So Where Do I Get the Funny Names?

It took my mother a long time to get comfortable with my books–“because of all those names!” she said.

She didn’t like the names. I suppose you could write fantasy in which the characters had names like Judy Wilson, Floyd Beckenbauer, Josh Smith, etc. (In fact, Frank Belknap Long did write fantasies like that.) But I’m afraid most of us would miss the fun of coming up with funny names.

True, sometimes a fantasy writer will abuse this privilege. That was one of the things that made George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones a real chore for me to read–an unfinished chore, I might add.

Sometimes, on rare occasions, the names upstage the story. This happens in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Ant Men (one of my favorites, by the way). Here, ERB’s supercharged imagination created a whole civilization of tiny people, about the size of squirrels. And then he went himself one better by giving them huge names! For me, the names are a delight in and of themselves. The ant-city of Trohanadalmakis, and ant-people with names like Komodoflorensal, Calfastoban, Zoanthrohago–there’s magic in those names.

I have given the inhabitants of Obann, the chief country in my fantasy world, names that reflect the country’s history. Obann came into being when several disparate peoples came together, under God, as the Tribes of the Law.

So I have characters with Nordic-sounding names (Helki), Welsh-sounding names (Lord Gwyll), sort-of “Euro” names (Roshay Bault), names redolent of the Old Testament (King Ozias), and sort of ordinary names, like Jack.

The Ghols from way out East have Mongol-inspired names (Szugetai, Chagadai), my Abnaks have names which I hope will evoke images of Native Americans, I have given my Wallekki tribes a Middle Eastern spin… and so on. It comes to me just now that in this I have been following the tradition of Robert E. Howard, famous for his Conan the Barbarian stories. I must have been doing it unconsciously–even so, a tip of the hat to “Two-Gun Bob.”

Fantasy is fun to write, and it should be fun to read, too. The funny names are part of the plan to help the reader escape from the stalag of this evil age, if only temporarily.

If you remain in the fantasy world permanently–well, then, that’s another problem.

4 comments on “So Where Do I Get the Funny Names?

  1. I have finally gotten over this hurdle myself- not that I don’t still find it difficult reading…I have two characters in my series with “different” names, but they are actual names, I didn’t make them up. I stuck with them, because, like in fantasy, they contribute to the world building. Ainsling and Aaliyah aren’t too strange compared to the ant men’s!

    1. Let’s face it–funny names are part of the fun of fantasy. Like, how much worse can they be than the names in Russian novels?

      We must also admit, I think, that none of us would dare to use names like the ant men have.

  2. I like the names of your characters; they seem to reflect the persons whose names they bear. In a story I wrote, the names of the characters were not chosen by me and i didn’t pick up how well they fit the persons until later in the story! That’s what happens to authors sometimes, no doubt to you

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