I always find picking names for my characters particularly tough. First of all, there’s a whole legion of names I don’t want to use because they’re family names, or names of exes, or the names of childhood nemises who I wouldn’t want to share pages with. So I used to trawl around baby naming sites for inspiration—ghastly pink and blue pages with unspeakable adverts. Now, however, I have much more fun.
Meet my friend, the Random Name Generator.
This is a functional little site that does just what the name suggests—it generates random names for fiction writers, based on the first and surnames in the US Census database. You can choose between first and second names, male and female names or a selection of both, and between common, average and rare names. And it works. Ask for some common names and you might get Jack Rogers, Nancy Lopez or Sarah Foster, say, among your 100 results.
So, yes, I could actually use it to generate character names for my stories. But I don’t.
I use it for procrastination while I think up my own names. Instead of asking for, say, 100 common or average names, I head straight for the rare names—and that’s when the fun begins. (Actually, there’s fun to be had in the common names, finding the ones you’ve heard before—this morning the RNG has already suggested Martha Stewart, Brian Wilson and Willie Nelson!) However, over in the rare names section, you’re less likely to come across the names of famous homemakers and singers. Though perhaps you’ll stumble across a porn star or two. And if you’re writing a porny story, this is certainly the place for name inspiration.
You don’t believe me? This morning’s haul has included:
- Randy Bumgarner
- Candy Cummins
- Dick Headley
- Fonda Cockrell
- Jewel Butts
Okay, I admit I might have taken the liberty of swapping a few of those first and last names around—but that’s what your mind does when you start scrolling down the list (if your mind’s as dirty as mine). And you start to misread those rare surnames and backtrack to look again. I read Slocum as Scrotum and Fisk as Fist. And after a while every single name on the list gives off a little hint of something fruity or fetid—how about a couple called Verena Croteau and Major Tremblay? What would their particular fetish be? And now I’m itching to write a story featuring the malapropic Scotty Crum…
Sorry. Not all of you have minds that reside in the gutter. I apologise. I know it’s infantile. But even if you don’t write erotica, the RNG will be able to entertain you as it inspires you. Take this little clutch of names and picture the characters in your mind. They literally spring to life and put a smile on your face…
- Novella Page (a bookish young woman)
- Pierre Bourgeois (I know for sure that Pompous is his middle name)
- Hannelore Stout and her best friend Zanda Bunting (these girls certainly know how to party!)
- Irish Cecil (he hails from Cardiff. Really, he does.)
- Bee Slaughter (sucks lemons for a hobby)
- Broderick Funderburk (oh god, how I wish my name was Funderburk!) (And I think I want to fuck him…)
***writing exercise alert***
In fact, if you need to flex your writing muscle, why not take one of the above names and write a paragraph or two about their lives. What do they look like? What do they do for a living? What are their dreams, hopes and aspirations? What are they afraid of? Who or what do they love? Or go onto the RNG and pick out a name for yourself. One of them will whisper his or her story in your ear. If you rise to the challenge, post your character sketch in the comments below! And if your name actually is Broderick Funderburk, get in touch…