Suspend Your Disbelief

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Naming Names

Hello My Name Is...

I was once in a workshop where a fellow student had written an entire story with no proper names–the main characters were referred to just as “she” and “he” for fifteen or so pages. Most of the class felt the characters needed handles: to make things clearer to the reader, to make dialogue less awkward, to make the characters feel like real people rather than abstractions. All of these things were true, but I sympathized with the author. I hate naming things too.

In the internet era, at least, you can find help. Long common among writers of sci-fi and fantasy, online name generators have entered the mainstream.

Enter a gender, an ethnic background, and a country of residence into the Fake Name Generator, for instance, and it will create a realistic-sounding name, along with a full dossier: everything from birthdate to blood type. It created a neighbor for me, Muhammed Howard (male, Welsh, United States), of 4411 Stanton Hollow Road, Cambridge, MA, who is a 5’9″, 175-pound, 47-year-old bicycle repairer. If I didn’t have a story in mind for Muhammed already, I might get one just from those stats.

Need to name a company? Despite its rather prosaic name, the Company Name Generator will suggest one for you, like Gamma State or Saxxumi. If you’re not sure what product your new company produces, Wordoid–which generates natural-sounding almost-words in English, German, Spanish, and several other languages–can help with that. Have you heard about Gamma State’s new phenodynamic laser?

Less helpful, but perhaps more entertaining, is the Public Radio Name Generator. Enter your name, or any seed name, and it will create a moniker suitable for NPR. Mine was Corazon Taylor-Boilen, but I don’t think it compares to the (real) NPR names Doualy Xaykaothao and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

Do you have tricks for creating character or company names for your fiction? Share them in the comments below!

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