What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I think a lot about character names. In the book I wrote last fall, the heroine is Hannah, the hero Benjamin. Those names fit the characters in that book perfectly. For years, I used a random name generator created by a guy named August Kleimo. He took data from the US Census, and randomized it.

It was both inelegant, and perfect. You want obscure, common, man, woman, or a combo of the above, a couple of clicks and you could have it.  Then a few months ago, poof – Kleimo’s random name generator was gone. Just like that. For days I practically tore my hair out. I searched out his e-mail and begged him to put it back up.

Suddenly, friends and parents of my new hero and heroine were just blank spaces. I searched incessantly for a replacement. I didn’t want band names, Dungeons & Dragon names, or science fiction names, but there didn’t seem to be much else.  For one solid day, I messed around with the Census site looking for names based on year of birth and obscurity.  And it worked, but it was unwieldy

Older writers I knew used the phone book.  But in this day and age, I can’t remember the last time I had a phone book in my house.  Maybe early 2000?  I’m happy to say that I’ve found some okay substitutes, and the blank spaces in my current manuscript are filled up, but it’s been rough going.  My new hero, Raphael and heroine Daisy, will have a world populated with others, not just blanks.