Originally posted on Randy Ellefson's Blog:
Depending on your ability, creating names for people, places, and beings in fantasy books can either be fun or a pain. I’ve been doing this for three decades and will provide some tricks and thoughts to help.
KISS doesn’t really stand for “keep it simple, stupid”, but it’s a good principle to follow when building your own world and inventing names. Unpronounceable names or ones with a billion syllables are not great. As a general rule, the fewer syllables, the better, because many people have trouble pronouncing even slightly unusual Earth names if they haven’t heard them before – I can’t tell you how many people first try to pronounce my last name, Ellefson, as “Ell-ef-a-sore” instead of saying it like the letters “L”, “F”, and then “son”. Sometimes they blatantly stumble, trying 2-3 times before I say it for them, at which point they’re clearly relieved and emphatically say , “Thank you!” Imagine how they’ll do with crazy fantasy names.