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.

Name Change

Sometimes as you are developing a character, you put them away for awhile until you need them within the story.  It may be months before you visit them again, and when you place them in the story, you find that perhaps the name you originally chose does not fit them anymore.

This is the case for the elf from Kille Cael, who Queen Erulisse sent to Black Isle to scout for her.  While Kethron was first chosen (the prefix and suffix meaning wind walker) his name doesn’t fit the character he is to become.  Thus he will have a name change – Nimihel, which translates “deep sadness and tears.”

Nimihel will be in Book Two – “The Mirror Sliver”