How to Name Your Fantasy Characters Like the Best of Them


We all know that characters are the life blood of any story, no matter what the genre. Here's a brief guide designed to help you find the best names for your fantasy novel's characters. Even if you have a concrete character design with a fully-fledged backstory, realistic strengths and weaknesses and you can write beautifully from their point of view, they are still going to fall short if they don’t have the right name. You know how important your characters are, and they need to be named accordingly.

Names can serve many purposes in your story. Your characters names can be used to set the theme, foreshadowing, or even irony. Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer for instance. In case you haven't seen it, it's a TV show about a teenage girl who slays vampires and deals with other forces of darkness and evil. Although “Buffy” seems like a silly name for such a dark theme, it really brings out the show’s ironic and joking element. Since it's actually a comedy show at heart, the name is very fitting. In popular teen novel Divergent, we are introduced to a character named Four. Although no initial explanation is given for this seemingly strange name, it’s later revealed that this is because this character only has 4 total fears in a society where bravery is praised and having only four fears is legendary.

Be sure to take your book’s setting and time period into consideration when naming your character. Be aware of when certain names where first used and gained popularity. If your novel is set in the 1700’s, a modern name like Tiffany of Jessica would be out of place. Do research into your setting and see what some believable names are for that era.

If your setting is purely fictional with no direct correlation to human civilization, you can get away with any kind of name that you want. After you’ve decided what kind of a society you want your fantasy setting to have, then you can begin to brainstorm some good names that might be given to its members. A good way to do this is to think about what is valued in this society. Is it religion? You can base many character names on the figures on your universe’s religion, just like many names in our society have biblical roots.

If your fantasy setting is based on water, like an ocean or river, then more aquatic themed names can work. If they have their own language, like an alien society, then their names can literally translate to things like “deep water” or “gentle current” or “skilled fisherman”. Depending on what sort of a feel you want your society, you can choose names that give off a certain feeling. Like if you wanted to have your society to give of an unsettling vibe, use more macabre names that variations of the words dusk, skull, shadow- even regular names that just sound creepy or are associated with that theme, like "Poe".

A less blunt way to do this is to look up synonyms for words like “shadow” or “black”, or even the translation of those words in other languages.

Once you’ve decided on a name, say it out loud. See how it sounds. Try different pronunciations. What are all the ways a reader could pronounce it in their mind? Consider a child seeing this name. would they have trouble with it?

Google search the name and see what comes up. If you’re writing a happy and uplifting story and your name search comes back with a serial killer, then maybe reconsider.

It’s important to have a name that fits your character. A hardened bounty hunter rouge would need a tough and sturdy name, or at least an alias to go by if they need to be taken seriously by your readers. An affectionate or childish name like “Timmy” may not be fitting. Of course there are exceptions like Davey Crockett or Billy the Kid, etc. Just keep your character's nature in mind, and how you want the audience to view him or her.

This isn’t to say that you can’t use an inaccurate name to describe a character. “Little John” from Robin for instance, was a larger character, making his name ironic, like mentioned above.


Fantasy writers have a lot more freedom when it comes to naming characters than other fiction writers. While some fiction is grounded in reality and meant to take place in our human society, past present or future, fantasy doesn’t have to follow this rule at all. In a fantasy novel, all of the characters can be named after a color in a certain society, or a race of aliens can have their own unique and complex naming system of your choosing. Fantasy writers also don’t have to be restricted by time period either. Even if your story does take place when the pyramids were being built on earth, if you’re writing about a different reality than you make up your own rules for how things work in your novel. Just one of the many perks of writing fantasy. Anything is possible.

While it’s true that you can get away with so much more, you still have to keep in mind how much readers are willing to believe or go along with. Everyone has their limits for suspending their disbelief, so in general just try to keep it coherent enough for people to follow along.

But since you since you have this freedom, why not have fun with it? Some readers might even expect you to use outside-of-the-box names. All in all, just do what feels right for your book.


My Top 10 Tricks for Writing Inspiration


  When inspiration strikes, it gives us a wonderful flow of power and motivation, and enables us to produce high quality work at a fast pace. But who has the time to sit around and wait for inspiration to spontaneously occur when we all have pressing matters and deadlines to meet?

This is exactly why I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most effective things that inspire me to write instantly!

read quotes from famous authors for writing inspiration [Joss Whedon]

No one knows how to say anything better than Writers. Luckily, there are countless websites out there devoted to quoting authors and their knowledge. Authors offer many words of wisdom, comfort and humor, but their most valuable quotes by far are the advice they give to other writers. Whenever I read a quote, I find that my determination and enthusiasm are completely revitalized. So many quotes from famous authors have inspired me that I decided to tweet one a day on my twitter account. That way I can feel inspired to write every single day, and hopefully help inspire someone else in the process.

Have a look for yourself and follow me for your daily quote of inspiration: Montgomery Mahaffey @FreeFlyingPress

visit a bookstore or library for writing inspiration

Like most writers, I’m a regular at every minor and major book store around. If I’m out running errands and a book store happens to be nearby, I can’t help myself from stopping in to browse the ‘New Arrivals’ section. Being surrounded by books is a wonderful feeling, and it always gives me encouragement that my very own book will someday be among them! Not to mention, that magical smell of new books is an instant anti-depressant. So stop by your closest book store (or Library- after all, it’s free!) and pick up some new books to read.

for workplace inspiraction check out other authors' workspaces and clean your own

Thanks to the internet, sharing images is easier than ever. Just through one Google search alone, I can see into any number of people’s homes, cars, bed rooms and offices. People are posting pictures of themselves and their lives in abundance, and some of them really know how to make things look good. Seeing other author’s picturesque workspaces never fails to inspire me to clean off and organize my desk. Especially since working at a crowded desk makes my thoughts muddled. Once I clear everything off and put it back in order, it’s like whipping a dirty windshield clean. Give it a try for yourself, and who knows? Maybe all of the clutter you’ve gotten used to might actually be sabotaging your creative process.

look at images related to your genre or topic of writing for some great fantasy inspiration

I chose this image because I’m primarily a fantasy writer, and luckily for me, there are ENDLESS amounts of beautiful fantasy art for me to gaze upon. One of my very favorite websites for finding inspiring fantasy images is Pinterest. There are so many talented artists out there, and they make me feel like I’m looking right into the world I’m writing about. Then while I’m browsing, I often discover something new to put in my story. If you use the right key words, regardless of the genre you write- you can always find some inspiring images that relate to your story.

Here’s my board on Pinterest dedicated to Fantasy Inspiration: Fantasy Inspiration Board - Fantasy Fashion Board

need some writing inspiration? reflect on your favorite authors.

No matter how much I love books and reading now, I never would have gotten this far if it weren’t for my favorite authors. I recently made a list of those special few writers who really made an impact on me with their work and vision. Once you have your own list, revisit every book you’ve read by them, and think about what you like most about it. If I don’t already know, I try to learn more about the lives my favorite authors led and how they got to be famous. Learning about great writers always inspires me. Here’s my list as an example:

  • Jeanette Winterson: “Sexing the Cherry” and “The Passion”
  • Isabelle Allende
  • Tom Robbins
  • John Irving
  • Truman Capote
  • Jane Austen
  • Agatha Christie
  • Florence King
  • Hans Christian Anderson
  • John Kennedy Toole

if you're stuck or have writer's block, stop writing and start working on extensive research for your story

Of course it’s necessary to understand something well before writing about it, but I often find that research on its own is more than enough to inspire me to write a few pages.

Once I have a complete understanding of the way something in my story works, like alien technology or landscape, I feel unstoppable. This is especially true if something in my story is based on a real concept or item, then I can learn as much as I can about it and have lots of reference material to fall back on.

So take some good notes and make sure you really do understand a concept by explaining it to someone else.

fastest way to get in the writing zone? Listen to music!

For me, listening to the right kind of music is key for my writing process. If I really need to concentrate, I listen to music without lyrics, such as classical music or alternative lyric-less audio. If I’m writing a sad, dramatic, angry or exciting scene, often movie sound tracks provide excellent mood music, and Pandora has endless stations to choose from.

Music doesn’t even have to relate to your story, you can just put on your favorite song or any classic inspirational track like “Eye of the Tiger” or “Don’t Stop Believing” and dance around your house until you feel inspired enough to write!

Odds are that you already know what type of music you like and works best for you, so just think about how you can apply it better to your work. Maybe your favorite genre of music can be doing more for you than you realize!

when I need writing inspiration I look for a change of scenery.

When I’m really stuck, I always have this trick to fall back on. Pick up your laptop and writing supplies and get out of the house! Whether it’s just sitting to the neighborhood park for 5 minutes, or spending the afternoon in a warm coffee shop, getting up and moving around always gets my thoughts flowing. When I go somewhere else to write, like a café or library, then I have nothing to do but write. In this a way, I give myself no choice but to get things done. The same thing can’t be said when I’m writing at home, surrounded by distractions. Another great plus to being out in public is people watching. My stories always contain people, so observing real live humans is a great benefit for my writing.

If you're really stuck with writer's block, find writing prompts online to get your creative juices flowing

While I was already on Pinterest looking at inspiring fantasy images, I also found a number of intriguing writing prompts, (as well as genius writing tips & tricks). So while you’re already on the internet from my last tip, open up a new tab to search for some Writing Prompts.

Pinterest is my favorite, and I’ve devoted an entire board to it, so you don’t even have to do any work: Writing Inspiration Board - Writing Tips & Tricks Board

One of the most necessary and helpful ways of getting rid of that writers slump is to take a break from writing all together!

It might seem strange to think that not writing at all will help inspire you, but putting too much pressure on yourself and forcing yourself to write is a no-go. If I concentrate too much on trying to write well and quickly, I often get less done and the quality of my writing suffers. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing is to just back off and take a break. Go relax and have some fun. Watch a movie with friends or go on an outing, and do your best not to think about writing. You’ll find that as soon as you stop stressing over what to write, the answer becomes clear and comes to you naturally.

Well, that's my list! I hope it can be of service to you! What are some things that inspire you that I didn't mention?