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Names in Scrivener

I should probably start this post by mentioning that Scrivener for Windows is out now! I worked with some beta copies of the program and found them very good, though I haven't purchased it yet, since I've rearranged my working space and am writing exclusively on Macs at the moment.

One of the features available in both Win/Mac is the Name Generator. When I'm writing along, nothing stops me faster than needing a character and not knowing what their name is. There are various parameters in the Name Generator you can adjust for: ethnicity, gender, obscurity, etc. But what I didn't know until today is that you can import your own lists as .csvs and have them come up.

So, theoretically, you could make a spreadsheet of Klingon names and import them as a category if you were writing a Star Trek story!

I have a penchant for traditional names, so I loved the ability to import historical US Census names. Scrivener Windows already has a USA category, but if you have Scrivener for Mac and you dig this feature, you may want to download some of the name databases from the site below. I did so, and I found I needed to open them and alter them in Excel before I imported them to remove the gender and year category. YMMV.

To import lists in Scrivener App, simply open the Name Generator, go to the "gear" icon, and beneath the existing list of name list types, add the .csv you've prepared by clicking the "+" symbol.

Here's a blog with tons of US names from censuses and other sources.



( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 14th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
I love thinking about names, I'm always afraid I'll use the name of someone I know remotely, I did it once but caught it.

What's a double barreled surname? Like a double surname "Smythe Jones" or something else?
Nov. 14th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
Yes, that's exactly what a double-barreled surname is!
Nov. 14th, 2011 03:19 am (UTC)
I've found a few good character names in my SPAM folder. Those people come up with some pretty random stuff.
Nov. 14th, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)
My spam folder used to be really good for that, but over the years they've gotten too silly to use!
Nov. 14th, 2011 05:17 am (UTC)
I played with the windows beta a bit. Still not sure it's worth $40. The give and take of software. What you can do in word and what scrivener gives you....$25.99 maybe...not sure it's worth the extra 15. I actually only find it useful until about 2/3 of the story is written...at that point I have to spend 3days importing everything.

It's not cross-platform enough to make that worth while. And it's too clunky for starting the original writing dynamo. I'm getting the sense that there are things in the MAC protocol that just don't work well with windows. The spelling monkey is limited. The formatting is truncated. I can't pull shit out of googledocs (granted Word screws it up when I do, but at least I can). There's so much cross-integration that you take for granted as a Windows Word user and when it doesn't work ...it sucks
Nov. 14th, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
The platforms are very different, as the mac version uses various parts of the operating system to function, so the windows version will need to do that somewhere else. I can import a story in about 5 minutes by just dumping it in and using key commands to stick the chapter breaks in, but maybe you and I are just using it differently. I found it to be more or less cross-platform enough in beta. The font never seemed to "stick" between platforms even if I tried to find one I had on both machines. But that didn't exactly hinder the writing. Word is notoriously sucky and cumbersome on the Mac. When I needed to use it for co-writing recently, I was pretty miserable without my Scrivener!
Amanda Corlies
Nov. 14th, 2011 12:19 pm (UTC)
Well, I was with James on this, not really sure I wanted to spend the money, but the whole name thing is pretty freaking cool. I've only played around with a friends beta very briefly, though. Still, I'm pretty sure, though I have to check again, if one were to finish her 50,000 words on NaNoWriMo, ahem, she would have a half off coupon for this. Guess I'd better get busy and start typing.
Nov. 14th, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised a $40 tool is giving everyone such pause. (I don't mean this in a critical way at all, just that my take on it is really different.) I wonder if the root of that is not "wow, it's $40" but "will I use it or not and thus waste my $40."

I use Scrivener so much to run my business and earn my livelihood that I think the $40 is dead cheap. If I had to pay a $40/mo subscription I'd probably still think it was a good value.

On the other hand, I keep buying voice recognition software with the hopes of increasing my productivity and I keep not-integrating it into my workflow. Theoretically, I could run Photoshop and Dragon Dictate, and tool-switch using voice commands. But I just can't seem to train myself to do it. So that's a case of money wasted on a software...but I can't say I think the software is too expensive, just that it was a waste for me because I failed to utilize it. I guess there's also an added non-monetary expense, which would be the disappointment in myself for not taking the time to make it work.
Nov. 14th, 2011 12:33 pm (UTC)
As a genealogy geek, I'm intrigued about the import of U.S. Census names, and shudder to think what index they may be getting them from.

Hopefully not Ancestry.com's. They "outsourced" and the garbled product created by contemporary non-english speakers with no training in reading historical cursive gave them some "interesting" results.

Or, the Census Taker might have created a novel name for potential use. On the 1920 Census, the enumerator listed my g-grandfather Calvin Atha as Colburn Asa, for example. I had to read through the entire census of his district to find him and his family, since the index had him under this 'fake' name.
Nov. 14th, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)
That's so fascinating! The blogger cited his sources, I think the main ones I downloaded from him were from the Social Security administration.

I like the name Colburn...I'm guessing you don't care for it much since you had to do all that extra digging on account of it!
Nov. 14th, 2011 09:59 pm (UTC)
Not to fear
Howdy howdy. I'm the compiler of the linked lists. For three of the lists (Virginia First Families, Civil War Last Names, and Civil War First Names) I sourced names from various Wikipedia pages. Yes, I understand the dubious nature of relying on Wikipedia as a source.

For the other lists I went original source. Historic first names come directly from the US Social Security Administration, which maintains an online database of popular first names dating to 1879. I pulled the 500 most popular for each gender in each year ending in a 0.

The last names aren't meant to be historic, they come directly from online results released by the US Census Office of the most popular names in the US per the 2010 results. Could there be some enumerator error, reporting bias, or some other error? Certainly. But I also only picked named reported for at least 0.001% of the US population, roughly 3000 individuals, so there would need to be a lot of error. The names are pulled randomly from the list, so there's also no weighting that could potentially be influenced by error.

I pulled, from the same source, the most popular Latino and Asian-American names. I did not curate those lists, so Smith actually appears on both, because I didn't want to make calls on which names didn't sound "Latino enough" to me.
Nov. 14th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised that anyone finds the $40 expensive. I thought it was a trifle. Usually they run some promo and you can get it even cheaper.

I'm usually resistant to change, but I'm glad I gave Scrivener a chance. I love the thing. I tend to collect lots of pictures, articles, notes before and during writing, and refer back to them regularly. It's great to have all that, along with character sheets, story outlines, etc. The only weakness I found is the spell check.

I had no idea you could import names. Thanks for letting us know. I'm the kind of person who stays in the movie theater at the end of the film, watching at the end credits, looking for interesting names.
Nov. 14th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
I agree, I think $40 is a bargain for all that Scrivener does for me. I love that I can hop to any chapter. I love that I can make a duplicate of something that I'm not sure I want to rewrite, and stash the original somewhere safe. I love access to my research and photos and maps and character sheets one quick click away from within my story. And I really love how easy it is to make a Kindle ebook from it, since Mobipocket Creator was so clunky and hard to use.
Nov. 15th, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
Interesting discussion of both pros and cons. Glad I poked in. I don't mind spending 40, but I also have to wonder how much I'd use the whistles and bells. And if what James says is true, I could get pretty frustrated trying to get it back into Word?

Still, for 40$, I don't mind giving it a shot. Maybe it'll be a Xmas toy for me to buy myself, and if I end up using it, great! I don't suppose everyone can be that 'frivolous' though, the days when 40 was a few dinners isn't that far in my past, and one likes to know it's money used wisely. So I get the reticence.
Nov. 16th, 2011 02:49 am (UTC)
There's an option called "compile" where you save your project to .doc, .docx or .rtf. It's more detailed than "save as" because you get to pick and choose which pieces of your project go into the final and how you'd like them formatted since you might not want your early drafts or research to be included, but it's just a few clicks more complicated than "save as." I can't imagine why it would take days to import or export a piece. It takes me a few seconds. (Pulling a lengthy story in and splitting out the chapters into separate documents takes a bit more time, but not much, since there is a key command you can use to split the text where you want.)

You might not need a program like this to deconstruct your work if you're mainly doing shorter pieces, but for anything more than three chapters I can't do without it. GhosTV would never have been completed without Scrivener, where I could take it apart piece by piece and make notes on each chunk to try to see where specifically it wasn't working.

Also I was able to color code each chapter, switching colors with each new day, so at a glance toward the sidebar I could see a color-timeline of when something happened (yesterday, three days ago, this morning, or what?) I also named each chapter with a few keywords so I could find and refer to them very quickly.
Josephine Myles
Nov. 18th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
I bought my copy of Scrivener for Windows the other day - so exciting to finally have the finished version!

I haven't actually used the name generator yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I find it really hard to start writing a character until I have the right name for them.

I'm also surprised people find it expensive - I thought it was pretty damn cheap considering how amazingly useful it is. I love being able to name all the scenes so I can hop around the manuscript finding details I need to alter or refer to. And having all your notes in there is fantastic. It really comes into its own when editing, though. I find it much easier to spot structural problems when looking at something in outline view.
Nov. 20th, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
Yay, I'm excited you treated yourself to a copy!

Can you "compile" to epub and mobi from Scrivener in Windows? I think the ability to make flawless ebooks is a second place Scrivener really shines for me.
Josephine Myles
Nov. 20th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
Yes, you can make epubs and mobis (although you need to have Mobipocket Creator installed too). I've made both this last week when self-publishing a novella, and was really impressed by how easy they were to create.

Scrivener is just fabulous. It suits my writing style perfectly and it's great value for money :D
Nov. 21st, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
There's a plugin called kindlegen you need to make it work on the Mac, but it's really easy. What's great is that when Amazon changes the Kindle file format, they will update that plugin, and so my Scrivener should still work. (Although maybe I won't update since mobi will still be supported, and that seems fine for fiction ebook needs.)

In Scrivener, in a big project, I keep a second notebook running full of odd stuff. Cut scenes. Notes to myself. Character lists. Stuff I don't want to forget. I just adore having a place like that to put all my sloppy notes and whatnot.
Josephine Myles
Nov. 21st, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes, Kindlegen - that was the one I meant. Mobipocket Creator was the one I used before I discovered I could do it on Scrivener. I really shouldn't reply to things late in the evening when my brain's shutting down for the night :)
Nov. 21st, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
I used to use Mobipocket creator too - I found it really difficult and non-intuitive, but there really wasn't a better way.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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