Names in Fantasy Novels

Naming Conventions Can Be Quite A Sticky Problem

From the Seven Seas of R’haquirkh to characters names like Ma’charlkh, and the city of Shavartanshiquilltengshui, the naming conventions within Fantasy novels can be veritable tongue twisters. Such discombobulated names that almost contain every letter of the alphabet with apostrophes can aggravate and disorient readers much like a jump cut from a French New Wave film.

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If any of the above names have actually appeared in a Fantasy Novel…well that’s just dumb luck.

Of course, from the other side of the coin comes an equally viable point of view. A main character named Paul, with his trusty sidekick Tommy, and love interest Lucy, from Milltown, could also serve as a means to prevent reader immersion. These names are too close to the real world and can block out your world-building efforts.

Names I’m Using

In my forthcoming fantasy novel, the first in the series called The Tales of Tyrennia (were you able to pronounce that?), I use the following names. I suppose I tried to be somewhat exotic without being too far-fetched.

Main Character: Dagorat – Secondary Characters: Cyril; Katrina; Liberon – Tertiary Characters: King Baldomir; Brother Maynard; Craicwyth; Magda; and Lhinthel (the Elven Queen). Villains: Lamortain and Xantasia.

Kingdoms: Ravenna, Quintalia, Easterly

Cities & Towns: Mentiria, Jalken, Ethelton, Dun Targill

Of course I’ll ask my beta readers too, but I’d to like to have it all fixed before I send them anything.

Did any of these names make you stumble? Got any suggestions or changes?

11 thoughts on “Names in Fantasy Novels

  1. This was an issue many readers had with my first novel. With my second (same series), I’ve had to find ways to explain this world I’m introducing in plain English. A difficult but not impossible task.

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  2. Personally, I don’t like fantasy novels with plain Earth names. It seems wrong. Your names are pronounceable, but why mix some English names in there? Cyril? Brother Maynard? Katerina? Easterly?
    In my Wolves of Vimar, the names are Carthinal, Basalt, Fero, Randa, Thadora, Davrael, Kimi, Asphodel. The latter’s full elven name is actually Aspholessaria, but rarely used, and I think, still pronounceable.

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  3. I’ll be completely honest. I’ve been reading fantasy since the early 1980s, and when I encounter a name I cannot pronounce, my brain thinks up something simple to see instead. I do not want to spend time sounding out a name or looking it up to see how it is said. I just want to read.

    When I read Lhinthel, my brain stumbles because H never follows L to start a word–at least not any words I know. If I were to read this story, my brain would drop the H and think Lint. It would be the way I would remember this character throughout the book.

    Back in the 80s when a bunch of letters thrown together on a page became fantasy names, I made up my own names. I suppose this is why I don’t remember any character names from those books because I never knew them to begin with. Perhaps I’m lazy, or perhaps I just wanted to read a good story.

    Although most every day names don’t fit into fantasy, surprisingly the plain and boring do: Characters can be named Anna and Jack, and we accept that.

    I don’t use names that can’t be pronounced easily in my fantasy novels. At least I don’t think I do. Because of my Scottish heritage, I like choosing old Scottish names. They feel unique enough in North America that it works. Mind you, when I chose Isla for a main character, it was a time when the name was not popular. Now it is.

    Simple names–such as Easterly and Middle Earth–can be made to appear fantastical if the descriptions are done well. And a common name can be made to look more fantasy like by adding a letter or changing one: Sara to Shara.

    I keep a list of unique names. When I see one, I write it down. I do a lot of genealogy research, so I’m always being exposed to names I’ve never heard of before.

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    • Hi Diane and thanks for your input.
      I have been considering dropping the H in Lhinthel and opting for Linthiel instead.
      As for Easterly and the subsequent naming of its subjects as Easterlains. Well, we don’t drop the cardinal directions North, South, etc. In the book, Easterly and Easterlains are the butt of jokes. So I chose a blah name for the Kingdom to reflect this aspect. I would never name a mountain range The Southern Mountains but I feel Easterly works because of the humor.
      P.S. How do you feel about Cyril and Katrina?

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