Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Game of Anagrams

Please welcome fantasy author S.K. Randolph to the Blood-Red Pencil today.

While in college, I was introduced to fantasy fiction for the first time. I read and reread Tolkien’s Trilogy and The Hobbit, immersed myself in Narnia, and devoured everything I could find by Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Patricia McKillip, Sharon Shinn, and the list goes on. This resulted in an ever-deepening desire to create my own world, to write fantasy.

In 2003, while on a sabbatical from Interlochen Center for the Arts, I began my first novel. Immediately, I encountered a stumbling block—naming my world/worlds and the characters that inhabited them. Always a lover of word games, I started playing with anagrams as means of achieving this. The puzzles, the acts of discovery, and the outcomes fascinated me.

First, I selected the word of origin based upon a characteristic of the place, object, or character to be named. For example, I needed to name a tower at the center of a forest filled with secrets—the Terces (Secret) Wood. Since the tower was mysterious and magical, I choose the word Enchantment as my springboard. Next, I reversed the letters . . . tnemtnahcne. This removed me from any preconceived notions about the word. Then I began to juggle the letters around. The end result had to look and sound right. In this case, I found Nemttachenn . . . Nemttachenn Tower.

Naming characters followed a similar process. In Book 1 of The Unfolding Trilogy, I needed a name for my antagonist. By clearly describing him and listing the characteristics of his personality, I came up with Demon’s Eyes . . . snomed seye. I preferred the words reversed (eyes demons), but the name still needed a little tweak to flow right. So I shifted the “s” from “demons” to “eyes” and christened him Seyes Nomed. The name fitted perfectly.

Although not every name is an anagram, the majority are. I always listen when a word pops into my head from that intangible, creative place from which ideas flow; but when I am stumped, I find my anagram game always provides an answer.

How do you create names for your fantasy stories or other novels?


S. K. Randolph wrote The DiMensioner's Revenge, Book 1 of the The Unfolding Trilogy that was published in July 2011. Book 2, The ConDra's Fire, is scheduled to be released this fall. She lives on a boat in Alaska.

Bookmark and Share


  1. I also used the anagrams method to come up with names for the (now defunct) Fantasy novel I was writing as a teenager. I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I freely used horrible apostrophes and came up with such atrocious names, like C'Tam (out of "combat", for the martial arts trainer).

    At least the names you came up with are more sophisticated and pronouncable than mine were ;-)

  2. As a functioning dyslexic, my whole world is an anagram ... all I gotta say is thank goodness for spell chekc.

  3. Hey, that's a pretty slick idea! I usually comb through foreign-language dictionaries for inspiration.

  4. I know hwat you neam, Chirtsohper. LOL.

  5. I'm having an ellipsis fixation here. Mercy.

  6. What a unique idea, I love that! I don't write Fantasy, but next time I want a name for an evil doer I'll remember your technique.

    As long as it's easy to pronounce I'm in. I hate getting tongue tied, whether reading my own work or the words of another out loud.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Never tried using anagrams, neat idea. I start out with the character's ancestry and Google matching names.

  8. You mean Zarf isn't a noun AND a name?

  9. S. K. Randolph is on a boat in a cove off the Alaskan shore. She has no Internet or phone reception, but plans to be back in range to respond to comments on Friday.

  10. Hi Everyone! We just arrived back in town from our favorite cove. After a two hour trip to get here in an eighteen skiff, it is nice to be siting still.

    To one and all, thanks so much for your comments. Christopher, I totally understand dyslexia, being borderline myself. Imagine living on a boat and confusing right and left . . . fortunately port and starboard make sense to me.

    To anyone who decides to try anagrams . . . have fun!!! And . . . thanks for allowing me to participate on Blood-Red Pencil.

  11. I don't write books with fanasy worlds, but do make up names of towns similar to their real names.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook