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A name generator idea or three


#1

I am a bit … lazy. There, I said it. I’ve been incredibly non-diligent about doing the writing that I should be doing. I have a half-dozen manuscripts that lay unfinished in my working folder. Some only need a couple of days of nose to the wheel work. But I have one HUGE hurdle that makes that work arduous.

Opting for the ‘write what you know’ approach, I have basically described real-life events and embellished them a bit where needed. Or a lot, if lawyers are reading this. I used the actual names and need to go through and change the names to what my spreadsheet says they should be. New York City needs to be East Coast City. President Whoever needs to be President Fiction N. AlName. Bonnie needs to be Sunny. Mark Twain needs to be Sammy Clemens. Etc. You get the idea. I need a functional add-in that accepts a table of character and place equivalents and changes them. It won’t get them all right. But the majority of the changes, including ‘Bonnie’s’ to ‘Sunny’s’ will be right and OF GREAT VALUE.

A name generator that integrates AND WILL MAKE CHANGES IN THE BODY, becomes a purchase decider. Having said that, I create my fictional names by going through sports drafts from last century and pairing two names of consecutive draftees where one of the two names serves as a first name. Allows me to create names that are nominally believable and enjoy thinking back to those years in whatever sport. Easier still would be a generator that accepts a list of names and pairs them up. Or, takes them and pairs them with a fed in text file of potential last names.

Lastly, IF I’m going to ask for the sun, the moon, the stars and the grains of sand, it would be WONDERFUL, to take the created names and compare FIRST names to a list of female names drawn from some source and segment the list into potential male name and potential female names. Names like Kirby could be either, of course. It’s a a big big big big ask, but hey, if I don’t ask, you can’t read my mind. Plus it might inspire OTHERS to make suggestions for what would be a different tool for different folks’ needs.


#2

Some interesting stuff there.

How to handle characters is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It’s the next big thing I’ll be looking at, but not the next immediate thing. I’ve looked at a lot of the ‘other’ products out there and how they handle characters, and I’m not sold on any of their implementations.

What I’ll probably end up doing is building something basic but usable first, and then expanding on it later. A bit like the current implementation of the Research tree which is very light weight for now.

I remember working on a feature in SmartEdit a few years ago where I was trying to extract dialog for each individual character, and in the end I had to abandon the attempt, as it proved impossible to work out who was actually saying what from a coding perspective. A human brain can easily follow dialog where character names are used or not used, or where variations of names are used as substitutes, but it proved a nightmare to do the same programmatically. What you’re suggesting reminds me a little of that — not something I would underestimate.

So… while I do have thoughts about tying character names directly to the document, it’s not something I expect will appear in the first incarnation of whatever I do pull together for character handling.


#3

A respectable answer. As I mentioned, ALL three were more aggressive than any of the tools I have at my disposal already. I don’t see ANY sense in rebuilding wheels. Especially flattened wheels. Has to be better to be of any use. I DO think I might have been a bit obtuse in describing the name replacement feature.

Let’s say I have a database of names for this project. I’m going to stay in a fictional sense and say I’m using Willie Coyote in place of Bill Clinton, Hailey Coyote for Hillary Clinton and Grumpy Ethixnone for another character. The REPLACEMENT Tool would look for Bill Clinton’s and replace with Willie Coyote. Bill would be replace by Willie. Bill’s by Willie’s. Hillary would become Hailey, with or without the last name of Coyote as needed. The other guy would be Grumpy or Grumpy Ethixnone. Once I set up the rename database, it would be a one-button push to replace stand-alone words like above. It would GOOF up and replace phone bill with phone Willie (a case test might help there). But such instances would stand out on the proofread. In the meantime, an ACCURATE and MULTIPLE replace procedure would save CONSIDERABLE work.

Now, as for the REALITY vs FICTION database, I expect to need to fill it manually (I use spreadsheets for that already). EVENTUALLY, I could see import of external files, XLS(X), CSV files, etc. It’s the REPLACE BUTTON that makes all that work worthwhile. In the mean time, I can go and (re)write history as it happened and then make sure Grumpy’s lawyers can’t come back at me because HIS name actually appears where I overlooked putting in the needed replacement.

I’ve got a trio of WISHography’s in the drawer, taking a period of my life, describing what happened with who and then needing to go back and embellish, finally fixing everything with Name replacement. Which I’m putting off and putting off and putting off. Maybe I fear my (fantasy) life isn’t all that interesting and that’s why I’m using the renaming excuse to stay unpublished (although I’ve spent years writing for newspapers and have had several magazine articles to boot).

Does THAT form of Name Generator fit into your future vision? I can put off the GENERATION part till later.


#4

I have an old name generator that never actually delivered what I hoped it would, but it was free, and worth every last penny.

My ideal name generator would select names male and female from categories like historical era and geographic/cultural origin.

As an instance I have a story that takes place during the 6 to 8th century in places from Morocco to the Black sea to the Baltic sea including the British Isles and Frankish coast to Jutland. So I need Aramaic, Arabic, Celtic, Norse, and Greco-roman names, but old ones, none of those modern ones at all.

Another source for character names for instance was one in a future setting where a news hound is named Ben Caxton - first newspaper publisher in Britain way back - - -

So for automation to work it still needs some way to insert the literary or historical relevance as well.

No substitute for an author in automation unless it so for looking up derivatives, baby names for adult names.

I loved a story where the archduke is captured at age about three to four. He is asked his name? “Bunny” is the reply.


#5

I understand what you’re looking for Gary. It would be an interesting piece of work. A global find and replace based on a series of aliases. I’d consider that to be fairly advanced and not something that would be in the first version of how I’ll be handling characters. I definitely couldn’t promise a feature like that, even though it sounds interesting.


#6

Re: Generic Name Generator

I love the idea of a really powerful and worthy name generator, but such al tool would be of interest well beyond the scope of a narrative editor. Given the amount of work (and research) involved, I’d expect that to be developed as a stand-alone app.

I’ve written a few name generators, and they’re great fun to build and even more fun for banging out lists of amazing people. One of them specializes in names of space aliens, using both name fragments from existing fiction, and synthetic names built from various phoneme rules. The results are often hilarious. A quick sample from Mars:

Yuta Reeval Devex
Stunuw Spallson
Clasmzallnousk Ufpyck
Stodfack Boq’ta
Flutshooggoim Kosmfsion
Sotlir Femteb
Vagmanli Furel
Besfuw Bixrax
K’Tal L’Kora
Xuttosh Zalgut
Nekbex Fidfesh

But I digress . . . .

As for AS developing the ability to track characters, either in terms of identifying their dialog or even just finding all of their scenes or references, this would be of tremendous value to a story teller, especially a novelist, but I don’t see how it could be done algorithmically without, as Darren said, an extraordinary amount of code, even into AI territory. That said, if a writer is OK with tagging things, it could be done much more easily.

The problem with tagging, of course, is deciding what to tag, and then bothering to do it. A long time ago I tried building some code to do it as I write. The code used cues like “Frank said”, and would create a visible tag. If it picked the wrong tag, as I was writing, it was fairly effortless to fix it on the fly.

But I suspect most writers might find any kind of tagging (like formatting) to be anathema while actually composing content.

In the programming world, we call this kind of context-sensitive search & replace operation refactoring, but programs are rigidly structured, so no AI is needed.

Scripts are also more structured, so the available script-writer tools do manage a fairly good job of making it easy to identify a speech, by typing the first few letters of a character’s name.

But in narratives that’s not very helpful. So I suspect it will be a long time before someone comes up with a fluid, easy, unintrusive, and comprehensive approach to character tracking.

Allen


#7

It’s interesting that you share Greg’s approach to character names. It’s not a way I’ve ever worked myself, which means it’s not something I would have considered. Before I build the character section of Atomic, I’ll probably poll existing users directly and ask how they work with characters, as it’s an area that could easily be overly complex if the wrong features are added.


#8

I should mention that I’ve never successfully worked with characters or their names in any kind of systematic, let alone programmatic, way! I’ve tried a few of the “bossy” novel toolsets, but their style of enforcing things is always miles away from any approach I could live with. I develop plot and character very spontaneously, and I only need tools when I need to unravel material that’s grown too large to visualize as a whole.

Naming characters is usually spontaneous, but certain characters require a lot of name-generating or research before I find something suitable. And I haven’t actually used any alien names in my work because aliens generally don’t figure in. (!) I’d love to find a really comprehensive namer app, but realistically I’d only use it a few times a year.

But tracking characters after the fact would be very useful. I’m able to get most of what I need through SmartEdit, though.

Allen