I’m still wondering that.
Terry Brooks in Sometimes the Magic Works, says he keeps a running list of names with him and just adds to it as he hears a great name.
I tried that, but it didn’t work for me. I would half-heartedly try to keep a list of names, but I could never keep it up and never went back to reference the names I wrote down. Might work for me one day, but it’s not working now so…
When I was looking for names for my characters a year ago, I used 4 main sources: an old baby name book, Googling specific ethnic names (like Gypsy names), a book called Exotic Names for the New Millenium, by Allison, and a solid reference book called The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, 2nd ed., by Sherrilyn Kenyon. And they worked. For everyone but my main character, they worked. For my MC, I ended up taking the name of a side character in a book written by one of my fav authors when I was in my 20s. It works. It might not stick, but for now, it works.
Well now I have a new source. THIS I love. If you’ve never heard of it, there’s a website called Seventh Sanctum, that has all kinds of generators. The ones that are important for this post are their name generators. Talk about wicked. This site has so many different types of name generators: evil names, goblin names, names of taverns (love that one), ship names, etc. There’s even a very normal one called a quick name generator, and it does just that: generates names quickly. For instance, when I clicked on the link, it gave me Cathleen Keisha Jenkins. What a great name, and one I would never have come up with on my own. Even if I only use part of it, it’s coming up with names that are outside of my limited searches. Even better, it’s coming up with combinations of names, something I’m terrible at: none of my characters has a last name yet; I hadn’t decided if I was avoiding coming up with last names with my excuse that maybe they don’t have them in my MC’s time… Or if I just hadn’t come up with them yet. Either way, now I can more comfortably think about it and test out some combinations.
So there’s your tool for the day. Use it wisely. Or in the case of the Tavern name generator, use it with a full tankard in hand.