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I've read a lot of the questions on here concerning naming characters and deciding on whether to use a fictional city. I have already decided to use a fictional city in the piece. But, my problem with naming concerns finding names for cities. What are somethings to help with this? And, what should I avoid in the name if the city is based off a real place but I don't want the readers to associate the real place with the fictional one? How do I go about naming a place, in general?

  • Are we talking about a fantasy novel here? Sci-fi? What? The genre can have a lot to do with how things sound, as well as who owns and inhabits the city. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Mar 29 '17 at 0:27
  • @ThomasMyron It's science-fiction – RE Lavender Mar 29 '17 at 0:30
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on Worldbuilding, not here. – user16226 Mar 29 '17 at 4:41
  • Have a look at the naming system in the game Freelancer freelancer.wikia.com/wiki/Systems which shows a familiarity (Liberty, Bretonia) for the players while still being new names. – Stephen Mar 29 '17 at 8:46
  • @MarkBaker I believe that I tagged it world-building incorrectly. I'd think if it would be a Worldbuilding question if I had asked about developing a fictional city. But, since it is about naming, I thought it would be better suited for this site. – RE Lavender Mar 29 '17 at 20:39
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Think about these general questions:

  • What era is your story set in? Do the characters use latin, greek, Norwegian to theme all their cities?
  • Are there multiple countries, and do they have different naming conventions?
  • Is there something you want to convey in the story, a theme or a motif? Perhaps the name of the city relates to a common theme that runs through it. 'Sin City', 'Kings Landing', 'Sunnydale (an ironic name)'
  • Think about how the name of the city can play into your story. Do the characters live in a big brother society, where the name of the city holds background connotations or act as a clue to their situation?

In regards to theming your name with a real life location, post-apocalyptic stories do this very well. As time develops, we develop new quirks to our language. We recently add 'new' to the names of cities to signify a new city, or change of culture. 'New York' was to signify the cultural connections of the initial settlers that came from York. However in games such as Fallout, having the names of a real life location acts as a story reveal, for example, 'The Commonwealth' is the name for the post-apocalyptic land of Massachusetts. If you want to set your story in a future society, you could use terms such as New Paris, however it may be even more effective to reveal the history of the location with a unique name that holds connotations to the past.

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    Excellent answer. I will say that some readers might be turned off by thematic names if they are obvious (I mean, who would literally name their city 'sin city'?). However, the ironic 'Sunnydale' is a good way to deal with this: make the name be something the city obviously is not. It should have the same general effect. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Mar 29 '17 at 15:02
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    I've always loved the idea of naming places ironically - after all it fits. For example, Greenland is a white wasteland - while Iceland is lush in comparison. Most places are named to advertise themselves to others, you wouldn't see a city planner naming their city 'Deathland', it would more be 'Happyland'. However there are rare cases, for example like iceland where you want to turn people away. For example a beautiful haven is named 'hellsdoor' and is constantly said to be a horrible place in rumors, to turn people away. – Kyle Li Mar 30 '17 at 1:59
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Within the US:

  • place names all over the country derive from tribal names and native-American toponyms: Seattle, the Dakotas, Massachusetts.
  • cities are named for prominent people who died before the city was founded; as the countries was settled east-to-west, more westward cities are named for more recent people (William Pitt died in 1778; Lincoln in 1865)
  • in the Southwest, city names are typically Spanish, often beginning with San/Santa (meaning "sainted" or "holy") or Los/Las/El/La (all words for "the")
  • in the Midwest, cities often incorporate geographical features, ending in "Falls", "Buffs", or "Hill"
  • on the East Coast, many cities are named for coastal features: "Bay", "Cove", "Beach".

Pick where you want your city to be (or to suggest being), find a dozen cities in that area, look for a rule, and invent a name that fit both that rule and the mood you are trying to create.

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I like to use a naming generator to help me get an idea of what sort of names fit my story. I typically use pet monkey name generator or behind the name. I look for names sometimes based on meaning or language and other times I browse. Once I hit on a sound I like I alter it to make it mine.

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