While working on a separate post for tomorrow, I came to the realization that a number of questions my fellow WriMos ask when looking for plot help in the NaNoWriMo forums have to do with naming, be it a character, tavern, city, or anything else.
I completely understand that. Names are important. They set a tone, and I know I personally can’t develop a character until I have a name for them (I’m just not able to write “X said to Y” like some people can while looking for names, it seems).
Luckily for us writers, the internet abounds with resources to find names (Lucky for my readers, too, or all my minor characters would have the first name that came to mind–which oddly enough tends to be Kyle.) So, in the interest of consolidating all those helpful sites I use when looking for/making up names…
HELPFUL NAMING SITES
–behindthename.com: Personally, I consider this site a bit like the Holy Grail of naming resources. Not only do they have an amazingly long list of names (each with a full explanation of the history behind it) but you can sort them by country, see what names were the most popular in the year your character was born, or even search by meaning. They have also recently started surnames.behindthename.com, which has last names. The list isn’t quite as extensive as the original behindthename site so far, but it’s still a great source.
–thinkbabynames.com: Though I am partial to behindthename, thinkbabynames.com is also a good source for first names, including the rarer names behindthename doesn’t have listed. For example where “Me’Shell” might only get you this list of similarly spelled names on behindthename, it’s featured today on thinkbabynames, which will tell you it is a variant of Michelle.
–babynamewizard.com: Another useful baby name site. Perhaps most useful is it’s front page “Find a Name” feature, which lets you search for a name based of certain criteria such as “Must start with __” or “Can’t start with __” If you really want an uncommon but traditional sounding name for a character that doesn’t start with B, but ends with an A, this is your site.
–census.gov: If you’re looking for relatively common last names (for US-based) characters, this list provides, by percentage, the top ranked last name down to 88799th place. (Sorry Johnson, Smith has replaced you as most popular once again.)
–wikipedia.org: Yes, it had to pop up eventually, and now that it isn’t blacked out it’s really quite useful when naming characters, especially (I find) this list of common surnames. You can pick which country your character comes from, and pick one that is currently common in the region.
–wikipedia.org: Once again, and top ranking this time. Most of the place names I use actually come from wikipedia. Whether I’m stealing a common town/city name for a middle-of-nowhere US town, finding something French sounding, or making up my own town using generic forms of British/Irish place names, wikipedia is a great site. For example, my made up town of Ardbost? Comes from the generic list on wikipedia (Ard: Height, Bost: Farm. Named for the hill the town was first built on).
–Serendipity Place Name Generator: A great place to get random suggestions for made up place names. I generally set it to generate 50 at a time (the most it will) and then pick one/come up with some combination of a few when one strikes my fancy. They also have Fantasy Place Name Generator
–Chaotic Shiny Place Name Generator: Another fun place name generator. Also will put in real landmark names so you get fun creations such as “Taelus Glade” and “Dugfresh Pond”
Finally, since I have to give in to my NaNoWriMo Fangirl-ness, I can’t for get the NaNoWriMo Adoption Society. This forum is where any WriMo who can’t use a name, plot, title or anything else they think up is free to leave it for the needy. With how many things are there, if you don’t find a place name, or character name, or anything else you want to use, you’ll at least probably have some idea sparked while going through them all.