With a tip of the hat to Flanders and Swann from all of those years ago, one of the many obscure, strange and perhaps down right borderline insane sources of inspiration for names and places that I use are car registration numbers and to a lesser degree, bill board signs.
Writers are continually trying to find names for people and things in their books. Now, you would have thought that with all the possible names that exist in the world, picking a few for a book would be easier than riding a bike or falling down drunk. (I can do one of those much better than the other these days……)
But, for me at least, I have a terrible problem with names because as soon as I pick a name, I immediately have the thoughts along the lines of
- I went out with a girl called Mary – can’t use that
- Dave was a bully at school – can’t use that
- Mike, Philip and John were in my class at college – can’t use them
And so on and so on until surprisingly I run out of “normal” names to choose from.
This is where genre comes to the aid of some writers. For sci-fi and fantasy there are lots of names that are completely made up and this gives you the license to do the same. So now, how can the writer make up a name for a character?
What about the number plate of the car in front of you? The letters are PKT. Fantastic because you can stick in a few vowels and maybe a consonant or two and hey presto, Paakot is born, or maybe, Peklot or Panklet & Poklet for twins. The possibilities are almost endless. From a seemingly hopeless start, you have characters with names.
It can also apply for place names, such as planets or towns and cities. Have a go with FLW and see what you get. I got Flanwant, Fulworth, Feleew. “We have to get to Feleew before sunset otherwise Peklot will be executed by the evil queen F’Laz”. Fantastic!
But if you are not a sci-fi or fantasy genre writer do not despair because with a little imagination you can make use of billboards and abbreviations you come across from time to time. How about the good old LTD for Limited? I got Lanted, Lutold, Luttard and so many others. Try for yourself and use that imagination of yours, you know how to let it out to play now, give it a go.
LLP for limited liability partnership can be used to make names. Lellop, Lolpex, Loolpey. The potential is endless, or to put it another way, the limits of what you can create are only defined by what you restrict them too.
In my forthcoming book Fendrel’s Tale, a fantasy faery story I have made up dozens of names for people and places. It is great fun, to me it makes the characters more alive and personal because I have created them and their name. I have Calbeck, Fallan, Hepton, Bardan, Sonna and one of my most favourite for my leading lady Mapelweigh. Such a beautiful name Mapelweigh and I invented it.
So, next time you are struggling for a name, think out of the box, let your imagination follow the dog and go sniffing about in places that it doesn’t usually get to go and who knows what fantastic name you come up with for people and places.
It will add originality to your writing and boost your creativity.