filed under Using Scrivener.

I thought I’d start a new series where I post some Scrivener Quick Tips every 6 weeks. These posts will show you how to use one small but very handy feature of Scrivener. Today’s Scrivener Quick Tips are about using the Name Generator to come up with great names for your characters.

I love the Name Generator because sometimes I find character names difficult. I scan my bookshelves, I scroll through all the names in my mind, but nothing seems quite right. With the name generator, I can quickly produce a list of names that I would never have thought of myself. Sometimes they’re crazy names but I always find one that’s perfect.

I’ve made a quick, 5 minute video showing you how to use the Name Generator but I’ve also described how to use it in the post below so you can take your pick of ways to learn!

Here’s the video, or scroll down for the written explanation:

How Do I Find the Name Generator?

  1. Go into the Edit menu in Scrivener
  2. Scroll down to Writing Tools
  3. Scroll across to Name Generator

These 3 steps will take you straight into Scrivener’s Name Generator. See the image below for more details.

How to Use Scrivener's Name Generator to Create Names For Your Characters

How Do I Choose the Kind of Name I Want For My Character?

The first thing you do is click on the wheel button in the bottom right of the dialogue box that appears. This will bring up a second dialogue box, which is the box on the right that you can see in the image below.

In this dialogue box, you can tell Scrivener what kind of name you want. You can select from:

  1. Male, female or either
  2. If you want alliteration i.e. the first and last names to begin with the same letter
  3. If you want a double-barrelled surname

If you already have a first name in mind for your character but just need a surname, you can type the first name you’d like to use into the box labelled Set Forename (see image below). Then Scrivener will just come up with a list of surnames to match. This process works vice-versa if you have a surname you’d like to use but not a first name; type the surname into the box labelled Set Surname.

Scrivener Quick Tips: How to Use the  Name Generator to Create Interesting Character Name Lists

What Else Can I Do With the Name Generator?

You can set the Obscurity Level (see the slider in the middle of the right dialogue box in the image above). So if you want a very ordinary name, set the slider to Low. Set it in the middle if you want the name to be more unusual. Set the slider over to the right if you want the name to be rarely used.

The very last thing you’ll see in the image above is the box with the Name Lists to be used in name generation (this is right at the bottom of the image above). Here you can choose from Literary surnames, American names, German names, Italian names etc so you can get the right kind of name for your character. Just make sure you select at least one list for first names and at least one list for surnames otherwise you’ll get an error message.

You can see in the image above that I’m after female names, with double-barrelled surnames and I’ve selected the Literary Surnames list. I’ve also chosen the Female Forenames list but you can’t see this in the image. I’ve set the obscurity level at medium.

In the dialogue box on the left in the above image, I’ve moved the slider to 20 names. This is usually enough for me to find something I like, but you can play around with the slider and ask for more or less names.

Now all I have to do is click the Generate Names button.

What Did Scrivener Come Up With?

So here’s the list of names generated.

Scrivener Quick Tips: How to Use the Name Generator to Create a List of Names for Your Characters

I’m loving Camilla Capote-Priest and Kaitlin Marvell-Madison. Katey Rice Strafford also has a nice ring to it. I would probably never have come up with names like that by myself so that’s why I love using Scrivener’s Name Generator. It gives me a bit of extra inspiration.

What do you think? Have you used the name generator in Scrivener? Will you use it, now that you’ve seen how easy it is? What are some of the name combinations it’s generated for you?


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11 Responses to “Scrivener Quick Tips: Using the Name Generator”

  1. Karen

    More Scrivener wonders – love it! I can’t imagine changing my protagonist’s name at this stage but I have a few minor characters who could use a thoughtfully contrived name. Thanks, Natasha, for starting this series.

  2. Natasha Lester

    Pleasure Karen! Glad it was useful. Using it for minor characters’ names is a great idea. I also find it handy for surnames as I often have trouble with those. Happy name finding!

  3. Louise Allan

    I use Scrivener and love it, and I didn’t even realise it could do this! Thanks for letting me in on one of its more secret capabilities!

    • Natasha Lester

      Oh good! I was hoping I could use the Quick Tips to let people know about extra great things Scrivener does that are non-essential but great to know.

  4. Anne Jones

    Hi Natasha. Thanks for the Scrivener Quick Tips. You explain it very clearly. I think I’ll have to invest in Scrivener (and do your course). I’m already bogged down in the dreaded memoir and it would probably help me keep track of things a bit better.

    • Natasha Lester

      It might help, Anne, and I suppose the thing is, you never know until you try! I like that Scrivener isn’t too expensive to purchase, and also that it offers a great 30 day free trial so you can take a look at it and see if it suits you. You can use the free trial version for my course if you don’t want to commit just yet too. Let me know if you ave any questions!

  5. Antara Man

    Thank you for this info. I want to add that for the Windows version you don’t access the writing tools through edit but through the Tools and there is no obscurity level 🙁

    • Natasha Lester

      Thanks for the tip. It’s good to know what the differences are in Windows as I’ve not used that version and so I don’t always know whether things are the same or not. Shame about the obscurity level – I find that quite handy!

  6. Blane

    Can you add to the Name Lists? I want Italian male names. Where can I get that list?

    My pop-out of lists only contains Italian females


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