One of my first posts on this blog ventured into a problem many fiction authors encounter – naming characters. I focused on the Misaligned series. It’s a contemporary fantasy story, albeit one with a connection to Welsh mythology, but nevertheless a story where most characters needed contemporary names. In that setting, my struggle was to select names that fit historical and cultural norms, e.g., Mr. Myrdin or were familiar enough not to distract readers, e.g., Penny Preston.
I faced a different problem writing The Warders books, a high-fantasy adventure series that features multiple human cultures as well as elves, dwarves, demons and even a troglodyte. There are over 100 named characters in the first two books. Add dozens more for cities, land features, magical herbs, etc., and it’s close to 200 names.
Frequent readers of this blog know that I’m a huge Tolkien fan and rarely miss an opportunity to heap praise on his work. I truly appreciate the effort he put into names, languages and maps, but one set of names has always bothered me – the trolls Tom, Bert, and William. Perhaps Tolkien had an axe to grind with some old chums from school or something similar, but in a book with such great names as Gandalf, Thorin, Balin, Dwalin, Azog, et al, the trolls’ names just don’t work for me.
Admittedly, The Hobbit sells more copies in an hour than I could hope to sell in a month (or likely longer), but I suspect the disparity would be even worse if my evil sorceress was named Mary or Emily. Given that I’m no philologist (some might convincingly argue I’m scarcely fluent in English) how did I go about creating 200 names across several races and multiple cultures? The short answer is – I cheated. Okay that’s a bit harsh, but I didn’t create my names out of whole cloth.
For characters I leaned heavily on Abulafia random generator. It contains hundreds of different random generators. I don’t use any of the names directly, but I find the generator a great place to get my creative juices flowing. Once I find something I like I build around it. All dwarf names include a ‘dr’ or ‘gr’ letter combination. The names of sailors include double consonants, while those of demons include ‘sh’ and a hard consonant, and many male names in Creuse end in ‘ic.’ Most barbarian names are monosyllabic (I like the irony of that word) and contain a hard consonant sound.
Place names came from a variety of sources. I borrowed some from astronomy (Eridan comes from Epsilon Eridani), the Opequon Confederacy is named after a stream I drove past in Virginia, and the cities in the Confederacy are inspired by locations in the French part of Switzerland. Does it work? Judging from the feedback I’ve gotten from the admittedly few readers of the series, I’d have to say yes. If you’re interested in forming your own opinion, I’ve copied the complete list of character names below.
As always, thanks for reading.
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List of Primary Characters from The Warders
Adara: Princess Erelle’s lady-in-waiting and guardian
Alenka: Escaped girl slave, younger sister of Dorric
Ashmedrin: A Demon Steed or Nightmare
Balith: A juggling jester, one of Draham’s disguises
Baroness Hagersel: Leading noblewoman of Eridan
Belarok: Smuggler and Brigand Leader
Bendan: Proprietor of the Knife & Cat Tavern, Leader of the Warders, Husband to Kelda
Dharmesh: Ancient Ramiahan Mage
Dimar: Belarok’s second in Command
Dorric: Escaped boy slave, older brother of Alenka
Draham: Dwarf, Warder Agent
Duke Farus: Uncle of King Etan of Eridan, royal sponsor of the Warders
Egon: Warder Mage
Eldan: Twin brother of Toran’s mother
Erelle: Princess of Veloria
Gar: Chieftain of the barbarian Red Lion Clan
Geren: Agent and primary trainer for the Warders
Ingred: Draham’s cousin, Chief Clan trader in Creuse
Isak: Member of the Eridani thieves’ guild
Jacca: Misty Dawn Crewman
Karrs: First Mate on the Misty Dawn
Kelda: Head cook at the Knife & Cat Tavern, Warder Security Chief, Bendan’s wife
Kell: Misty Dawn Crewman
Kennery: Captain of the Misty Dawn
Korsak: Leader of the Eridani thieves’ guild
Lady Lucretia: Eridani noblewoman
Lady Maran: Tira’s cover in Eridani court
Lady Umbral: Eridani noblewoman
Leoric: Count of Creuse
Lowden: Velorian Steward and Chief Trade Negotiator
Mandrishka: Demon Lord
Martak the Merchant: One of Draham’s disguises
Melos: Chief Eridani Envoy in Creuse
Merak son of Martel, Lord of Norcote: Toran’s cover in Eridani court
Mern: Squad leader for the Merman
Nagin: Nalton border guard
Nemus: First Mage of Creuse
Parvil: Nalton border guard
Perrn: Misty Dawn Crewman
Rigel: Duke Farus’s Steward
Rokan: Rogue Creusean Mage
Samoch: Servant of Skade, One-time leader of Red Lion Clan & Dauphin of Bas-Rhin
Skade: Sorceress attempting to kill Princess Erelle
Ssarel: Egon’s Troglodyte assistant
Tira: Warder Agent
Toran: Half-elven, half-barbarian, son of Gar, Warder Agent
Yuden: Shaulan Assassin