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  • Writer's pictureJenna Moreci

Worldbuilding: How to Name Your World

HelloOoOo everybody!

Today I am tackling one of your most highly requested topics. You guys have literally been asking me to cover this since I started my channel! To be fair, it took me this long to make it because at one point I thought I had already made this video. Turns out I didn't, I'm just stupid. We're diving into world-building! Specifically, how to name your world. These tips do not just apply to naming your world. They can apply to naming any setting in your book: a village, a kingdom, a town, a realm, or a building. If you're creating a fictional location and you're not sure what to call it, I'm here to help you out!

I'm helping you name your fictional worlds and settings because let's be real, it's a bitch . . . I'm breaking down the 10 steps to titling any fictional location, starting with the first three steps you need to consider before you even begin cooking up titles.

This video is sponsored by World Anvil. As always, all opinions are my own.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to also subscribe to my YouTube channel for more writing tips, sarcasm, and of course, more of Princess Butters!


1.1: World and Era

The first thing you need to consider is the world and era in which your story takes place. Era is a loose term here, especially if you're writing fantasy because fantasy worlds take place in a fictional universe that doesn't necessarily correlate with any real-life eras. Think of “era” in this context as an era in our world that is most relevant to the era in your world. For example, if your world has similarities to ancient Egypt, then you would be looking at the ancient Egyptian era. Additionally, if you're writing a world that's similar to ancient Egypt, it's probably not gonna be called Johnsonville or Bakersfield. Be mindful of the world and era you're working within because it needs to mesh with the names you're creating.

1.2: Level of Expansion

The level of development of your world is going to have an effect on the setting. For example, say you're creating a world that is one with nature. They live off the land. The names of the communities and towns are much more likely to have a very grounded feeling. On the flip side, if you're looking at an industrialized society that has experienced a lot of immigration and commerce, then the various setting names are going to be a lot more diverse. Maybe some of the towns are named after former leaders. Maybe some of the buildings’ names are based on their history. Maybe there are going to be lots of different names that reflect various cultures. Where I live, we've got cities called San Bruno and cities called Mountain View. It's totally varied.

1.3: Cultural Significance

Many cultures take pride in their history, and you'll see that reflected in the names of the places that you create. America comes from Amerigo Vespucci, the first explorer to refer to the continent as the New World. Maybe you're writing about a fairy world and the fairies value the earth and nature. Thus, their settings are named after flowers, plants, or trees. Understanding what matters to your fictional society will play a huge role in creating that fictional society.

After you've taken these three things into consideration, you'll have a starting point for naming locations. But you're not done yet! “Okay, my world is industrialized and they value their history, so I should probably name the settings after various historical leaders. The problem is, I don't know the names of any of their historical leaders.” Don't worry, I gotchu! Here are some ways that you can get ideas that you can later use toward naming your settings. Keep in mind we're in the idea phase right now, and these ideas will likely be rewritten or expanded upon in later steps.

2.1: Symbology

What are important symbols to your story or to your characters that are directly relevant to this setting? Say, for example, your book heavily relies on wolf symbology. What are some different words that relate to wolves? Canine. Lupine. Cub. Pack. Gather all the words you can think of that fit the symbol and gather them for possible use later.

2.2: Names

Sometimes people have a direct effect on our work. Maybe we're inspired by famous authors or we get inspired by people we know in real life, both positively and negatively. Write these names down for possible use later. It's important to note that for legal reasons, it's not smart to use a real person's name in your book, especially if the use of that name can be perceived as negative in any way. But you might want to take a name and fiddle with it in a way that makes it usable for your work. For example, if your world was heavily influenced by the work of John Steinbeck, you could take his name and fiddle around with it in a way that doesn't scream, “Hey! I'm obsessed with John Steinbeck! Please sue me! Right now!”

2.3: Inspiration

This is the most obvious and all-encapsulating topic for naming settings. What inspired you to write this story? More specifically, what inspired you to write this world? If your world was inspired by Vikings, think about words and terminology that fit within that era. If your world is inhabited by well-known fantasy creatures like dragons and unicorns, think about that shit, too. One of my inspirations when creating the world of The Savior’s Series was Greek mythology, so I created a massive list of mythological names and terms to use throughout the world-building process.

Once you've gone through these steps and you have a pretty good idea of the different terms you want to explore, it's time to move on to the last three points. This is the fun part! Sure, you might be inspired by dragons, but calling your world Dragon World is stupid. It's time to take these ideas and put your own spin on them. There are a million different ways that you can do it, but I'm hitting you with the three methods I see most often.

3.1: Spelling

This one’s probably the most popular option when creating any type of name within a fictional world, whether it's the name of people in that world or the name of a setting in that world. Writers will often take a word and either tweak it or spell it differently. For example, we already talked about a hypothetical world that revolves around wolf symbology. If we wanted to go with that angle and name the world something wolfy, we could take the word “lupine” and change it to Lupina or Lupea. Keep in mind that spelling is going to be affected by the language of that culture, and depending on the culture’s history, they may have experienced many different languages. If it's a world with a long history that has experienced a ton of immigration, you're probably going to see towns and villages that are spelled completely differently with lots of different language quirks. This is all shit you get the pleasure of figuring out during your world-building process.

3.2: Rearrange

Similar to the last option, sometimes you can take an idea and rearrange the letters within the word. For example, San Francisco can become Sassa Franco. I guess . . . Kind of a weird name, but you get my point! In one of our previous examples, we were looking at a world that was influenced by John Steinbeck. Again, it's not the safest idea to use real people's names in our fiction. Plus, a town called John Steinbeck Town is pretty fucking stupid. But a town called Beckenstein sounds legit, especially if it fits the world you created.

3.3: Mish Mash

Sometimes you've got a bunch of fun and meaningful ideas and it can be hard to choose just one. Here's an idea: don't choose! Just take those ideas and mash ’em together. We've already discussed a fictional fairy world that revolves around plant life, so let's assume we have a giant list of flowers and trees. We can take two trees we like–for example, madrone and sequoia–and combine them: Maquoia. We can take a black locust and a papaya and turn it into Lopaya. The options are endless! Plus, it's fun! Keep making these weird Frankenstein hybrids until you find something that works for you!

Bonus Option:

Now, when all is said and done, you might go through these steps and still not find the perfect name for your setting. If that's the case, I have one more suggestion for you: make shit up! “But Jenna, how do I make shit up?” By making shit up! We made up shit all the time as kids! That's how imagination works! There's a realm called Ethyua in The Savior’s Series. You know how I came up with it? I made it up! Writers constantly hear “make it up” and become flabbergasted, as if the concept is absolutely foreign to them. But you are an inventor! You created an entire world just from some research and your imagination. If you can write a book, you can absolutely make up the name of a kingdom. I promise!

So that's all I've got for you today!

Author Jenna Moreci.

These are my top tips for naming your fictional world. If you’re stuck naming a world, kingdom, country, or town, hopefully, these help ya out a bit. And remember, don’t be afraid to be creative!


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1 commentaire

5 hours ago

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