It’s no secret that writing is hard work. It’s an activity that sucks creative juices from the moment you sit down at the keyboard. Figuring out the plot, naming characters, places, plants, or even the actual novel — sometimes you just can’t even. So, here’s my little secret, I use generators.
I heard that collective gasp, even you in the back, but just hear me out, okay?
Using generators can be really helpful. Even if you don’t end up using the randomly generated name, looking at how the words/names are formed by the generator can often be inspiration enough to help you make up your own word/name.
The truth is, nothing on earth is unique anyway, so why not use those tools to make our lives a little easier? You know, so we can get to making our characters’ lives so much harder *insert evil laughter*.
I’ve heard that some writers combat those stages of zero inspiration by using plot generators, though I’ve never tried this myself. Well, not in the conventional way, but I do own story cubes that offer roll-of-a-dice random plot ideas.
The thought is that you seek out a generator when you don’t know what to write, then write whatever is generated — no matter how difficult or out of your way of thinking it may be. Some of these stories may never leave our computer, but I know of people who’ve published stories inspired by generated prompts.
This plot generator comes recommended.
I recently had to pick a new name for my upcoming novel, A Study of Ash & Smoke. After thinking of the book as The Physician’s Apprentice for so long, this was a pretty daunting task. I thought this way and that, and ended up with a king size headache. So I turned to novel title generators, I kid you not.
I didn’t use anything I found on one of those generators, but seeing how the machine threw together titles helped me understand better which words and word combinations work well in titles.
Character Name Generators
For my main cast, I meticulously choose given names. Meanings are important to me, so I tend to place a lot of value in that for my characters too. The supporting cast, though, is a different story. I don’t want to spend more than a minute choosing a name for someone who has a minor role in the plot, so I turn to generators.
I usually rely on Behind the Name for all my naming needs, researched or randomly generated. Serendipity, Fantasy Name Generators, and Seventh Sanctum also offer a bunch of great character name generators.
Place or Plant Name Generators
When it comes to place or plant names, I use generators all the time. Many sites offer words sounding like real languages, which is a massive bonus if you write fantasy with real-world flavours, like I do. You also get generators that offer full-on fantasy sounding stuff, elfish, dwarfish, orc — if you can think it, there’s a generator for it.
My favourite resource for this is Fantasy Name Generators. They offer words that sound like English, French, and a variety of other real or fictional languages, and also offers a quick explanation on how they formed the generated words. I find that once I understand where the root words come from, it’s easier to build words of my own.
This is also a nifty resource for making up medicine names, since I use loads of those in my speculative medical drama.
I’ve seen other kinds of generators too. Ones that offer character descriptions, magical objects, fantasy creatures, even a few that generate ship names.
What’s your take on this? Do you use generators or try to use only your own creations? I’d love to hear from you.
Yolandie Horak can often be found typing away at the computer or nibbling at the end of a paintbrush. When not writing or making art, she spends her time cuddling her daughter and husband, reading, fangirling, or gaming.
She resides in Calgary, Canada, but misses the milk tart and koeksisters she frequently ate in her hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa.
She has been a passionate blogger since the dawn of time, and updates her blog twice per week with art tutorials, her thoughts on writing, book reviews and experiences as an immigrant.