How I Came Up with Character Names for My Fantasy Novel

Names of your characters give a certain feel to your book.  If people in a fantasy novel were named Jason, Bob, Linda, or Emily, you might think your fantasy novel is set in modern times.  If the people in your fantasy novel had names like Edward, Robert, William, Elizabeth, or Mary, you might picture an old English or renaissance setting.  If these settings don’t fit your fantasy novel, you will have to come up with completely different names.

In reading fantasy novels, I come across a lot of uncommon and/or made-up names.  Richard in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind is common enough.  But Richard the hero comes from a common background and a land without magic.  So the common name is perfect for him.  The heroine of this same series, Kahlan, does not have a common name.  Unlike Richard, she comes from a very different land where magic is prevalent.  Her name should be as exotic as she is.  Other uncommon names used in other fantasy novels include Pippin, Drogo, Kvothe, Rand, Gaborn, and more.

In order to come up with the names of the characters in my fantasy novel, I did three things.  First, I just randomly made up words which sounded like it could be someone’s name.  Second, I took common names and changed the spelling or letters to come up with new names.  The main character in my fantasy novel, Tomis, is one such name.  The character, Reyker, is derived from the name of Commander Riker in Star Trek.

The third thing I did when coming up with exotic names for the characters in my fantasy novel was to list names if people from different cultures in history (incidentally, I did the same thing with place names).  I listed a bunch of names from European, Celtic, Egyptian, Norse, Native American, Chinese, and Middle Eastern history.

This method was especially helpful when I wanted a character from a different land or different race.  One of the villains in my fantasy novel, “The Raven’s Fire”, is name Thorolf.  His name and character description are Nordic-like.  Tomis’ mother, Teshaure, is from the distant land of Menkhara.  Both of these names were derived from the Egyptian names I found.

There are only a few main characters in a fantasy novel, but there are tons of people and place names.  It helped me to come up with an extensive list of names before I started my novel.  This way, all I had to do was go back to my reference book and pick one which sounded like it would fit the character or place I was trying to describe.  When outlining your fantasy novel, you can find such people and place names in history or mythology books or articles.

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3 Responses to “How I Came Up with Character Names for My Fantasy Novel”

  1. Very informative! One of my interests in writing is coming up with character names, especially fitting ones that work with the novel and story rather than against it. I always like to find out how other authors work 🙂 How long have you been writing?

    • D. R. Ross Says:

      Stacey, coming up with character names really is fun! I wrote “The Third Dragon” about ten years ago. But put it aside after I got scammed by an ‘agent’. Once self-publishing became more readily available, I finally got my work published.

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