A look at how I picked the names for the main characters in Light Dawning.
For fantasy and sci-fi writers, a whole lot of time is usually spent on picking names for characters and locations. Has this word been overused in other worlds? Does it sound too modern? Does it go too far and sound too bizarre?
I’ve found that sometimes the more tongue twisting fantasy names tend to be distracting and really draw me out of a book if I have to look at it and try pronouncing it repeatedly (this really hit me when reading The Darkness That Comes Before with names like Anasûrimbor or Cnaiür) .
When writing Light Dawning I knew I didn’t want standard American sounding names (so no Richard, Jack, or Robert) but at the same time I didn’t want to go overboard into the fantasy side either (so no Blipdoolpoolp or Xanathar).
After coming up with a lot of odd sounding fantasy names I wasn’t altogether happy with, I decided to start throwing words based around character traits into a translator and seeing if I could find anything in random other languages that felt otherwordly while still not being ludicrous, and that’s how I landed on my protagonist names.
The main character is a woman infested with insane, sentient whispers from a place that the religious think of as heaven but is really more akin to hell. If she speaks her inner truth and lets those internal whispers out, the world could change drastically for the worse. To reflect this I picked the name Tala, which is both Swedish and Icelandic for “to speak or chatter.”
Another character is a thief and a coward who is stuck somewhere he can’t escape. He’s literally mired down by a darkness in his soul that won’t let him go. I went through a lot of different ideas on this front, but eventually settled on Myrr, from the Swedish word myr, meaning “mire or morass,” reflecting both the unpleasant physical location and the concept of being stuck.
The third protagonist is a religious fanatic whose primary goal in life is to get through the darkness of the night, burn a city to the ground, and see the light of a new day dawn over the ashes. Because he is so focused on shifting the balance between light and dark, I settled on Erret (Albanian for “dusk”).
I went through a lot of different languages and iterations on character names to try to come up with a cohesion in naming while building up a unique world with inhabitants who have different cultural practices that vary by region.
For instance, the characters from the main city in the book tend to have short, clipped names like Myrr, Otta (Icelandic for “fear”), Kina, Shan, and so on.
What sort of names do you prefer in fantasy and sci-fi stories? Something modern and normal, something outlandish and fantastic, or somewhere in-between?
For another look at how picking names can even impact something as simple as telling time in a fantasy world, head over here!