something that was easy to say.  As a youngster I’ve read many fantasy books with long character names that seemed unpronounceable, and it would confuse and frustrate me to no end because I just ended up nicknaming the book’s character.  I’m sure that it took away from the character’s ‘soul’ and depth, not knowing the true pronunciation of its name, and the writer’s extension of that character. I didn’t want any of my readers to feel the same emotion I did.

Most of my Earthly characters have names which are old family names. My grandmother on my mom’s side passed away during the first beginnings of Legends of Green Isle and out of respect for her, the last names are from her heritage.  One character who shows up briefly has her given name (Martha Gay). Green Isle characters were a different story.  They were the fantasy characters, and thus needed other worldly names.

You may not believe this, but sometimes they just gave me their name. Take for instance, Lamfada, the leprechaun who forged the Sword of Balorn.  He actually had a different name before this one.  It didn’t read well with the story though, and he knew it.  One day, while proof reading, I could hear the Irish tilt of his scorn as the name Lamfada popped into my head; “don’t ye think that ya be namin’ me some fruity name with this one wee lass? Why don’t ya try Lamfada? That be my name and I’m stickin’ to it!”

Some names were derived from research I did on the Scottish and Irish folklore, and delving into the mythology of Atlantis. Elvish names were a little difficult.  I hunted around the web looking for some help with this one.  One website I found, included several tables of prefixes and suffixes of elf names.  I was able to create things which had some meaning for the elf characters and elf places within the book.  I also used some of the names for the Nuada Findi people and the Shadow people of Murias Donn (Druids). You can find these tables HERE.

All in all, I would suggest reading your story out loud to yourself.  Listen to your characters’ voices. (If you’re like me, they are always up there in the attic of your mind hanging around waiting for the next scene.) Does the name fit their personality? Does their name amplify or take away from who they are in the story? Is their name something the readers will be able to pronounce when reading?  Getting the right names are important.  They help create a believable story  around the characters themself.

Happy writing all!  Enjoy some time in your imagination today.

7 thoughts on “Help! How do I Name my Characters in a Young Adult Fantasy Story?

  1. Proseia says:

    There are some fantasy novels I read that get the names *so* right (blending inventive with familiar so that it doesn’t get ridiculous) that I’m overcome with jealousy and I have to be careful that I don’t start stealing bits and pieces of the names for my own characters. On the other hand, I’m realizing more and more that not all names have to be made up on the spot: sometimes it’s really refreshing to see simple conventional names in stories. Or an inventive first name with a traditional surname, or vice versa. So many options! Looks like you started with a good base in Irish myth–run with it, I say. Celtic lore doesn’t get quite as much love as it should, and as a language Gaelic has a lot to offer as far as interesting sounds and combinations.

    Good luck! :)

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  2. devenluca says:

    I’m not a high fantasy writer but I am a Urban Fantasy. Less Lord of the Rings more Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Anyway…I do struggle with doing names a lot. I want them to mean something but I’m finding out that some of the best names are the ones I make on the spot. My main charcters name Silas Voleur is one like that and I love it.

    http://savevsweekend.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/the-heist/

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  3. kjjackson11 says:

    I would point you to my post on Odd Inspirations, the help can come from anywhere in the world we live in or the world you create. I love the thought of your leprechaun deciding his own name! Quite frequently, for minor characters, I find myself thinking of a name that I want to build a character around but I think it is important for main characters that the name is built for them as in the case of your Leprechaun.

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