An Easy Way to Find Lots of Place Names
When writing science fiction or fantasy, you often need a lot of place name. For example, in my recent release, Escapee, my hero and heroine were flying around a Mars-sized moon to attack enemy headquarters. They flew over a lot of valleys and mountain ranges — so I needed names. Lots and lots of names.
I came up with an easy way to find them. A way that has the advantage of hinting at backstory.
I used a map.
A Map? What Kind of Map?
The kind of map you use depends on your story.
Escapee is a space opera set in an indeterminate future, when humans have expanded to the stars. On our Earth, colonists brought familiar names with them: New York, New Zealand, Nuevo Leone, Nieuw Amsterdam. Colonists of the future will likely do the same.
In a previous book in this series, I’d named a planet New Ontario, or Enno for short. Although I never mention that Enno’s culture is derived from North America, the name establishes the connection with no need for explanation.
For the nearly unihabited mining moon where Escapee is set, I chose a Canadian name in keeping with New Ontario: Banff, because I love the national park of that name. I then got out a map of Banff and picked names off it.
Voila! Not only did I have all the names I needed, but I enjoyed the process, because I’ve visited most of the places whose names I
For example, Catt pilots her airship, the Escapee, through Louise Valley, where the airship is attacked by a Proximanian jet copter. Lake Louise is the most famous lake in Banff Park.
You can see other real-life places whose names I chose.
What if I’m Writing Fantasy or an Alien World?
Although I’ve never done it, I can imagine how a map can help — change the names to give them an alien or other-Earthly tinge. To show you what I mean, I took a map of Belgium at random, and played with a few possible transformations:
- Brugge ==> Zarugga
- Tuin ==> Tatuin (!)
- Brussels ==> Zharuzzel
- Alst ==> Phralst
- Lommel ==> Lommint
- Roeselare ==> Royslar
I didn’t spend long on this, so you could probably do better. But hopefully you get the idea.
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