Skip to main content

Out-of-This-World Names

Jor-El. Jondalar. Modir-Rettr. What makes for a solid sci-fi character’s name? Get genre-specific tips and tricks from novelist Elizabeth Sims.

For science-fiction or fantasy characters or creatures, the cardinal rule is to make their names readable and pronounceable. Even if you were never into comics, you probably remember Jor-El, Superman's dad.

By contrast, if you name your hero Lohrates, your reader will spend the book going, "Lor-AY-tees? LOW-rates? La-RATS?"

A hard-to-read name is an excuse for a reader to put your book down.

Jean Auel did a good job of naming her prehistoric characters in her Earth's Children series (The Clan of the Cave Bear, et al.): Ayla, Ranec, Broud, Durc, Jondalar.

If you feel wedded to a particular unusual name, at least let the reader know how it sounds by having a character pronounce it, or let your narrator do it.
Writers of sci-fi tell me they use foreign-language dictionaries when they're trying to come up with names. For instance, you could name your shape-shifting monster Modir-Rettr, which is Old Norse for 'mother-in-law.' (Roughly.)

You can also work wonders by changing one or two letters in a common name or a word, or adding a hyphen or initial. Mess around and see what sounds good, and discover what works best for your story.

Vérant

Samantha Vérant: On Romance and Recipes

Author Samantha Vérant discusses how her writing process changed while writing her new contemporary romance novel, The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 633

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a warm up poem.

Do I Pitch Different to Agents vs. Editors?

Do I Pitch Different to Agents vs. Editors?

Every so often writers ask if they should pitch different to agents vs. editors. This post answers that question and provides some extra help on how to successfully pitch both.

Urban Legend

Urban Legend

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, feature an urban legend in your story.

Grose, 12:6

Jessica Grose: On the Unsustainability of Parenting

Opinion writer and author Jessica Grose discusses the complicated subject of modern motherhood in her new nonfiction book, Screaming on the Inside.

Elizabeth Shick: On Research Through Immersion

Elizabeth Shick: On Research Through Immersion

Award-winning novelist Elizabeth Shick discusses the complete rewrite she devoted to her debut novel, The Golden Land.

6 Habits Writers Can Learn From Athletes

6 Habits Writers Can Learn From Athletes

Author and athlete Henriette Lazaridis shares six tips and habits that writers can learn from athletes.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Last Chance to Nominate Your Favorite Writing Websites, Our Historical Fiction Virtual Conference, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce the deadline to nominate your favorite writing websites, our Historical Fiction Virtual Conference, and more!

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

From having reverence for the original to making it your own, author Nikki Payne shares four tips for writing a modern retelling.