There are hundreds of thousands of names in the world stretching from the beginning of time until right now. Each has its meaning, its sound, its flavor.
Some people have names that just fit, you know? You just can’t imagine calling them something else.
Others don’t work at all. A surfer chick from the California beaches named Eunice? Hah! Fat chance!
The same goes for character creation. A writer builds the world in which their story takes place brick by brick. One of those bricks involves devoloping characters, and each must have an appropriate name.
But where do you find these things? As I mentioned above, there are hundreds of thousands of them. Which one should you choose?
If you’re lucky, a name will just pop into your head. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often enough. Sometimes I have to search long and hard before finding a name for my character that works.
Here are some of my resources and tips to do the trick:
Online Name Generators
One of the easiest routes to go, especially if you’re not <em>too</em> picky, is to use random name generators online. I’ve listed a few that I’ve accessed upon occasion.
- Random Name Generator – (Very creative title!) Use this one for a list of general contemporary names.
- donjon; RPG Tools – As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I’m an old-school Role Playing Gamer. I use a lot of RPG source books and the like. This site has the benefit having of a ton of generators for world-building as well as fantasy and science fiction names. I love this place!
- Seventh Sanctum – Another excellent site for the fantasy/science fiction crowd. If you understand gamer-speak, click the “Generator Types” tab and you’ll find a large selection of character creation generators to fill your world with random people.
- The Name Generator – (Yet another creative title…) Unlike the Random Name Generator above, this one only gives you one name at a time in the beginning. You have to click the “more options” link to change the parameters.
- Behind The Name – Not exactly a name generator, the main page nevertheless gives you the option to see a random name every day. Plus you can look for the contemporary modern names in many different countries.
Other Random Searches
If none of these turn anything up, you can always toss in a Google search parameter.
Say your character was born in Germany and her family immigrated to the United States when she was a child. Google search Deutch newspapers and see what comes up! Photos of people will have their names captioned and articles will be written with reporter bylines. If you can piece enough of the language together (and maybe use an online translator,) you can find proper names and surnames in the article texts.
How authentic is that?
Then there’s the down and dirty non-technical way: find a phonebook or encyclopedia. Throw it open to a random page and blindly point at an entry. There’s your character name!
Mixin’ It Up
Suppose you’re in a coffee shop without internet access and you need a quick name for a character that abruptly showed up in your scene. What do you do?
Look around. There are advertisements, right? Specialty coffees, flyers on the nearby bulletin board for local community causes and classes. Grab a couple of them and mix up the letters.
Coffee grown in Sumatra becomes Suma, the captain of Azrael’s personal guard in On Azrael’s Wings. In fact, all of Azrael’s captains came from a mixture of different coffees and ads I saw that day at the Coffee People I was visiting.
Another trick is to take someone you know and mix up their name. I did it with the boy in Freya’s Tears. I knew a fellow at work called Jimmy Santos.
Jim-my San-tos = Jimsan Mytos
That’s something you can use with any phonebook discovery, too.
Hundreds of thousands of names throughout the course of human history. There’s bound to be one that resonates with you, one that screams, “This is my character!” It’s just a matter of finding it.
Does anyone have other name generators or tricks to suggest? I’m always looking for more and I bet lots of people reading the comments are interested too.