Naming things either comes to me like a spark of brilliance, or I really have to take the time to stop and think.
This hangup of mine applies to the naming of places, objects, and people. Out of the three, naming people is the easiest for me. I use either babynames.com or fantasynamegenerators.com to find the perfect name for my characters. The naming of places and objects is more difficult. Although, I need to add an “it depends” here. As a fantasy author who loves to find unique and difficult to pronounce names, I will admit that it is sometimes not worth the effort of getting creative that creative.
Let me back up before I end up standing on a useless soap box about names. When I first started writing, I didn’t really know what was the best way to name something. So, I focused on the underlying theme of my novel, which was the idea of ‘light’ and ‘dark’. Therefore, you’ll see on my map things like the Burning Plains or the Shadow Desert. Along with this, I manipulated other words to get the word I wanted. For example, The Klaroni Cordillera. The name is rooted in the word clarity, which is a synonym for ‘light’. Now that I’ve explained it, look at my map and see if you can spot the other ways I’ve changed words to suit my naming needs. When I ran out of synonyms for ‘light’ and ‘dark’, I started manipulating the names of people. You’ll see this in the names of the rivers because naming rivers after people seemed fitting to me. I admit now that it’s not the most creative use of my talents, but it is what it is, and I am not going to change it now. I’m too deep into my plotline.
I ran into challenges when I started getting into specific names for things. It’s not because I have a particular penchant for being different in my naming conventions, for me it came down to having different cultures in my book. So, giving a nod to cultures that inspired the different people groups through language was important to me.
Did I grow up in these cultures?
Do I speak the language?
However, I have a deep love for learning about life and hearing other stories through their eyes. I also think it is the responsibility of a writer, especially of fiction, to seek out different views from our own. This leads me into how I came up with the names and places for the Isokanii people.
Tribal Africa heavily influenced the inspiration for the Isokanii people with a bit of Middle Eastern (think Turkey). The contrast was supposed to be significant compared to the Sun Realm, which was influenced by Medieval Europe. So, when naming the places, it became a fun hunt for me for how to spell words in the different African and Middle Eastern Languages. I use indifferentlanguages.com to help me look up the words of the thing I wanted to name, and by combining the words from various African groups, Swahili & Yoruba, for example, I could make an Isokanii word for the place or thing I wanted. Unfortunately, many places on the map I drew do not have the Isokanii name, but the Sunarian (my word for the people of the Sun Realm) name for the location. At the time of my map creation, I was still a new writer, so I didn’t have all the details of everything worked out. This is something that I’ve now learned is very important, so I’ll be updating the map later with the corrected and additional names of each location in the Sun Realm.
One of my favorite things about my novel is that I did my best to include other cultures through different way, but especially through language. Taking the time to read the history of African tribes and Medieval Turkey was a fun trek through time for me. I am not the only person on Earth, and there are thousands of unique points of view, cultural insights, histories, and stories. While my view may be limited to my experiences and what I learn through reading, I still want to represent as many cultures as I can because our world is not made up of just one type of people group. Since that is true, why should my fictional world be limited to one culture and perspective? Specifically, mine.
So, that’s how I come up with the names for the different locations. At times, it can be a little off the cuff, and other times I really have to make an effort in how the word(s) both look and sound, but I enjoy the challenge. This, to me, is what makes writing and storytelling unique. It’s the little details that pull the reader in and let them escape from reality.
If you’re a writer, what do you do to create little gems in your story to make it unique?