SFR Brigade Showcase – May

SFR Brigade showcase

Every month, the Science Fiction Romance Brigade highlights some of its brilliant authors.

An Easy Way to Find Lots of Place Names

escapee smallerWhen 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.

The author at Lake Louise in Banff National Park

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 stole borrowed.

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.

What next?

Be sure to visit the other writers in the SFR Brigade Showcase.

May2016 SFF Promo

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12 comments

  1. I used to draw maps, of continents and solar systems. I love naming planets too. For my winter SFR, I went back to Esperanto and took the word for winter – Vintro – as a name for the ice planet they tried to colonize.

    1. One of the advantages to a map that I didn’t mention is that the names often have an internal consistency, if you know what I mean. Choosing a series of names from Esperanto would accomplish the same thing.

  2. coming up with names is a huge part of the fun for me. I love the map idea!

    1. Like you, I love coming up with names, too. I guess that’s because we’re word people.

  3. I also love that idea! Thanks for the great tip!

    1. Although I’ve used maps before, Escapee was the most prominent example of this technique.

  4. Great idea. I’ve started making lists of fun-sounding names.

    1. I have such a list, too. One of the things I like about the list, as opposed to thinking of a cool name and immediately, is that it makes me revisit the name and see if it really is as cool as I thought. If a name is hard to pronounce, I regretfully toss it out.

  5. I adore the cover of this book! Awesome ideas for choosing names, too.

    1. I like this cover quite a bit too. It’s probably the most ‘romancy’ cover I’ve had. Well, except on my contemporaries for Silhouette.

  6. Interesting technique! Thanks for sharing one of your ‘secrets’ LOL.

    1. It’s useful only in some special circumstances, but I thought it might be useful to someone.

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