How to Use Existing Names - The Art of World Building
Jul 192021
 
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If there’s a name we really like, we can sometimes use it without consequence, but this depends on the name and how much of it we use without alteration. A famous name like Luke Skywalker is one to avoid. Even the surname can’t be used due to its heavy association with him. A variation like Airwalker might work, but the similarity in subject matter between air and sky is also more problematic/reminiscent of him. On the other hand, Nightwalker doesn’t immediately call him to mind, unless his full name is Luke Nightwalker. Even Lucas Nightwalker might tip off people as to what we’re doing. As usual with an analogue, follow my Rule of Three: at least three significant changes. In the case of a name, just two changes may suffice, such as Kier Nightwalker.

There are other names that might not be household ones, but which are still too well known in the genres to use, even in an altered state, without raising some eyebrows. This includes Legolas from The Lord of the Rings (italics), Raistlin Majere from Dragonlance, or Voldemort (Harry Potter). Be careful leveraging such names. It’s arguably better to borrow a minor character’s name or use one from a lesser known work or author.

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