On a Day Like Today

On a day like today, I really wish I had bothered to keep up with computer programming.

You can laugh all you want at the fact that I spent many hours in high school sitting at a computer, programming my life away. Bet you didn't know I got a 3 on the Computer Science AP for C++ (because saying something like that makes me feel like an uber-genius, when in all honesty… I'm just an uber-dork who wasted two and a half years of high school on something I barely understood instead of two and a half years of college, thousands of dollars, and GPA points).

But, in all seriousness, today is one of those days.

I wanted to get a start on my NaNoWriMo preplanning. Some people start this process December 1st (the day after NaNo ends). Some never preplan. I'm starting about ten days early because I want some idea of where I need to go with my story, but I don't want the rigid outline I know I would break if I spent months ahead of time planning it.

My pre-NaNo planning stages:

  • Characters:
    • Biographic info
      • As extensive as the character will allow it to be, plus the effort it will take to pull teeth to get the rest of it
    • Relationships
    • Identify MC (Male or female)
    • Establish POV characters
  • Plot
    • What personal catastrophe is going to hit the MC? How will he/she deal with it?
    • POV characters – how are they going to take how the MC is dealing with this?
    • What kind of an ending do I want to see it have?
  • Research
    • Maps
      • Familiarize myself with the place where this is supposed to be taking place.
      • Possibly create a map if I end up making up a place
    • History (if location is real)
      • What has happened here? What kind of history does this place have, and how do the people here treat it?
  • Etc., etc…
I think you get the point.

However, in my pursuit of pre-planning, I ran into the one snafu that I always get caught up in when creating a character. The name.

Almost anyone I have collaborated on a writing project with can tell you I am great when it comes to developing plot twists. I chew them up and spit them out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at the same time. Chuck Norris is the only one who can do any better, and that's because he's Chuck Norris. My fatal flaw, my Achilles heel, my poorest showing is in generating character names. I cringe to think about anyone reading my Left Behind fan fiction stories, or Flyboy Club RPG posts, because I have had as many as three or four characters with the same first name.

We'll talk about the fact that I used to write fan fiction about the Left Behind series another time… right now, focus on the character name issue.

I have found tools on different websites which randomly generate names. For a while, they worked – but eventually the same names came popping back up, and I was stuck in the same boat as before.

So I started searching for computer programs whose sole purpose was to generate character names. Multiple exist. However, the freeware versions (the only ones I can afford) suck… because you can't get to the full features without buying the program, which I am apparently too cheap to do.

Picture starting to come clear?

Basically, I would love to be able to write my own random name generator program, but because I focused on other things besides programming in college (i.e. history, creative writing), I couldn't write a program to save my life. I wouldn't even remember where to start. Thus, the reason why today is a day like today.