I would like to talk about randomness for a moment. First, nothing is truly random - even when we seek names, numbers, and coin flips from random generators there is some higher artistic power at work that we humans are too puny to comprehend. Yes, I really just said that. Secondly, when a randomly generated name or number or color or whatever is presented to us, it forces us to make a choice and therefore our choice takes away the randomness because suddenly we have ascribed purpose to whatever it is that we have decided. Do I want Chinese food for dinner or American? My friend randomly shouts out, "American!" And because a choice has now been set before me, I can say with full confidence that, no, I actually wanted Chinese food. Canton here I come! It is the same way with random generators on the internet. I put in that I want an Arabic male name and I am presented with one. I now choose whether to accept it (along with all the instant images and ideas that come along with it) or reject it and press the generate button one more time. Even if you limit yourself and say 'I will press the generate button once and whatever comes up is what I shall use' you are still making a choice. You will use that name, research that name, glorify or slander that name, and make a character to be the perfect match or foil to that name.
In this post I have included random generators (as well as already generated name lists) that I have used in the past. What I would like to know, is if you find such things to be enormous wastes of time or if they help you in developing characters in some way. Do they at least help you decide what not to do? Further down the list I have also included generators and visual aides that might help with the design of the character and even the setting in which they might live. I find such things to be very useful in some situations (not all). More often than not, room design and dress up games are just a starting point for me, and then my own imagination and creativity take over. Could such things end up being distractions from the process? Try a few out perhaps and then decide. And of course, it always depends on the situation.
- Name Generator Index (A list of generators that provide you with everything from Hillbilly names to names for your pony.)
- Fantasy Name Lists (A branch of the previous site wherein you can find links to various fantasy name lists, a few fantasy specific name generators, and also the 100 most essential words in anime - talk about random O_o.)
- Names Master List (Another branch of the same site with a plethora of links to name lists for pretty much anything you could think of to name. If it isn't there, it doesn't deserve a name.)
- 20,000 Names (A personal favorite of mine and Crimson Lantern. This is also linked to this very blog. It is a very informative and well categorized name database for practical and fantastical use.)
- Fantasy Name Generator (Just push generate and you'll have a whole slew of interesting and unique names and if you don't like what you see, refresh the results page for more names.)
- Pet Names (as in lovey dovey, not for Fido) (If you have a character who likes to say things like 'sweetie pie' and 'pumpkin tits' this might be a good place to find inspiration.)
- New Identity (This site generates a new name and a whole new identity for you - should you need one O_O - or can be a good starting place for a character. I used it to create a new identity for a character who went into witness protection.)
- Random Name Generator (This site is similar to the last one but with a less intense tone. You can generate based on ethnicity or even race of magical creature.)
- Character Name Generator (D&D) (A place to go if you want some creative names for your Dungeons and Dragons characters, or novel characters who merit such names. Kind of fun.)
- Noemata (I have used this over and over again - it basically pumps out random collections of letters and syllables that are without trademark. It is a good place to look up fake brands for stories or to seek inspiration for cyber-punk or fantasy names.)
- Random.Org (If you are debating on having your character go left or right - this is a place where you can flip a virtual coin or pick a number between X and Y. You can also roll the dice. It's nice if you don't have coins and dice handy and would like to practice randomness in your decision making.)
- D&D Dice Roller (Because I felt like I couldn't leave it off after the last entry. If you need to know how badly your poor character took a beating in that alley last night and you want help deciding - just roll a D20 and let the carnage begin.)
And, as promised here are some other random things that may or may not help you along your way to creativity and production.
- Elizabethan Insults (The name really says it all. Included in this site is a link to an Elizabethan insult generator above and beyond what is already presented. Good fun.)
- Fantasy Dress Up Index (A whole slew of dress up doll games that could give you ideas for clothes, looks, locations,or even anthropomorphic additions to your characters.)
- Doll Divine (The site I use more than others to find dress up doll games for male and female characters. You can screen shot your final creations and tuck them away for further inspiration.)
- Room Sketcher (Design your, or your character's, dream house and give yourself a good visual of where things are located about the house so that you can describe it easily in your writing. I haven't used this site very much at all, but I know others who have found it pretty helpful.)
Randomness is something that writers all come to embrace. Dani posted picture cubes as a writing prompt, others toss word dice to come up with a plot. Some people put names, places, and activities in three separate hats and pull out the makings for a writing exercise or story. There was a musician (a composer) who used to walk around naked then lay on his piano and pound the keys randomly until inspiration struck. It all seems so random and yet it is all a choice. Choose randomness. That is one way to keep the creative juices flowing. In closing, here is a link to Script Frenzy's plot machine: Script Frenzy.Org. Script Frenzy (a sister branch of NanoWriMo) is no longer an event, but the site remains intact for people to make use of their script writing tools which include this plot machine. Randomness in motion. If anyone has any generators or lists that they have found useful in the past, I would love for you to share them with me. And if you have any creative prompts that hinge on randomness, please share those as well.
Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012
Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012