Not Just the Son of That Guy: Creating Effective Names for Original Characters

Author: Darth Fingon

Nominator: Raksha the Demon

2011 Award Category: Non-Fiction: General - First Place

Story Type: Non-Fiction  ✧  Length: N/A (Non-Fiction or Poetry)

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Helpful hints for naming those annoying OCs who keep showing up in your stories.

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

If you're like me, or, I suspect, many fanfiction writers; you are not an instinctive linguist and cannot make up authentic-sounding Sindarin names for original characters in your Tolkien fanfic stories. What's a Tolkien fan supposed to do to name those servants and spear-carriers and your main character's second cousin from Mirkwood or Minas Tirith who Tolkien never mentioned? Sindarin is a language used by some Elves and some Men; for everyday communication, formal events and also names. In this essay, Darth Fingon gives the linguistically challenged Tolkien fanfiction writer a little help in the formation of believable names for those OC's who are needed in the story but you may not want to spend two days on in the research of the perfect moniker. Darth Fingon demonstrates his sense of humor in the beginning of the essay: [Unfortunately, because this is the Tolkien fandom, you can't just call him Byron or Jeff and be done with it. Nor can you make up some random fantasy name like Qhaer'Yaah off the top of your head. (Well, okay, technically you can, but you'll be wrong and people will bitch about it.)] And believe me; the humorous undercurrent of this essay makes it easier to absorb some of the tips and rules Darth Fingon provides. Usually, I tend to react to Tolkien language linguistics treatises by running away to avoid falling asleep at the chair. My head just doesn't absorb linguistics very well; the subject, when getting down to the actual rules rather than the origins, tends to make my eyes glaze over. But I read this essay with eyes open and mouth either smiling in appreciation or chuckling at the author's witticisms. Dry, this essay is thankfully NOT. I never realized that Tolkien often chose very simple meanings for his Elvish names until Darth Fingon points it out that 'Arwen' (meaning 'Noble Maiden') and Glorfindel ('Golden Hair') are not exemplars of originality; and as fanfiction writers, we can certainly follow the good Professor's lead by not searching for Sindarin names of great complexity and clever meanings. Do read this quite readable and informative essay. And it may be a good idea to follow his Rule #7 - [7) Do not, under any circumstances, just make up some crap and hope nobody notices. Because somebody will notice.]

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 10

This piece is chock-full of sterling advice and I've already found myself recommending it to someone--although there are quite a lot of us who religiously follow Darth Fingon's linguistic column on the Silmarillion Writers Guild Archive anyway (not to mention how indebted so many of us are for the names of original characters to the designer of Pixellated Feanor)! In fact, one should probably have this essay framed over one's desk as one writes... As is often the way with such things, I will find it a bit harder to follow some of this sterling advice myself, though: I don't really see myself getting organized enough to compile a list of names for minor original characters in advance any time soon--and no doubt I will find myself desperately hunting for a name for a cook or a guard in the middle of an intense bout of writing once again, as I deserve to! Also, I'm not sure that I can successfully suppress my hankering for speaking elvish names, especially as that passage about motherly prescience in the choice of names for their children in the History of Middle-Earth gives one a little more of an excuse than one would otherwise have. It's good to be reminded that Tolkien tended to do it the other way, though: he picked a great-sounding name, then came up with an etymology and a translation. And, of course, I agree completely and whole-heartedly on one thing: it's better to have a Findekano than a Teleporno every time, "hair shout" or no!

Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

After his enlightening and delightful essay about Fanons and Canon contradictions, Darth Fingon again tackles a tricky issue encountered by fanfiction authors all over the Tolkien fandom - this time, the naming of original characters. In seven - well, six, the seventh is just a useful warning - easy steps, he illustrates how to create nice, simple, effective names for original characters so that authors neither end up with everyone's name ending in the same way (typically, -ion for guys and -wen or -iel for girls) nor with overly complicated or strange-sounding constructions that no thinking Elven parent would punish their offspring with (the possible exception being poor Tyelperinquar - what a mouthful!). With some particularly useful hints how not to stumble over the tricky rules of Sindarin, this is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled with the naming of OCs, or might ever need to do so. I also enjoyed rule #3: For all the foresight Elven parents supposedly possessed, it just looks silly when every warrior has a warrior name and every craftsperson is conveniently named for their craft... As for rule #7, that simply made me smile - because I tend to be one of those annoying people who notice. In conclusion: Heed Darth's advice - make your readers happy (and your characters, too)!

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 9

There is a dreaded moment in writing every story in the LOTR fandom, that sneaks up on me like an odious but unavoidable part of the process: up comes a necessary original character, who plays a minor or a bigger part of the story, and I have to name him. Or her, or sometimes even a group. And I go looking through my Sindarin dictionary of choice, and most of the times I nearly balk, because I cannot, for the life of me, come up with something that sounds good or fits. The OC is a warrior, a hunter - should he not be named in some way that is related to his deeds? She is a servant girl who has died a dreadful death, should she not be named accordingly? And how the heck do I put these elements into a name, in correct Sindarin? Darth Fingon's essay gives some very good and succinct advice how to get out of that point without ending up with something horrid. Especially on the problem of the speaking name, to which his advice is nice and simple: don't try to find one, keep it simple. I think I will keep this short and helpful essay in my mind and pinned to my desktop during my next writing sessions! Great advice. Thank you, Darth. :)

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 8

Last year I reviewed Darth Fingon's [Elvish Fanons and Canon Contradictions], which burned me on my use of "elleth" and "ellon." This year, it's his essay on [Creating Effective Names for Original Characters], specifically Tip#7: [Do not, under any circumstances, just make up some crap and hope nobody notices.] Not that I cared if anyone noticed at the time. I wasn't very reverential in those early days of writing LOTR fanfic, and I took unseemly delight in devising the ultimate unpronounceable nonsense name for my Elf character. A six syllable combination unlike anything in Quenya, Sindarin, or any other Elven dialect, it wanted only the ubiquitous fantasy apos'trophe to be complete. Why I thought this was a good idea in an otherwise serious story, I'm not certain. Eight years later, I am marginally more respectful of Tolkien's linguistic corpus and his Elves, and still That Name remains: an artifact of anti-Elven snark. There are other resources for naming [those annoying OCs who keep showing up in your stories]. This one is succinct, and it addresses a few practical points that others don't. (Tip#5, on how to [cheat at Sindarin], is a particular must-see.) With practical, brief, direct guidelines like these, there simply is no reason to cock it up - unless, like yours truly, you are really doing it to be an Orc.

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 8

Like all of the Linguistic Foolery essays written by Darth Fingon and posted at the Silmarillion Writers' Guild, this one is fun and crammed with common sense. In the past it's been far too easy for me to pull out the elvish grammars and lexicons with the intention of knocking together a few awesome names for my original characters, and instead I've ended up with ridiculous choices, impossible to pronounce or too ugly to say. I have read this essay as a checklist every time I've recently needed to create an OC name, because I still forget some of its key points. In some cases I've fretted over character names for ages, trying to maybe fit them to the character - one of the obvious errors, as point 3 in the essay reminds us. The only point which is impossible to forget is number 7, though. [Do not, under any circumstances, just make up some crap and hope nobody notices.] I can't finish without adding that if, like me, you've enjoyed this essay, Darth has written an excellent "sequel" dealing with the concept of lámatyávë or "sound taste", also posted at SWG.

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 7

Darth Fingon has drawn up a guide for naming characters in Sindarin, and deals out a slew of helpful tips to the fic writer not quite familiar with the language. A very valuable resource for those who take care to get their details right and/or want to avoid that unfortunate moment when one of their readers notices that maybe, just maybe, one of the characters is either improbably named, their name has an odd meaning or simply is overly simplistic or specific (I notice these things at least some of the time and can attest to the enjoyment it steals from an otherwise perfectly good story). Following the tips Darth Fingon lists, ranging from some general remarks to a list of things to keep in mind when cheating at Sindarin, it should be possible to create a list of good Sindarin names for those OC Elves or Edain that tend to crop up every now and then. As someone who frequently writes OCs herself, I have this bookmarked, and already came back to it a few times to double-check my creations before putting a story out there.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 5

Having done an essay myself at one time on the naming of hobbits, I am most pleased to see this one which covers the names of all the denizens of Middle-earth more thoroughly! I especially appreciated the advice on keeping a list of good names handy. I am sometimes stopped dead in my tracks and sent running to Google or the indexes of the books when I am on a roll writing, in search of an appropriate name. Having such names already handy would keep me from interrupting the muse and ending up on a side-track. I've always done it with hobbits-- I don't know why I haven't done it with Elves, Dwarves and Men!

Reviewed by: Branwyn (Lady Branwyn)  ✧  Score: 4

Need a name for that soon-to-be-killed sidekick? Darth Fingon is here to help! This essay manages to be both laugh-out-loud funny and full of sensible advice. How many fanfic writers wish they had had this essay back when they were first faced with the horror of naming original characters? (It used to take me endless hours of Internet browsing to name my spear-carriers.) If you are a fanfiction writer who struggles with naming his or her OCs, put this on your required reading list.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

Excellent advice for those of us whose stories appear to team with original characters! We’re writing away and keep finding ourselves having to provide names for this individual or that, and sometimes it becomes too complicated to bear! I thank Darth Fingon for offering this advice and providing this resource. I have an idea it will be bookmarked and referred to again and again in the future!

Reviewed by: Windsurfbabe  ✧  Score: 4

This essay reminds me of my beginnings - or at least the earlier stages of writing - when the name seems like an epitome of everything the character will be, a symbol of all the hopes entrusted with him/her: fame, fortune, skill and beauty. I wish I had read this piece earlier - it would have spared me a few painful hours of looking for the perfect name, and my characters some painful titles hard to both pronounce and carry.

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 4

A short and effective guide for naming original characters told in Darth's signature amusing style. I used to spend hours researching names and consulting the language charts on Council of Elrond, and then sometimes not getting it right. Now, when inventing elvish names, I cheat and use Darth's Sindarin name generator, which is remarkably effective, or I ask Those Who Know -- like Darth.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

Creating a good name for characters is key to any story and especially so when the character in question is an Elf. This is an excellent guide on naming original characters when writing in the Tolkien fandom.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 2

This is a helpful and simple run-down on creating effective names for original characters in Tolkien's universe. Not too complicated or overly specific.