Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Optimize Me, Baby!

You may remember (or not, it was a tad bit ago), me rhapsodizing about a character-naming website called the Baby Name Wizard. Although why they call it the Baby Name Wizard and not the Character Name Wizard, I'm not sure. It might have something to do with wacky people using it to name actual living humans instead of figments of their imaginations. Sounds crazy, I know, but hey--I don't make this stuff up.

A character's name is of course enormously important. For example, if your protagonist is a half-feral, demon-killing maiden of the Sacred Sword of Arnooth, who has sworn bloody vengeance against the spawn of Beezelbub who slew her mother lo these many years past (now, that I made up) you don't name her Pickles. Actually, you don't name anyone Pickles. That's a Rule. Write it down.

I hear you whispering back there. You think the example I just gave is easy. Because obviously the perfect name for a half-feral, demon-killing urban fantasy protagonist is Shzaghatha of the Rampaging El. What novelist worth her salt needs a website for that?

Well fine, smartypants. Name me this: a boy's name that means warrior.

With no more than two syllables.

In Arabic.

Ha! Not so easy now, is it, my pretty?*

And yet--it is. Writers,** say hello to the Baby Name Optimizer. Make your choices among 17 variables--not only ethnicity and number of syllables, but style (trendy, timeless, exotic), popularity (Top 100, less popular, unusual), origin (Biblical, Buddhist Zen, Muslim, Sanskrit, Saints, Shakespearian, among a slew of others). Want a celebrity name? A name that conveys your character is athletic? Dark? Graceful? A name that is associated with animals? A place? A gemstone?

The Optimizer, it is a veritable garden of geeky delight, my friends. A garden! We're talking wild climbing roses and birds of paradise and lilies of the freaking valley here. Not to mention, it's a procrastinator's dream.

And remember: Once you've optimized your character's name, pop over to the Baby Name Wizard and find out how popular it's been in every decade since the 1880s.

Sigh. And they say we can't find heaven here on earth.

Okay, enough geeking out (although really, can one ever truly get enough?) But I gotta get to work. Just as soon as I plug in a request for a four-syllable Teutonic girl's name meaning "peacemaker" that does not end in the letter a.

Axelle. Ah well--four out of five ain't bad.

*I have got to stop watching Wizard of Oz late at night. Oh, BTW, the Arabic boy warrior's name? Shamar. Nice, huh?

**Yes, I suppose you expectant-parent types can use it, too. But don't you dare take Axelle. That name is mine.

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Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

Ok, now I'm really interested to learn what you're working on!!!

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Nowak said...

I'll have to check this out. I'm working on a new book idea now, and while I know one character's name with absolute certainty, the other two are just names I picked out of thin air as I was madly jotting down plot ideas. They'd do the job, but I've been thinking maybe they need deeper meaning.

By the way, I know a dog named Pickles. He's missing one eye and can't see out of the other.

And, just for the record, my name was the #1 girls' name the year I was born. How about showing a little originality, eh Mom?

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Sally Nemeth said...

Too late! I've already named my first born Axelle! Axelle Rose. He was once a very popular kid, but has been reclusive of late.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Christine Fletcher said...

Melissa--it's not an urban fantasy about a demon-slaying maiden of the Sword of Arnooth! :-) (Or a Teutonic peacemaker, either). I'm keeping sort of mum about it right now since I'm still in early stages...but I'll blog about it sometime.

Lisa, I actually named a horse in my first book Pickles. I just think it's a funny name. Although doesn't seem like it worked well for the poor dog you know ;)

Funny thing about the name Lisa, it's disappeared off the popularity charts. Wildly popular for a while, then...gone. I predict the same thing for "Jennifer."

Ooh, Sally, you stole my name! And no wonder poor Axelle has been reclusive. It's the boy named Sue all over again.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Walter Rowntree said...

Melissa - She's just procrastinating, like the rest of us.
I do indeed remember the baby Name Voyager site, and wasted time on it and shared it with my compatriots. I've glanced at the Optimizer and Wow! is it cool! I'll waste some time on it and share it around. My associate just had her baby (Which she claims is my fault!) and I will print up the NameVoyage site's page for her. And yeah, I'm solo here for 6 weeks.
C - Can't wait to hear what you'reworking on! And saying "But don't you dare take Axelle. That name is mine." makes everyone think you're pregnant! But just to clarify, you've snagged that name for a character.
A Wizard of Oz fan, eh? Did you get a copy of The Dark Side of the Rainbow when I sent them around that one year? I am still utterly amazed at that tornado every time I see it.

5:12 PM  

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