Create Unique Words and Names When Writing Fantasy

Writer’s Corner has a good article on How to Find Interesting Words and Names for Your Fantasy Writing. The article covers the following points:

  • Keep a small notebook of interesting names and words
  • Maps are an excellent resource
  • Dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • Foreign languages
  • Add a glossary to your novel
  • Hearing the words
  • Enhance your readers experience

Names of cities on old maps have been especially useful for me when writing my novel. To give place names a sense of authenticity, I’ve used old maps of England and France from the medieval period and simply tweaked them a bit.

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Steven

My life has been pretty simple. I grew up in Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor's in Advertising. I have spent about the last ten years in web development. In 1998, a friend of mine and I started a web design company we ran for three or four years before deciding to close it due to the demands of school. Since then, I stayed in the web working with various companies in Alabama. I worked for a brief period with Southern Progress, namely with Southern Living magazine and Health magazine, in their web departments. While there, I also wrote for Southern Living magazine, Health.com., and the company's internal newsletter. I write as much as I can. For the last five years, I have been working on my first novel. I am on the third revision now and hope to be finished with this draft by the end of the year. I also write short fiction, though not as frequently as I used to due to the time I spend on the novel. My goal is to have my novel published in the next three years. Other interests include: History (particularly medieval and ancient civlizations), Reading, Foreign Language (I currently speak Spanish but plan to learn as many as I can), Landscape Photography, the outdoors, sports (especially college football), and Travel.

7 thoughts on “Create Unique Words and Names When Writing Fantasy”

  1. I use modified versions of “period” names, and all the names I use were in use at the time I’m writing. However, I will absolutely not use older versions of place names, just to give the reader some sense of “authenticity”. It’s often hard, even with a glossary, for a modern reader to figure out the modern equivalents. This is one of the things that annoys me about Bernard Cornwell’s naming practices, and believe me, I’m pretty good at figuring out the modern equivalents. But there are always one or two place names I have to check. For me, this disrupts the flow of a story. And believe me, I will very quickly dump anything that interrupts the flow.
    Anne G

  2. Those old place names can be difficult. Bernard Cornwell does usually have a place name guide at the beginning of his books, so the reader will know the modern equivalent, but I don’t always want to flip back and forth.

  3. In one sense, I like the old place names because it does give the story more authenticity, but on the other hand — from a reading enjoyment perspective — it can become laborious.

  4. Steven:

    Yeah, I guess the old place names “feel good” if you value “authenticity” over authenticity. IOW if it’s “olde tymey” stuff you want, old place names are the way to go. Problem is, it’s a lot easier — though perhaps not on the writer, though definitely on the reader — to create authenticity in other ways. But that’s probably a lot more work, at least for some writers.

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