Saturday, February 15, 2014

Naming Your Characters

The information below was presented as a handout at Life, the Universe, and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium 32, at the panel on Naming Your Characters, held on 13 February 2014.  Compiled by Julia H. West.  Although a link to the text file of this handout is available on the Callihoo Publishing website, this might be an easier format to use, with links to the various URLs.


There are, of course, hundreds of "name your baby" sites on the internet, some better than others.  I have a tendency to either want painfully accurate names, or random fantasy or science fiction names.  So these are a few of my favorite name sites.

Random Word Generator:
Want names (or other words) with the 'flavor' of a certain language, without using names from that language?  See if there's already a list for that language, or create your own!  This generator takes words from 'seed word' lists and creates new words from them.  I, for instance, added a list of Irish girls' names.  (Warning: since anyone can add lists, there is a lot of noise to signal in the list of seed word sets.)

SCA College of Arms - Name Articles:
The Society for Creative Anachronism has gathered a great deal of research on real medieval names from many cultures.  A treasure trove if you want realistic names of medieval Earth cultures in your stories.

Medieval Names Archive:
Another compilation of links to articles on medieval names from many cultures.

American names, Popularity by Decade:
The Social Security Administration has gathered names of new babies, by decade from the 1880s, and lists them by popularity.  So if you are, for instance, writing a story set in the 1950s, and your protagonist is 20 at the time, check the 1930s list.  (Robert is the most popular boy's name, and Mary the most popular girl's name of the 1930s.)

British Baby Names:
Not just a "baby name" site, but has some interesting research and stories about unusual names.

Seventh Sanctum Random Name Generators:
This site has many more generators than merely for names, but under the "Names and Naming" tab are generators for such names as Extreme Fantasy (names like Nemesis Magecaster or Tempest Chaoseternity), Greek-Sounding (such as Onisiari or Bronedondo), and Dark Elf Names (such as Ibixil or Yrakoha Lockwarper).

Chaotic Shiny:
This site, like Seventh Sanctum, has many random generators.  (I use both sites a great deal for generating all sorts of things.)  The name generators are Fantasy-Style Names, Modern Names, Name Jumbler, Name Mixer (great fun: I input my name and got Jireo Waks, Jeloau Wuss, Jir'ae Wotk, and more!), and Place Names (something I haven't gone into at all for this handout, but this is quite useful).

Android apps (Sorry if you have an iPhone.  My family all own Androids, so I don't know what's available in the App Store)

Name Generator by Tofferj (free)
When I'm doing a writing exercise or just want a quick name to drop into a story, this is very useful.  I can pull out my phone, decide on nationality (Austrian, Brazilian, Canadian, Chinese, Danish down to Vietnamese), and get a list of given names and surnames, my choice of male or female.  For Vietnamese Female, I got Lac Thi An, Chu Thi Le, Dao Thi Linh, and seven more (it will generate 1-100 names at a time, your choice).

Name Dice by Thinkamingo (free)
Two dice come up on a faux wood background.  When you click on the screen, the dice change (with proper rattling dice noise).  I got Wayne Olsen, Jakob Oconnor, and Lauryn Snow.  Fun to play with, if nothing else.

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