Tuesday’s Tools: 4 sites that help you name your characters

October 30, 2007

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Your characters’ names are one of their most important aspects. In most cases, readers will learn their names from a dust jacket or other promotional materials before learning anything else about them, so why not make the names good ones?

Kabalarians.com used to have a much more extensive list of names available free; you now have to pay to view more than about 20 names in each of their categories. But such interesting names they are: Ana-Tereza, Erviola, Mounnara, Bao-An, Styrr, and more.

The organization believes that your name determines your personality, so each name comes with a free analysis. People named Styrr ” have a great love of nature and the out-of-doors,” for example. Sometimes these charts can help if you’re waffling between two names, even though most people would probably agree that the charts’ accuracy are dubious at best. You can also type in any name you want, even if it’s not browsable in their free database, and get an analysis.

The NameVoyager ‘s a Java app that graphs a name’s popularity over the last century. Type in “JO” for example, and you’ll see that Joshua was the 24th most popular name in the 1970s, but leaped ahead 20 spots in a decade to be the 1980’s4th most popular name. That there was almost nobody named Jordan until the 1990s. And that Joyce was at its peak of popularity in the 1940s. As you type, the graph updates itself. It’s a really neat toy if nothing else, but I can certainly see how you could use it to find period names or just get inspiration.

Nymbler generates names that are “similar” to ones you enter. After a few iterations, I was able to get the program to display only (fairly uncommon) Biblical names (Malachi, Joren, Elijah). A second try yielded names with “nerdy” connotations: Dexter, Nelson, Wade, Preston. My impression is that it’s a really powerful tool (and a great timewaster).

The Baby Name Map displays the top 5 names for each US state, as well as some countries. I would love to see data for African or South American countries, but the site is in beta, so maybe that’s in the works.

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