How I Name Them (Part 1-Places)

I did a whole podcast about this way back when I was still on Patreon. And, you know, podcasting. 😆 ADHD, amirite?

Anyway, a recent Instagram interaction with a reader made me realise I’d never actually written about how I name characters and places on the blog. Said reader’s best friend is named Cara Lenoir, and she was interested to learn why my Cara Lenoir wasn’t Jane Smith instead.

Turns out I had so much to say about this topic, I’ll have to split it into two posts. 🤣 So grab a cuppa and get comfy for part 1!

Let’s start with place names.

First of all, the world of Fall of the Mantle is called Ehrdia. I liked the concept of Terra, but it’s too grounded in reality and I needed a different world. Same, but not. Also, is it just me or has Terra become totally overused in fantasy?

I really thought about the concept of Earth being named for the stuff on the ground. My Afrikaans comes in here, as does what little German I still remember. But the word for Earth in German is ‘Erde’, ‘Aarde’ in Afrikaans, and I played around until I found a pronunciation somewhere between those two. I was drawn to creating a little Easter egg about my own story in the name of the world that would host my novels.

So Ehrdia was born. Earth, but not. And, since I’m pretty much obsessed with Roman and Greek mythology, I named the ruler of the old gods Ehrd, as though the entire world had been given his name, much as other planets in our solar system and our calendars are named for ancient deities.

As for the other place names, the main criteria is that the name must sound authentic, and pronounceability kind of takes the back seat. At the same time, though, I really don’t want to use the fantasy naming device of throwing a bunch of consonants together and hoping for the best. It has to be at least sayable, if not pronounceable. 

I’m also really inspired by history. Many European cities traded hands throughout their existence, right? So they all tend to have names that reflect both the local and occupying forces, or at some point adapted the names into something hybrid and new. For example, London was called Londinium while the Romans occupied England, and a fragment of that stuck. Since my world is heavily inspired by the places I desperately wanted to visit when I was a child—here’s a hint, it was the UK and France—I wanted similar history in my countries.

So, where does the name Aelland come from? (Which, BTW, I pronounce as eel-and, but I won’t hold it against you if you pronounce it some other way. If you’re interested, though, you can find a list of FotM pronunciations over here.) Well, it’s a not-so-subtle variation of England. Mordoux, my French-inspired monarchy, was named because I played around with the surname Le Roux and added random letters to the front. I liked the sound and ran with it.

Also, Ms Le Roux was my high school art teacher, and I have endless respect for her. So, this is a tiny little nod to one of the ladies who taught me how to embrace my creativity.

On the other hand, Dvara had to sound harsh and hostile, but also a bit mystical, which is how I see the Vikings who inspired this country. So it’s all consonants and hard vowels, but short and not as flowery as the other names.

The other kingdom names are results of me throwing around random letters until something okay-ish came up, or I used name generators (which I’ll circle back to). I honestly didn’t care as much about these places, because the main story was always set between Mordoux and Aelland, and later Dvara.

You do learn a little about the other peoples of Ehrdia as the story unfolds. Sudriah is based heavily on the Middle East, and The Larasian Confederate—my version of the United States—consists of people of various tribes and confederated countries. Here you’ll find Mzungu people, Nishin, Yimeshi, and I included many Hispanic place names throughout the Confederate.

On that note, while drawing the maps and filling in the cities and landmarks, I spent hours trying to find the exact right name for those places. I learned about the pre-and suffixes employed by different languages and tried to mimic what different cultures do when naming their places.

In some cases, especially for smaller places, I used name generators. If it’ll feature only once or twice, or be a background town you know about but never see, I don’t really care to spend hours placing each vowel just so, you know?

My favourite is Fantasy Name Generators. They have filters that change the feel of the name to basically anywhere on earth, including real or made-up names, or you can go full-on consonants everywhere fantasy. It’s really the most extensive generator library I’ve ever seen. (Just a side note, I’m not affiliated with this site and am not being compensated for mentioning them. It’s a wonderful resource I constantly use.)

As a little bonus factoid, the maps of Ehrdia all include the names of real cities or suburbs we’ve lived in. There’s Roodepoort, Scarborough, and Styrum, where we lived in Germany.

Ironically, we ended up in Calgary, which used to be called Brisbois. I really hadn’t had a clue about that when I’d included a Brisbois in Mordoux. As Bob Ross would say, this was a happy little accident. Or maybe, as a gaslamp fantasy author, I should say it was fate? You decide.

The capital of Aelland, Roicester, is a combination of the French word ‘roi’ which means king, and the suffix which you find in the names of many English towns—’cester’. In my opinion, the ‘roi’ part would’ve been anglicised over time, becoming ‘row’ (so Row-uh-stir) and the name hints that maybe this place was once under Mordian control. Whether this actually happened or not is up to you to decide. I’m just the writer! I really love it when readers come up with their own histories and canon for my stories!

As for the capital of Mordoux, I loved the idea of a massive historical battle being the reason for the name. Belle’Victoire translates to beautiful victory, and it must’ve been quite something for the people to choose this name.

Then, Collinefort is situated in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, which was inspired by a place with the same name in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. And this is one of my favourite places in the world. I came up with a lot of the descriptions I used while looking at pictures of this magical place. ‘Colline’ is the French word for ‘hill’, so the name literally translates to ‘hill fortress’.

And that’s all I can think of for this post. If you have any questions about place names or just want to chat, I’ll see you in the comments!



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