Naming Characters

First off… Happy Halloween!

But that also means tomorrow is November 1st. Nanowrimo begins!

I’ve dubbed the month of October Nanoplamo – National Novel Planning Month. For the entire month I haven’t written any new words on a story, I have only laid out scenes and built character profiles. But I came across a large obstacle in my plans; Naming Characters.

This issue was odd to me. In the past, I’ve had a pretty easy time naming characters. Baby name sites are really handy in this regard. I typically search the site by name meaning and then choose the name that feels right.

I started my naming tasks the same way with this book. But no matter how many various sites I visited, I just couldn’t find anything that felt right. My story this time is a fantasy novel, and the names just felt too plain. Which, I suppose since they exist to name a kid in our modern world is kind of the point. But that left my usual source out, so I went searching for another way.

A Google search produced a list of random fantasy naming engines. Most are pretty simple, you just choose a sex for the character and let it rip. But I was never satisfied with the names. Most just felt like hollow names formed from a random arrangement of vowels andĀ consonants (which I think is exactly how they work).

Not good enough. I like my names to have meaning.

So I started looking at names of different angels and deities. Meh, been there, done that. Nothing jumped out at me.

Then I seized upon a new idea. I Googled Online Translator. Naturally, Google presented its own version atĀ http://translate.google.com/. But this worked surprisingly well.

I entered in English an attribute that I associated strongly with the character. Then I translated it into the 63 different languages available.

Here’s the cool thing. While the translator shows you the word written in that language’s native alphabet, you can click on a symbol at the bottom right that will show it spelled out phonetically in a Latin alphabet. A lot of the translations even offer a button that you can hear the word pronounced.

I’ve managed to name most of my characters this way. What I like is that it is still “fantasy” sounding, but it has meaning in our modern world. And that meaning is tied directly to the characters themselves.

If you’re stuck for a unique sounding name, I recommend giving it a try!

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