NaNoWriMo: Choosing Names With Bonnie Tyler

One challenge every fiction writer faces constantly is how to come up with names for all the minor characters who pop up. Her's a nifty trick for creating names, courtesy of legendary Welsh songstress Bonnie Tyler. (Yes, once upon a time she was falling in love, but now she's only falling apart.)

Tyler was born Gaynor Hopins but that didn't sound marketable to the first record label that signed her. She explained the technique she used to create a stage name to the Dominion Post in New Zealand:

I got a newspaper and I wrote every name I could find in that paper in two lists, a list of surnames and a list of Christian names. Then I ran through the lists and matched the names up, and came up with Bonnie Tyler

Assuming you still can get hold of a physical newspaper (not a weekend edition), that's not a bad tactic. I've used a slightly different approach for NaNoWriMo, but I don't want to reveal that until I've written a little more of the work-in-progress.

Got your own name-generating tactic? Tell us in the comments.

Holding out for Bonnie


    Or you can just pick names from a phone book. But in either case, you need to make sure the names match your geographical and historical setting. So use the phone book or newspaper for the country (even state) your novel is set in, and get one from a different era if you are setting your novel in the past.

    Waddya mean, "if you can still get hold of a physical newspaper"- I know online newssites are the future but they haven't taken over just yet...!

    I do a similar process, but I start with Wikipedia lists of people from certain fields or countries to get usable names.

    XCOM/UFO Games Enemy Unknown and Terror from the Deep use a similar system to generate your squad members names wih the added bonus they have recognisable ethnicities from Europe like Russian, German or Spanish. I don't recall any non-Japanese Asian names though.

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