A chalkboard with a list of names.

Adding more diversity to your Scrivener name generator

I read somewhere online that authors spend more time browsing baby name sites than parents. I don’t actually know how much time parents spend online looking for baby names, but I can absolutely confirm that I spend a lot of time on baby name sites. There are fewer sites for Filipino names, but they’re there. And if you live here, you know that a lot of Filipinos these days have Western names anyway.

However, you can’t just pick an American or British first name and use it on a Filipino character. The reason is that there are only certain Western names that are common among Filipinos. For example, in my hometown, we have a lot of men named “Mark”. I notice that “Michael” is quite common, too. For women, there are a good number of them that go by “Irene” or “Aileen”. “Karen” is also a favorite.

Lately, I’ve started to use the name generator feature on Scrivener. By default, it doesn’t have much of a variety of names. They’re categorized according to their place of origin, such as Catalan and the US. It doesn’t have a category for Filipino names however you could add your own as I did.

Screenshot of the Scrivener Name Generator window, showing a list of name choices for female Filipino characters.

This is the result when I asked for 24 names from my list of Filipino female first names and Spanish surnames. I just chose to use the list of Spanish surnames (we were a Spanish colony for three centuries, and like Cuba and Mexico, they pretty much forced the citizens* to adopt Spanish surnames) because I didn’t have a list of Filipino surnames yet. I actually wanted to compile a list of traditional (old) Filipino first names but I didn’t have time to collect enough of them, so I just threw in a few non-traditional ones in the mix (“Victoria” and “Sheila”, for example). However, this is an ongoing project of mine so I’m hoping I could get a good, long list of the following at the end of the next couple of months:

  • Traditional Filipino female first names
  • Traditional Filipino male first names
  • Traditional Filipino first names that could be used by both male, female or non-binary characters
  • Non-Spanish Filipino surnames
  • Tausug female first names
  • Tausug male first names
  • Tausug first names that could be used by both male, female or non-binary characters
  • Tausug surnames

Maybe later I’ll be able to compile a list of Filipino non-Spanish surnames for specific regions of the Philippines, but right now Tausug is my priority because of my Tausug roots.

It’s pretty easy to add name lists to your Scrivener name generator. All you need to do is paste them all in one text file (making sure to separate each name with a comma or put each name on a separate line with no leading spaces) and save it as a CSV file. At the bottom right of the name generator window, there’s a plus button you click and it will ask you to choose a CSV file from your computer. It will ask you to name the list and specify whether it’s a list of first names or surnames and if the first names are for male or female characters.

I like to keep my lists in a spreadsheet like Google sheets so I can sort the names in alphabetical order after each time I add new names to the list. It’s not necessary, but I like to keep it organized that way.

How about you? Are you thinking of adding name lists to your Scrivener name generator because there isn’t one for your characters by default? I’m definitely going to share my name lists once they’re complete (or at least contain a good number of names).

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If you’d like to try Scrivener, they let you try the full version for 30 days (that’s 30 days of use, not 30 days from the first day you try it). There’s a learning curve so I recommend you check out my introduction to Scrivener (“Scrivener for Romance Writing”) on the #RomanceClass Twitch channel.

* A lot but not all Filipino citizens adopted Spanish surnames. Our indigenous people and people of Muslim Mindanao whom the Spanish didn’t have control over kept their surnames.

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