Are there any resources/advice to help me find place names or a title for a story?
((Note: this ended up being a LOT longer than I anticipated! I put a summary of tips at the end of the first section as a bit of a tl;dr thing. It also became kind of a “what does Bailey, a largely unqualified 19-year-old writer, do?” rant. Sorry for that.))
This site has a TON of categories for place name generators, and though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend pulling a name exactly from a generator, it could definitely be a good place to get some ideas and inspiration.
For fantasy settings, personally I usually try to establish a sort of “style” or sound of name for each different country/region so that all the locations (and even character names) for each country are somewhat coherent. For example, in one of my stories, one country has places with names like Icereach, Mistmoore, and Caerwood that are either compounded English or made-up English-sounding words, whereas another nation on the other side of the continent that would have had minimal contact with the first country, and therefore a completely different language and culture, has entirely made-up names like Draka-kel and Nanghé.
Obviously this isn’t the only way to go about naming places, and it probably doesn’t help much at all if your setting is all one country with a single language. In that case, there are a lot of different ways to go about it. I actually just started worldbuilding a new setting recently, and I had my friend who was sitting next to me read out the random letters in her Words with Friends game and used those as starting points to make the main city names. It sounds kinda ridiculous, but it actually worked pretty well! You could also pick random Scrabble tiles or something like that. Or sometimes I just pick a random letter that I want the name to start with and just go over a bunch of random sounds until I start piecing together some stuff that sounds right.
Another idea is drawing up a map of the place you’re making names for and picking names based on the geography of the area– like a crescent-moon-shaped body of water called the Crescent Bay and stuff like that.
If you already have some worldbuilding like mythology/history done, you can use names of the country’s ancient heroes/royalty/etc. or mythological figures as names of landmark locations. It can really help make a fictional setting seem more real if it feels like the mythology and history actually have had an impact on the development of the country.
Also, if you have any old stories that you wrote when you were younger or just never got around to finishing, you can go back and pluck out some good names. Unless you’ve posted the stories online, no one will ever know that you “recycled” them from past projects! I actually have a planning notebook with 100+ names from mentioned-one-time side characters and random locations from stuff I wrote in middle and high school, and I use it all the time. It took a while (and was a bit painful) to scrape through all that old writing, but it can save a ton of time and effort in the long run!
Okay this was kind of a random all-over-the-place info dump, so here’s a slightly easier-to-reference recap of ideas for naming:
Using a random name generator as a starting point
Picking a particular “sound” for the names in a country and making them all sound coherent that way
Starting with random letters from a game like Scrabble or Words with Friends
Basing names of geography
Using existing worldbuilding like mythology for naming places
“Recycling” names from old stories
Titling a Story:
Okay I’m literally a terrible person to ask about this; like 90% of my stories are sitting in my writing folder titled by the name of a main character (damian1.docx, damian_old.docx, damian-original.docx… you get the point), or the genre if it’s something I don’t write much (witches.docx, apocalyptic.docx).
For the few things I do have real titles for, though, I try to pick something short and concise that sums up the theme and/or the mood of the story. For example, I have one fantasy story called “Origin” that’s about the formation of a country and its monarchy while also following several teenagers/young adults as they grow up and either become heroes or succumb to temptations of power, so in a way it’s both the origin story of these characters who eventually go down in history, and also of the newly formed country.
On the other end of the spectrum, I have a sci-fi project called “Riot Raiders” because the main characters are the crew of a spaceship called The Raider and they tend to cause a lot of chaos. The actual phrase doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s loud and kind of catchy and sounds fun, and the story is meant to be somewhat light-hearted and comedic, so it suits the mood.
One important thing to keep in mind is genre cliches. Tolkien and Lewis could get away with names like “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” because they were some of the early innovators of the fantasy genre and there really weren’t cliches for it at the time they were working. But if nowadays a story titled something like “The [place/item name] Chronicles,” “The Legend of the [legendary thing],” or “The [insert magical weapon name here]” probably won’t stand out that much. Does that mean you by all means cannot use these names and be successful? Of course not. I mean, you have Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” and shows like “Legend of Korra” and “Legend of the Seeker” that are all successful and recognizable. But if you’re a new writer and looking to stand out, using something a bit less ubiquitous could be a good starting place.
Often picking a title once you’re done with a story is the most effective way to go. While you’re working, you might write a few lines that really stand out and you can pick a good title from. Think about “name drops” it movies/TV shows– it lets you know that this is an important part in the story, so going through the most important scenes in your story could yield a perfect title.
Okay, rant done. I hope there’s a couple useful tidbits somewhere in all this rambling!!