“Authors do not supply imaginations, they expect their readers to have their own, and to use it.”–Nella Larsen
“Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own.”-Jean Toomer
“We do not possess imagination enough to sense what we are missing.”-Jean Toomer
Doing the impossible is a lot harder than it sounds.
Being a science-fiction or fantasy writer is hard. Wrestling with the hassle of plot, theme, character, setting, transition, voice, and deeply rooted psycho-sexual subtext is hard enough without having to deal with the added challenge of hanging the threads of your story from the rafters of disbelief in order to satisfy the demands of the genre. As if these hurdles weren’t high enough, the problem of inspiration when it comes to thinking up a memorable and appropriately science-fictiony or fantastical-without-being-embarrassingly-flamboyant name for characters and exotic lands becomes even more frustrating when writer’s block insists on being a squatter in the house of ideas.
Fortunately, the Internet hosts a series of solutions to this problem in the form of name generators. Name generators are applications that are programed to combine a number of different elements of vowel sounds, consonant constructions and a slew of other linguistic elements into new configurations that give you just the unearthly quality you need to sound authentic.
One of the first and best experiences I’ve had is with seventhsanctum.com, a website by Steven Savage featuring a particularly robust set of generators. Not content to focus on names alone, the site enables the visitor to play with a number of different subjects, from character names to planet names, story ideas, character skills and even ideas for when good old cousin Writer’s Block stops in for a few days.
A quick click on Elf Names – described as “Names for both Tolkeinesque elves, Wild Elves, and general fantasy,” – opens up a page that requests the number of names desired (up to 25), a category field offering the choices of High Elves, Wild Elves or Full Names, and a generate button. A selection of ten High Elf names renders thus:
Somewhere in there is my future pen name. Or hotel-check-in alias.
The names don’t always have to be exotic. Utilizing information from the US Census, seventhsanctum.com’s Quick Name Generator can supply you with garden-variety appellations that can also be frustratingly difficult to come up with without sounding bland. Kristina Scott, Lily Cash, and Stefanie Hatfield would agree – were they real people.
The site is a blessing for anyone looking for humor or inspiration in writing their story or bringing their role-playing game setting and characters to life. It was put together with an obvious love for writing and creativity. Not content to simply kitbash the English language and leave it at that, there are several links to other sites and features meant to aid the artist’s mind in advancing technique and even suggestions as to how to make forays into the world of getting paid to do what you love.
So the next time you seethe with frustration when you find that somebody else preemptively stole your idea to name the dashing hero Han Solo or Aragorn, head on over to seventhsanctum.com to kick-start your creative slump, and find a doorway into a great community as well.