PenNames: a better name database

Writers, this may sound familiar. You dream up a new character, and for a while it’s okay to refer to them in your head as ‘the dude’ or ‘heroine’ or ‘cat’, but eventually you run into that roadblock where you realize…

I need to name these people.

Happens every time. Around the same point where things start to ‘get real’, as it were.

Naturally, you turn to the Interwebz for help. There are themed name generator websites and software (Scrivener has this built in!), and then there are…

…the baby name websites.

ominous crash of thunder

You start wading into lists of “Russian boy names” or “top 10 girl names in 1943” (That’s a thing, check out the Social Security Administration) or “names celebrities are giving their kids.” You scour meanings and origins but something’s still missing. You hope from site to site, frustrated that when you were in Russian Boy Names and clicked on E it took you to ALL E-names, not Russian Boy Names Starting With E.

And then the ads start. The cookies sneak into your browser and before you know it ads for diapers are following you across the internet and your parent or partner is very interested to know why you’re looking at high chairs.

It’s not fun, okay? Everything is pink and blue and cutesy and unhelpful. I didn’t come here looking for teddy bears, I wanted a name for a Viking warrior!

Let’s change all that

PenNames is a name database where none of that’s going to happen to you.

A few months back, Twitter user Ana Mardoll (@anamardoll) proposed that someone should build a better name website. A place free from babies where a writer could learn really useful stuff like an expanded history of the name and some famous characters who have carried it. And I realized, hey, I have the skills to build that. So I volunteered, and soon I had Kirsten Thompson (@katannthompson) in my corner offering to head up the research side of things.

You guys, it’s really happening!

Yes, somewhere on a production server a better name database is coming to life.

We promise that PenNames will be:

  • Easy to navigate
  • More informative
  • Gives you meaning of name
  • History of names
  • Well known characters
  • Other interesting facts

We have plans for blogging that will knock your socks off with all the cool trivia we’re finding. We’re linking names so that you can pull up a page of all Jane Austen’s characters, or everybody in Scooby-Doo.

Course, we need money to make this puppy run. So we’ve started a Patreon where you can support our efforts for as little as $1 a month.

If you’re excited, but not quite ready to throw money at this, we have a survey we’d love for you to fill out:

PenNames is, of course, a work in progress, and we’ll continue to post more information and previews as we go.

Come check us out, and tell us what you think!

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