One of the features of the Scrivener writing software I’ve been using a lot lately is the name generator. I’ve used it to come up with character names like Alisz Masurien and Aharon Brotman for my WIP.
I’m a very name-conscious writer. I’ve collected name books in English and German, and have made a list of Korean names from the Korean dramas I used to watch. So you’d think I wouldn’t get much good out of randomly generated names. But for all but the most major characters, I find this tool useful.
You can select the ethnic origin of the first and last names, and whether it’s a male or female name. It gives you a list of 10 (or more) names, and you can add the names with possibilities to a shortlist.
One warning— I don’t think you can trust this tool entirely. It can come up with some pretty odd combinations that I suspect (or know) are unrealistic. It can mix old-fashioned names with über-trendy new names, and if you don’t know the culture involved you might not suspect.
This is what to do about that: make a list of 3-5 name possibilities, and then Google each name, and also Google to find reliable name information. For example, if you want a French name, seek out some good French name websites. If an Israeli name, try Israeli name web sites. If you find your last name and first name on sites like this and no one is saying ‘no one would name their kid this’, it’s probably a good name.
Another good use of the name generator is to create temporary names for minor characters. If you keep a notepad by your computer (you should), you can note down the generated name, a hint about the character it’s attached to, and then when you have time you can research a better name.
Have you ever used a name generator to create character names? How did it work for you? What other methods do you use to create character names?