Thursday, April 2, 2009

Random Generators

Something I heard or read in the last week got me thinking about random generators. There are all kinds of them out there, but for writers, the ones of most interest are the ones that give character descriptions, names, locales, and story or plot ideas.

So, I did some web surfing and came up with some that you might like to check if you’re writing your novel and hit a road block.

Seventh Sanctum Randomization Station seems to be the mother of all random generator sites for writing purposes. (If I’m wrong, could someone please leave the URL in the comments.)

In the upper left corner under GENERATORS, click on Character. Then, click on GENERAL CHARACTER GENERATOR. When I did, these characters popped up:

-This woman makes you think of a playful otter. She has almond-shaped red eyes. Her thick, straight, smoke-gray hair is worn in a style that reminds you of a pennant blowing in the wind. She has an hourglass build. Her skin is dark. She has long-fingered hands. Her wardrobe is uncomplicated.

-This aristocratic gentleman has deep-set yellow eyes that are like two gold coins. His thick, wavy, black hair is medium-length and is worn in a precise style. He is tall and has a graceful build. His skin is china-white. He has high cheekbones and a pointed chin. His wardrobe is tight and mysterious, with a lot of red and orange.

Still in the upper left corner, when I clicked on QUICK CHARACTER GENERATOR, these showed up:

- The wanderer searching for a family member.
- The unambitious, antisocial lawman.
- The sarcastic, open-minded official.
- The composed poet haunted by dark memories.
- The tireless bounty hunter.

Again in the Upper left, when I clicked on the QUICK NAME GENERATOR, I saw these under:

- Angeline Vance
- Cassandra Jeannette Stuart
- Leanna Stacie Dean
- Gilda Marcy Maldonado
- Glenna Potter

- Allen Woodward
- Andreas Slater
- Bryan Harrington
- Burl Omar Wilkinson
- Cedric Alvarado

and finally in the Upper right, click on VILLAIN GENERATOR. You can then pick:
- quick names
- quick story ideas

And that’s only a small part of Seventh Sanctum.

Name Generator & Historical Name Sources lists several generators but I like this one the best. It’s a story/scene generator and when these are some of the ideas it came up with:

- A skinny juggler is an eyewitness to the murder of a sadistic actor

- A Canadian jewel thief delivers bad news to the daughter of a jewelry salesman.

- A skinny widow is accused of raping an idealistic carpenter form a basketball team.

- A bashful ambassador and a hypnotist compete in a cooking match.

- A carpenter plays a game of checkers with an one-armed tap-dancer in a pastry shop.

Writing Prompt Generators is a site for authors who write children’s books. This is an interactive random generator. It give it certain criteria and it picks. Here’s what happened when I did it:

Generator 1: Adjective, Noun, Verb (or phrase) Write a story about:
- the intelligent Marine that went over the rainbow

Generator 2: Three Objects (Click the button to get the names of three objects chosen at random). Write a story in which these three objects appear and are important:
- A wicker basket, a tube of lipstick, and a bounced check.

Generator 3: Random plot generator: Click the buttons to get six important elements for your plot.

1. The Protagonist (The main character of your story): a ticket-taker

2. The Antagonist (The person or thing that gets between the main character and his or her goal: a sinister fortune-teller

3. The Setting (Where the protagonist starts out – your story can stay her or move to other places.): a forest

4. The Goal (What does your main character want?): To win a contest

5. An Important Event (This event will be a turning point in your story): Finding a hidden compartment.

6. An important Object (This object is very important to your main character and plays a crucial role in the story): a hacksaw.

I'm not sure about that last one but the beauty of this is one click and you have another object available to use.

Creativity Tools Monika – Name Finder is a word, phrase and sentence generator but it shines with the names: For this generator, you get to pick from names:

- popular in the year 1850 or 1990
- male or female.

Behind the Name the etymology and history of first names: In this generator, you can pick the ethnicity of your character. I picked Finnish because that’s my heritage and I wanted to see what names came up. Look:

Males: Henrikki Sakari, Toivo Aleksi, simo Armo

Females: Arwen Tanja, Marita Maarika, Anita Maija (Did you get that last one. :)

Role Playing Pro has a list of links for random name generators. Some are Seventh Sanctum pages, but not all.

Medieval Names Archive isn’t really a generator, but it does have pages of names to check. The header reads:

This collection of articles on medieval and renaissance names is intended to help historical re-creators to choose authentic names.

The names are listed by ethnic origin. A bonus to this site is that it tells you which are the good and bad sites for accurate information on medieval names.

Digg is a story idea generator. I clicked twice and found these 2 ideas:

1. Something in your characters life that once brought them pleasure (a relationship, a child, a job) is transformed into a burden. and,

2. What is the character most naive about? This should drive them to a foolish leap off a proverbial cliff they are not aware they are making, a terrible mistake that is not a mistake at all because it leads them down a path of growth and change.

Trivia Park bills itself as a Romance writer story generator. It’s quite fun actually.

When I went to Archetype Plot Scenario Generator, this is what I got:

The story starts when your protagonist is reunited with an old friend.
Another character is a detective who has abducted your protagonist’s friend

What I’ve given you here are some places to head to if you just can’t seem to find the right character or think of a plot for your novel. Hopefully if you do go to any of these sites, they’ll spark an idea and get you back on track.

Have you used a random generator to get ideas? Do you know of any more sites we could add to this list? How do you feel about using these generators?


Captain Hook said...

Awesome sites, Anita! Yes, that one was very close to your name, wasn't it?

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Captain Hook, thanks.

Yes, Anita Maija is very close to my name especially since the 'j' in Finn is pronounced as a 'y' so it's softer.

Thanks for stopping.

Karen said...

Anita, I had no idea these sites even existed. I could see myself using one of the generators you listed for help with names. Thanks for the info.

Silver James said...

"Thanks, Anita," she says dryly with a touch of sarcasm. LOL

What an amazing time suck those sites are. I have a writers software program called Write It Now and it has some random generators. I'll occasionally use it for names of "throwaway" characters when I don't want to take the time to go through my "World of Baby Names - 75,000".

I have to admit, though, some of those ideas weren't bad....hrmm.....

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Great links Anita, I'll have to bookmark some for later. As Silver says, they look like a time sink! The collections of period names I think will be of great help for me, especially for those minor characters who don't have to have their name over any other. The description generator is really neat as well, very handy.

Using plot generators seems a bit foreign to me, since I tend to dive into a work when I'm passionate about the stories and characters, but it might be a nice change of pace to try a different approach. With a little work, I'm sure I'd get passionate about them just the same!

Anita Mae Draper said...

'You're welcome, Karen and Silver,' Anita says sweetly.

I found some of the name generators last year when I was researching which names were valid in the Old West circa 1879.

I do remember another Chick spoke of some kind of a random generator (Jana maybe?) in one of our earlier posts. Our labels are all across the board and I couldn't find the post. And then at our mtg on Sat, Helena mentioned one, too and I tried to stay quiet because I didn't want to tip anyone off to the fact I was in the process of writing this post. But only for the reason that I didn't know if there were enough generators out there to write about. Silly me, eh.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
It couldn't have been me writing a post about random generators because I've never used one before. They look interesting, especially the name ones. I found a site on-line (which I don't remember the name of) when I was looking for appropriate names for characters in my WW2 book. This site would give me the ten most popular baby names in 1920, based, I think, on the US census for that year.

Do you think the random plot generator might be able to help you out if you get stuck on a plot point and don't what to do?

Great post. I'll have to book mark these sites.


ban said...

ooo yea ! i'd forgotten all about seventh sanctum ! had it saved on my last desktop but when i switched to a laptop i lost the link and forgot about it. thanks for reminding me of all the fun - they made for good writing exercises if not entire stories :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey there Hayley. Most of the name generators out there are for fantasy writers. The Seventh Sanctum one is the biggest I've found but there are many others I didn't list because they were strictly fantasy. There was even one with random weaponry. Oh, and lots of weird worlds. Oh, and magic spells/incantations. And one for insults. lol.

I didn't think I'd need a plot or story generator, either but as I clicked on some of those to see if they were worth linking to, I realized what a great resource they are if you're stuck. I guess that's the big thing. I usually get my ideas from a spark that's flown off something else. But that something else has to be there in the first place. So, although I don't think I'll use them, I'm glad I have the list now instead of trying to find one later when I'm depressed because I'm on a deadline and my brain's mushy.

Thanks for your comment, Hayley.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jana, so it wasn't you, eh? Hmm. It doesn't matter, I just hadn't wanted to repeat info here.

About your stuck plot question, I think when you're stuck, anything to give you ideas is a good thing. You never know what's going to spark and light a fire in your writing.

Thanks for the visit.

Anita Mae Draper said...

You're very welcome, ban. I'm glad I could help.

I'm quite amazed at the Seventh Sanctum site. It has a generator for every possible aspect of a story. Quite the tool to keep.

I appreciate you stopping for a visit.

nm8r67 said...

ah, Anita, you have found one of my favorite sites. Seventh Sanctum has long been on my bookmarks. i definitely use it to jump start my muse when necessary.

Great posting, as always. I'm am so enjoying the Prairie Chicks site. Just throwing that out there for all the "Chicks".

Technogeekboy said...

Also check out Generator Land (

Janet C. said...

Another great post, Anita. I will check out each of these sites to see what they offer, but I'm like you - the story comes to me and I'm usually get stuck with the plot and subplot I have already established. Or my characters - as we've seen in the past.

I think these would make wonderful writing exercises for the SRW blog - especially considering Karen's post from yesterday and the hint that narrative is harder to write than dialogue. I'll see what everyone thinks about that.

Hopefully, when I start looking at these (and technogeekboy's added suggestion)I won't get sucked in for hours on end (as Silver and Hayley have pointed out). Bad enough I've become addicted to online Solitaire this week. Geesh.

Silver Spurrr said...

The best of the bunch is the Idea Generator series created by The Directors Bureau. For the iphone or ipod touch. THe Idea Generator is good for general ideas and inventions and their is also a Song Idea Generator for song lyrics! Awesome

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey there, nm8r67 - sorry about the late response - had a bit of a snooze.

I really appreciate you coming to visit us - and for the nice words. They go a long way. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Technogeekboy - I've checked out your - there's certainly no lack of unusual names on your generators, eh.

Thanks for the link.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Online Solitaire, Janet? Really. And I'm feeding your procrastination... Bad Anita... bad... bad!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Silver, thanks for that link, too. I never knew...

Helena said...

Seems I've lost part of a day somewhere -- well, not exactly. I, myself, got lost in a couple of blogs I'd never been to before. One thing led to another ... this is my new addiction. (I'm afraid to check out the random generators named in your post, Anita. Might get lost again!)

I will, tho, check them out. They sound fascinating. I've often wondered about the software packages you see advertised in Writer's Digest that promise you plots to end all plots, wonderful characters, etc. I have used official govt. lists of top names in given years to authenticate the use of names for my characters. (They still have to be names I feel comfortable with, of course)

Whew, Anita. I have so many things to do now -- following up all your good suggestions.

Helena said...

Forgot to mention that the random romance novel title generator that I mentioned at the meeting on Sat. was really a tongue-in-cheek site. We had a few laughs over the very ridiculous titles it generated.

Also, after the fact, I admired your self-control -- not revealing the topic of today's post, I mean.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Helena, you remind me of the old TV commercial - Don't touch that dial! Except in your case, it's Don't go there! LOL

Yes, the thing I do like about these generators is that you can discard a name that you don't feel comfortable with right away and then pick again. I went through about a dozen Finn names while searching for onces I wanted to add to this post. That's why I was so surprised when Anita Maija came up on my 4th hit.

Thank you for the remark about my self-control. It kind of justifies my job as an actor/extra in the film industry.

Thanks for commenting today. :)

Molli said...

Hi Anita. I've been out of touch for a couple of days and I'm just catching up.
Great post -- like Karen, I had no idea these sites were there so I'm looking forward to having some fun exploring.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey, thanks Molli - I'm glad I introduced you to something new but it's not my fault if you use them for procrastinating. :)

Rhonda said...

Hey, here's a baby names app that may be of some help to you and your readers. Learn more here. Thanks.