Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Place Names

I'm on the road with my husband and two year old. We've loaded up all our worldly possessions and are off on the epic family road trip from Charlottesville, VA to Silverton, OR. No, I'm not crazy. Really, I'm not. We've made it to Owatonna, MN without anyone going crazy and without resorting to the DVD player.

The only problem is I'm not writing. At all. It makes me nervous to be away from my story and characters for so long. To assuage my guilt, I'm doing writerly things like making lists of place names I like the sound of and filing them away for later use. Here's some I've lifted directly from road signs:

White Sulfur Springs
Lick Creek Road
Snap Dragon Falls
Laurel Springs
Eagle Creek

How do you name the places in your stories? I always have a hard time with this. If I make them up they sound too airy and fanciful, and if I lift them from somewhere they sound too, well, real. The right name is hard to find.

I came across a website recently that is a random place name generator. After clicking through about 30 names I realized I wasn't going to find my answer. Still, it's kinda fun. Here's another for fantasy names...like you need more ways to waste time on the internet.


Scott said...

First - Trillium. Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May, and Andre Norton co-wrote a book called Black Trillium back in 1991. Very good book, btw. After that, each other wrote a subsquent book in the same world. I wonder if the town you saw is where they came up with the name? Hmmmmm . . .

Right now, all my manuscripts are taking place in/around Nashville since that's where I live. For my fantasy stuff, I normally just wing it and hope my names sound convincing. They don't always.

One thing I often do is take a town name and anagram it, add a few letters here or there, and see if I can make it sound more mysterious or fantasy like. Best of luck.


Tess said...

Yes, yes, I agree. Places are difficult because they have to 'sound' right and fit into the story. What a great idea to jot down town names on your road trip.

Also, jot down names of laundry mats and little ice cream stands and malls. Think what a treasure trove of names you will have once you are back home. This kind of fits w/ my post today about keeping a 3 ring binder. Nice :)

Have a very fun trip!!!

Sarah said...

Oh, those little name generators could be addictive. I didn't come across any that sounded right, but I could so see myself wasting a lot of time on it.

I sometimes look up the etymology of a word if I want a name- place or otherwise. (http://www.etymonline.com/)I love tracing the arc of meaning, the way other people in other times viewed that concept. And heck, almost anything sounds better in another language.

Scott, great idea about anagramming names.

Tess, I wish I were so organized that I used a binder.

Anonymous said...

Silverton, Oregon! excellent choice!
I'm the Portland member of the Class of 2K9, so welcome to my home state! I've also traveled extensively with a 2 year old. If you need a neighbor while you're in Oregon, drop me a line through my website. Seriously, always happy to help a fellow mom-writer. I hope you have a wonderful time on your trip.