Countdown to NaNoWriMo: Day 4 — Plot, Character and Setting Generators
There’s only four days until the start of November — and NaNoWriMo. Sometimes you’ve got everything lined up in your mind ready to go — and sometimes there are gaping character- or location-shaped holes in your ideas. But never fear, there’s a whole world of random generators out there, and some of them might even, if you’re lucky, be helpful.
Seventh Sanctum is the daddy of all online generators. Online since 1999, it now has generators for absolutely everything you could ever possibly need. Anime catgirl names? Check. Giant robot generator? Yep. Science-fiction medical tools? Got you covered. There’s even a Bookspinner generator which creates new fictional books with titles evocative enough that they run the risk of inspiring whole new stories instead.
Chaotic Shiny is another massive and detailed site which contains some fascinating gems for world-building, including an alphabet generator, for those worlds that need that little extra bit of fleshing out, a medieval army generator for the times you need hordes to come knocking on your kingdom gates and, one of my favourites, a place name generator for places that sound eminently plausible.
RanGen is smaller in scope than the previous two but has some charming additions, including an awkward moment generator and a law generator for when you fancy throwing yourself in at the deep end by creating a whole new world to play in. It can even randomly generate babies, which isn’t a phrase I’d expected to write when I started this.
Instead of spreading their nets wide, these sites focus on doing one thing, and doing it well. In this case, it’s name generators.
Fantasy Name Generators does exactly what you’d expect: it generates names in almost any field you can think of. Dragon names, both European and Chinese, company names for when a protagonist suddenly decides they need a job interview or to set up in business, even herb names for those fantasy spells. One of the best aspects to this site is the thought that goes into the descriptions for each generator, which offer helpful hints and explanations of how the names are formed.
NameGenerator.biz isn’t as large, but it has its own handy tools that make it worth adding. Has one of your characters decided to take up a life online? They might need a YouTube name or a Twitter handle; there’s even a surname generator for those unexpected side characters.
NameGeneratorFun is easily the brightest site on the list and brings its own unique set of tools to the party. There’s even a Hallowe’en name and character generator, and the poetry generator could be handy for those moments your characters (and their writer!) are in desperate need of inspiration.
20,000 Names, while not technically a name generator, deserves an honourable mention for the sheer volume of names and meanings on the site, arranged by country or category. If you have a vague idea of a character’s nationality, an informative few moments spent scanning the name list can often net a suitable name.
It’s all very well having a name, but what if they need a personality too?
My Big Overly-Detailed Character Generator doesn’t mess about with its title, and does literally everything. If you want to know everything about the character you’re generating, even down to the shape of their face, preferred clothing and Myers-Briggs Personality Type, this is definitely for you.
Springhole has a whole section given over to character generators with a lot of options, including to randomly generate flaws and weaknesses, quirks and features of character’s speech and randomly-generated family members.
Not entirely related to the above, but certainly a lot of fun, is Gaurav Munjal’s Universal LPC Sprite Sheet Character Generator, which generates a little pixel-art character based on your choices and is a fun way to while away a little time recreating your main character.
It happens to the best of us: we want to write, but the story’s sulked off somewhere. Now you can have a go at replacing it.
Plot Generator does exactly that, although it has the ability to be as random or as structured as you wish to put the effort into. Choose from short stories (with the option to fill in as little or as much for pre-existing characters as you like), fairy tales or even just opening lines for when you’re well and truly stuck.
Bookfox’s Story Idea Generator doesn’t work in the same way as the other generators in this list: instead of smashing together random items, it presents wholly-formed ideas and leading questions designed to spur your creative flow into action and help you create a fully-formed story.
Do you use these sites yourself, or are there others that you rely heavily on? Have they led you to new ideas or even a whole story? Let us know in the comments.