Who are all these people, and what do I call them?

If you’ve written anything at all, you’ll know the hair-pulling madness that comes of having to name ALL THE THINGS. People, places, made-up foodstuffs. The most common suggestion (based on my completely unscientific random scrolling of twitter) is to use baby name books. Which is probably not a bad start, but what if you’re doing historical fiction, or fantasy where you’ve lost your mind and decided to invent names for all your characters? Or you don’t want to name your characters Emily and Olivia and whatever else is currently trendy in the English speaking world? Do other linguistic communities do baby name books, or is it an Anglo-Capitalist thing?

There are a couple other things you can try:

Google can help out. For historical fiction, or even if you just want something different, you can just type “15th century Venetian women’s names” into your search bar and hey presto! names. Or “medieval German given names”. (Bartilmebis, anyone?) A big thank you to the wonderful people who compile these lists!

Another option for the desperate writer who still has 85645215963 more characters to name? Type random letters on your keyboard til you find a sequence you like. wofueanaidhfiwmfog: how about Anaidh? This one obviously wouldn’t work for dictation softward, and I can’t speak to non-alphabetic languages.

Long names are fine. Short names are fine. Wonky spellings, straightforward phonetic spellings, full-fledged patronymics? Go for it. Even diacritics, although editors and publishers might object. And however dumb you might think your names are, just remember: Scientists named the massive super-hot explosion which brought the entire universe into existence the Big Bang.

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