What’s In A Name?

Creating the right name for every character

‘A rose by any other name, may smell as sweet,’ but what about our characters? Are all names the same? Can they be interchanged and still carry the same meaning and impact? Does a Fred give the reader the same impression as an Alfred? What kind of person do you picture with the name Marci, how about Mariamne, or Mary, or Meraera, or Malith?

Names have power in our stories. But how do we create the right name for every character?

When I first started writing, I bought a baby name book. When I created a new character I’d pick a letter I wanted the name to start with and then go through the pages looking at meanings and spelling variations until I found something to suit my character.

As time passed and I roamed the web more, I discovered a plethora of sites to find names. Most baby or new mom sites have a dedicated page for names. But I took my naming to the next level by choosing a name based on its meaning. Sites like the following are a small list of possibilities for search by the meaning.

name generatorIf you don’t want to waste hours on the net and have Scrivener, there is a name generator built in. You can to pick a name based on gender and nationality. (Edit > Writing Tools > Name Generator > )






I have also found some apps I enjoy: (these are free for Android, but they might be found for Apple as well—or something similar)

  • Name Generator
  • Fake Name Generator is fun. It will give you a name: First and last, along with an address, occupation, fake SSN, and a long list of other stats.

fake name generator

Since I write most of my books with a medieval feel, I have several sites bookmarked for Old English names. Here are some of my favorites.

I have also looked for names popular in the old west. More recently I Googled ‘most popular names in 19—’. When you know the age of your character you can get a feel for the names many parents were giving their children the same year as your character was born.

Here is another free app for fantasy names

  • Fantasy Name Generator. This one has an extensive list of possible fantasy characters to choose from, including: hobbits, elves, angels, dragon, dwarves, and a host of others.

By far, one of my favorite new finds as a fantasy writer is Donjon. You can create an entire world with this site. Each of the names below is link within site that leads to worlds of possibilities. You can name your characters, your world, and the locations in your world. There are occupations, population stats, maps, and diagrams. A person could spend days on this site—and never get a word written.


  • Fantasy Name Generator
  • Random Generator
  • Fantasy Calendar Generator
  • Fantasy World Generator
  • Medieval Demographics Calculator
  • Random Adventure Generator
  • Random Dungeon Generator
  • Random Inn Generator

Do you have any tried and true ways of naming characters? Share your insights and happy naming.

Michelle Janene Murray blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind most days. She published Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015, helps edit the Inspire anthologies, and is working to expand her personal press to publish other authors.

The Ministry of Magazine Writing (Part 2)

Start Submitting Today

Christian Writers Market GuideDuring my interview with literary agent Steve Laube, he offered these final words of encouragement regarding the ministry of magazine writing:

“Try not to fall into the trap in thinking that magazines are the ‘minor leagues’ when it comes to writing. You can slave for years to write and publish a book and sell 5,000 copies. Or you can write one magazine article and reach 10,000 or more!”

As I mentioned in that interview, Steve spoke similar words to me in 2011. I took his advice and have had my work published in The Upper Room, Encounter and Devozine. The Lord used this hands-on-training to prepare me for an invitation to interview for a position as a contracted devotion writer, something I had never considered before my initial conversation with Steve.

By God’s grace, I now have the privilege of serving as a contributing writer through the ministry of Our Daily Bread. Starting in 2017, the Lord is going to be encouraging international readers through my small offerings of loving worship.

I’ve been blessed with a writing partner who also appreciates the ministry opportunities available for magazine writers. She’s had her stories featured in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Junior. Talk about an amazing reach!

Steve’s wise advice has been proven true through our personal experiences. So, though we’re both working on book projects, we’re committed to scheduling time to work on projects for magazines.

If you’re not already submitting to magazines, I encourage you to prayerfully consider beginning your journey today.

Every writer’s voice is uniquely designed by God, and purposed to make a difference for God. But, He can’t use the words He gives us to write if we don’t place our offerings into His hands.

When you’re ready to reach readers through the ministry of magazine writing, you can start by investing some time researching the following reputable Christian publications. Each one pays and is open to unsolicited submissions.


The Upper Room serves millions in their international and interdenominational audience. Their daily meditations are printed in over 79 editions, translated into more than 38 languages and distributed in over 100 countries.

The Quiet Hour, a daily devotional published by David C. Cook, ministers to over 100,000 readers annually.

Today’s Christian Woman, a digital magazine with a powerful online presence, invites writers to share biblical perspectives with women regarding relationships, faith, and ministry.

SEEK, published through Standard Publishing, encourages adults in their walk with Christ and corresponds with topics in their adult Bible curriculum.

Devozine, which is published through The Upper Room, accepts submissions from teen writers, as well as writers who minister to youth.


Writers can minister to children ages 8-12 through Clubhouse Magazine, a Focus on the Family publication, and Pockets, distributed through The Upper Room. God’s love and truth can even be shared with children ages 3-7 through Clubhouse Jr., another magazine published through Focus on the Family.

These are just a few wonderful ministry opportunities for writers. The Christian Writer’s Market Guide (2015-2016), available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, is compiled by Jerry Jenkins and offers updated information on submission opportunities for magazines and more.

I’m looking forward to hearing what God does as you continue to hone your craft and prayerfully invite Him to expand your reach for His glory, through the ministry of magazine writing.

And in my next interview, Heidi Killion Gaul will share tips that led to her stories being published in eight Chicken Soup for the Soul books.


The links shared in this post were confirmed at the time this article was posted. Inspire Christian Writers is not responsible for changed links, publishers updating their writer’s guidelines, or the content posted the publisher websites.


Author Photo 2016 - INSPIRE ThumbnailXochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and deepen their personal relationships with God and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting Spring 2017. She’s been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER, and Devo ‘Zine magazines, in Inspire’s Victory, Promise, and Forgiveness, and at  www.xedixon.com.

An Unusual Path to Publication

Kim is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend

As a Marriage and Family Therapist of 30 years, I’ve watched my clients grow as they learned to be kind and compassionate with themselves, while working through difficult issues. I hadn’t found anything written in this area integrated with our faith. I wasn’t interested in writing on the subject.

Kim Fredrickson_450pxBut God had other ideas.

In March of 2013, I felt God prodding me to attend the Mt Hermon’s Writers Conference.  I finally gave in. Unwillingly. I was happy as a therapist and didn’t want or need anything else to do.

To my surprise, one editor was interested in my work, and asked me to send her a lengthy book proposal. I did, and crossed it off my list.  Now I could go back to being a therapist and professor.

Four months later my life changed. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and went through treatment over the next nine months. Seven months into treatment I received an email from the publisher offering me a book contract. I was stunned and delighted…and got on the phone that night to find an agent. I was through the worst of the treatment at this point and thought I could work on the book.

One might think this is where the story ends…but no.  Four days after I finished treatment, I couldn’t take a deep breath. I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis from the chemotherapy and radiation (a rare side-effect). PF as we call it, is a progressive lung disease that has a 3-5 years life expectancy. In July 2014 I went on supplemental oxygen and closed my counseling practice. I finished the edits, and Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend was released July 7, 2015.


Give Yourself a Break BookCover600pxThroughout this process I experienced God in powerful ways:

~ He set up a writing career for me before I developed huge health problems. I received a contract easily…not because of anything unique about me, but because He knew I needed to be on the fast track to publication.  I am grateful to Him for giving me a new purpose, and a way to contribute to others in a meaningful way. This has made all the losses easier to handle.

~ Having a terminal illness with no cure is rough. Despite such devastating news and the way my life has changed, I’ve been blessed by God’s support and the love and encouragement of family and friends. There’s still much to be grateful for.

Self-compassion (S-C) has helped me get through this season. When I was diagnosed with cancer, and then PF, I decided to be a good friend to myself. S-C helps me be kind and caring in the ways I talk to myself, take care of myself, encourage myself, and accept the volumes of prayer and support from my friends and family. I am committed to not turn on myself or abandon myself during these difficult times.

I know God has a purpose for PF in my life, and in the lives of others. I don’t need to know what those plans are. I trust Him.

I still do radio interviews and limited speaking (via Skype/facetime), blogging, writing and encouraging others. My life has changed and shrunk because of this illness. I focus on what I am still able to do…which is a lot. My lungs are disabled, but I’m not. I’m still the same person with Christ by my side…just with an oxygen tube.

Kim is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend. Her blog, “Self-Compassion for Real Life” integrates the transforming power of self-compassion and faith www.KimFredrickson.com/blog.

The Author’s Elevator Pitch

'Quirky, elderly Mrs. Odboddy.....

‘Quirky, elderly Mrs. Odboddy lives in a small CA town during WWII. Though committed to ‘fighting the war from the home front’ by volunteering and freely giving her time, she imagines Nazi spies and black market conspiracies under every cabbage bush. When Mrs. Roosevelt comes to town, Mrs. Odboddy must prove she is, indeed, a hometown patriot.’

Trying to consolidate a 278 page humorous WWII novel into 57 words or less fails to explain the intricacies, humor, romance, intrigue, historical events, or plot in my cozy mystery adventure novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot.

Elaine Faber, Mrs Odboddy Hometown PatriotEvery day, I sit at my computer and words fall onto the written page. I spend hours researching, taking notes, plotting out the mystery, thinking up red herrings, bringing bad guys to heel, writing and rewriting scenes, creating my characters by day and dreaming about them at night. Writing is my life’s dream and I love it.

However, when I wrote my first little ditties in high school, no one told me that ‘being an author’ would demand more than writing stories. Now, I find that I must master the skills of publicist, bookkeeper, full time blogger, cover artist, and skilled orator, keeping my eyes peeled and ears tuned for panel or speaking opportunities.

One more thing. As authors, we are expected to memorize an ‘elevator pitch’ about our books in the event at a conference or convention, we have an opportunity to impress a literary agent or publisher.

We must command his undivided attention with an opening hook, define our plot’s originality, create a desire to read our scintillating novel, convince him that our novel will become a New York Best Seller, and justify why everyone from a cowboy in Texas to a stock broker in New York will buy our book with their last dollar. All this in sixty seconds or less.

I get it. In these days of limited promotion from traditional publishing houses, or self-publishing, an author must be master at jack of all trades. It requires expertise in many skills or a staff of six to handle all the details. Though not necessarily a ‘master’ at any, I’ve become somewhat competent in most.

But never in my wildest imagination did I think I’d have to excel in a 60-second spiel about my book on the off chance I might find myself ‘riding in an elevator’ to the 38th floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a Zondervan publisher.

In my case, I imagine it might go something like this. “Uh, you’re that Zondervan guy, aren’t you? Here. Let me push this button and stop this thing. I wrote a book, see…called Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot. It’s about this quirky, old lady who sees Nazi spies…”

Elaine Faber leads an Inspire Christian Writers Critique group. She has published four cozy mysteries. Elaine’s humorous novels bring joy and laughter to her readers. Elaine believes that in this troubled world, laughter makes our days better.

The Ministry of Magazine Writing (Part 1)

An Interview with Agent Steve Laube

Steve Laube 2016During my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, I experienced a divine appointment with one of the industry’s leading agents, owner of The Steve Laube Agency, acquiring agent serving through Enclave Publishing, and manager of an award winning writing blog.

Under a canopy of redwoods, I thanked God for the opportunity and asked Steve Laube what advice he had for a fledgling writer.

Steve responded with a question and forever changed the way I approached my writing journey. “Are you in this to see your name on the cover of a book or to use writing for ministry?”

Without hesitation I said, “Ministry. I want God to use my writing to share His truth and love to the ends of the earth.”

He smiled. “Then don’t neglect the ministry of magazine writing.”

The discussion that followed brought me to tears, filled me with hope, and nudged me toward a path I never dreamed possible.

Please help me welcome Steve Laube, as he shares a snippet of our discussion.


Xochitl: Thanks for joining us, Steve. Please explain why you believe writing for magazines is such a huge ministry opportunity?

Steve: The nature of magazines is that they show up at someone’s house automatically whereas a book must be brought in intentionally. A book feels like a commitment of time. A magazine can be read anytime, anyplace. It is there where ministry can happen. Due to space considerations the writer must be laser focused to convey the point of the article. In that “big idea” moment wonderful things can happen.


Xochitl: Would you please share an example of how God has used a magazine article to minister to you?

Steve: I use magazines as a way to keep in touch with the varied ideas, philosophies, and even theologies that make up our world. Occasionally, I am confronted with a skilled writer who makes me think differently on a topic. But other times I appreciate the differing opinion because it helps me refine my own understanding as a counter.

And yet most often I am inspired by incredible stories of God’s goodness in someone’s life. A story that I would not read in book form but am happy to see in a magazine.


Xochitl: In what ways can writers benefit from contributing their work to magazines?

Steve: It teaches you to “write tight.” No unnecessary elaboration to fill the page. It makes a writer a better communicator on many levels.

I am also looking for great writers. In one situation I had repeated seen a specific author’s byline on articles that I appreciated. I did some digging and contacted them wondering if they had ever considered writing a full book. That author’s first full length came out shortly thereafter.


Xochitl: What tips would you offer writers who are considering submitting their work to magazines?

Steve: Do your homework. Review The Christian Writers Market Guide and the magazine’s web site guidelines. You can save yourself a lot of time by doing so. Also, think ahead. Start thinking now about a Christmas article for 2017.


Xochitl: Why would you advise established writers to invest their time in writing for magazines?

Steve: It can be another source of income for those who are full-time writers. I know of one author who was contracted to write three different monthly columns by three different magazines. The work paid well and gave the author great visibility. The writer was able to write all 12 of the annual columns in less than two weeks, for each magazine. Which is a great way to plan your writing.


Xochitl: What final word of encouragement would you like to share regarding the ministry of magazine writing?

Steve: Try not to fall into the trap in thinking that magazines are the “minor leagues” when it comes to writing. You can slave for years to write and publish a book and sell 5,000 copies. Or you can write one magazine article and reach 10,000 or more!


Xochitl: Thank you for being a wise guy who is willing to share your vast knowledge and experience with growing writers, Steve.

Attention Writers: My next post will include links to a few magazines that offer wonderful ministry opportunities, welcome unsolicited submissions, and pay writers!


Author Photo 2016 - INSPIRE ThumbnailXochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and deepen their personal relationships with God and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting Spring 2017. She’s been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER, and Devo ‘Zine magazines, in Inspire’s Victory, Promise, and Forgiveness, and at  www.xedixon.com.