Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ten By Any Other Name

Ten Things to Help You With Naming Characters

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

1. YeahBaby.com's Baby Name Generator allows you to customize gender, number range of letters, and provides origin and meaning with the very long lists it generates.

2. Author Barbara Delinsky has some suggestions at her blog on How to Pick Character Names.

3. Mervyn Love suggests using a map to inspire your character names in his article here.

4. Jason M. Tucker's article Naming Your Characters points out the virtues of J.K. Rowling's colorful way with character naming.

5. Caro Clarke's many writing advice articles includes this one, Problems with names and how to avoid them.

6. Get up to 50 suggestions for male or female character names with Seventh Sanctum's Quick Name Generator (or check out the many other name generators on the SS's link index page.)

7. With BehindtheName.com's Random Name Generator, you can customize it by number of given names, gender and even nationality.

8. My favorite online naming toy, Kleimo.com's Randon Name Generator, uses names from U.S. Census data, and gives you a 1 to 100 scale to customize how common or obscure the names generated are (1=most common, 100=completely obscure.)

9. Random Names 2.0 freeware offers 2900 male and 4900 female names for you to shuffle through (OS: Win9x/ME/2k/XP)

10. Need a mysterious name that actually means secret or mysterious? 20000names.com has put together an entire page of them.

If you have any links to great online resources for names and want to share, please post them in comments.

13 comments:

  1. I've been a big fan of using baby name websites for character names, but some of these other ideas are very cool and inspirational. Thanks for the links!

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  2. Some of them look rather handy.

    What I'd like to see though, is something that helps with town & country names.

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  3. But what if it's important that characters be confused because they have similar names--not by the readers, but by other characters?

    I have a plot point that hangs on someone yelling the wrong name at a crucial moment....

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  4. This sitewas create to help name pets. However, the way it's organized makes it easy to browse names by type and meaning. Warning: it can become a major time suck.

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  5. Oh, good, I need some new name sources. Thanks!

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  6. Xenith wrote: What I'd like to see though, is something that helps with town & country names.

    A couple of years ago I did a post here anout place name generators; some of the links are no longer working but a few still exist.

    Here's an article on ways to find interesting words for names and places.

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  7. Argh, that anout in my comment should actually be about.

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  8. Buffysquirrel wrote: But what if it's important that characters be confused because they have similar names--not by the readers, but by other characters?

    I would make their characterizations very distinctive, then, and (if possible) different from each other. Or maybe give them a nickname, the way they do in Wales with all the Williamses, Joneses and Evanses. :)

    I have a plot point that hangs on someone yelling the wrong name at a crucial moment....

    I see your point. I think your primary task is to make clear the characters in the reader's mind by something other than their names. Then when the moment of confusion arrives, the reader won't be left scratching their head.

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  9. Anonymous10:27 AM

    But what if it's important that characters be confused because they have similar names--not by the readers, but by other characters?

    I have a plot point that hangs on someone yelling the wrong name at a crucial moment....


    Try rhyming names spelled differently, such as Mary, Carrie, Terry. Those are less confusing to the eye (for readers), but similar enough in sound to satisfy your plot needs.

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  10. I've had really good luck using some of the online name generators - especially the ones that allow you to specify a particular ethnicity of the character. Thanks for the additional links.

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  11. Just wanted to say how much I appreciate all the information and resources you share with us.

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  12. My recent favorite is http://random-name-generator.info, it seems quite usable.

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