Naming Conventions In Make Believe

As a writer, (only by the mere fact that I write… not that I’m published or anything) I often cringe while reading about fictitious places or people with ridiculously sounding names. Stories taking place in a world with twelve vowels and an umlaut in its name are a no-go and anything that tries to convince me that using ‘y’ to replace ‘i’ is a creative decision isn’t worth my time. Choosing an appropriate name for a make believe thing is an art, showcased perfectly by the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin, (What’s with everyone having two ‘R’s in their names, by the way?) the first of which approached storytelling from a linguistic perspective from the get-go, while the other stuck to naming conventions rooted in nonfiction. (Ned, Joffrey, etc) While I’m no linguist myself, even a precursory understanding of names and language will unveil just how similar, yet incredibly distinct Tolkien and Martin’s names are. On one hand, Tolkien uses his linguistic background to create incredible languages for the inhabitants of Middle-Earth, each name sounding unique, while also following a strict set of rules and patterns common to any real language. On the other, Martin opts to focus more of his naming around Germanic origins, with a small spice of fantasy mixed in, which helps lead the audience subtly towards the story’s focus on political intrigue and deceit. When I read about a Ned Stark, I imagine a man who could have easily been the ruler of a small European nation, just as much as the leader of the northern lands of Westeros. Both authors chose naming conventions that helped get across the central themes of their stories, which is incredibly important considering how often authors choose names on a whim, because they sound nice, without thinking of how names string together to create one cohesive linguistic background that helps make the fictitious worlds their characters inhabit seem even more real.

TL;DR – Do some research before you start naming fantasy stuff. No one cares about your silly names unless they make sense in the context of your story.


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