Monday, July 23, 2012

The Random Name Game


Post by Jenny

My favorite (non-alcoholic) drink this hot, hot summer is half lemonade, half iced tea. You may know it as an Arnold Palmer. I refuse to call it that, because for some reason, the name is difficult for me to enunciate. I have to stop and think about it to make sure it comes out right, and even then I feel like I have a cherry pit rolling around on my tongue. And no offense to the famous golfer in question, but not even James Bond would sound cool ordering an Arnold Palmer, even if he followed it up with “shaken, not stirred.” Or in my case, slurred.

Names in general can be vexing—remembering them, spelling them, pronouncing them, and giving them to our characters. If we all wrote like Dickens, we could get away with Canon Crisparkle and Polly Toodle. Dickens aside, some of fiction’s best character names—Jay Gatsby, Scarlett O’Hara, Atticus Finch, Clarissa Dalloway—are unique but not outrageous. And they’re pronounceable. (Sorry, Holden Caulfield, you don’t make my list. It’s another cherry pit thing.)

The telephone book (remember those things?) used to be my go-to in the hunt for character names. It’s amazing how many people out in the world have interesting names. Baby name lists identify trends, which may lead to names you want to use or want to avoid. If lists in general are too tedious, how about a random name generator? (For your characters, not your kids.) I played around with one the other day, and here are some of the suggestions it gave me:

Female: Laurie Deneau, Michelle Olivier, Lorhonda Mallon, Dora Lehman, April Schroeder
Male: Bill Katz, Hunter Nichols, Walker Powell, Metcalf Brown, Marshall Katz (great, now I’m wondering which one of the Katz brothers is the evil twin.)

I kept at it for a while, as it was kind of addictive, and came up with a good dozen names I wouldn’t turn down. The rest didn’t make the cut, but even I have to admit that the random name generator beats the phone book any day. Whatever character name you choose, you might want to run it by friends or a critique group to make sure they can get their mouths around it.

Have you ever named a character using a random name generator?

7 comments:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I can't pronounce Arnold Palmer either. What were his parents thinking???

I hadn't heard of the random name generator. Thanks a lot. I know where I'm going to be wasting my time today. :D

Kerrie said...

I love drinking Arnold Palmers! I have been ordering them for years, so it has gotten easier to say it.

Thanks for sharing the Random Name Generator. This is awesome and something I will definitely have to book mark.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

I've ever heard of the random name generator either! Sounds neat. It will work for naming characters, unless they have a specific heritage, such as Greek or Spanish or something that requires them to have that type of name.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I haven't tried this but think I'll go hang out there for a while and see if I can come up with a couple of good names for a short story I'm working on.

Never heard of an Arnold Palmer. My favorite summer drink is sun tea that's heavy on the peppermint.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I haven't tried this but think I'll go hang out there for a while and see if I can come up with a couple of good names for a short story I'm working on.

Never heard of an Arnold Palmer. My favorite summer drink is sun tea that's heavy on the peppermint.

Dean K Miller said...

I never knew the name generator existed. My Fave: Nick Winters.

Like the Palmer...maybe we could call it that, 'cuz like you, I don't do the whole name easily either...kind of like trying to stumble through "Will Rogers Airport" with a sky full of planes...never comes out right.

Or maybe at the bar just say:

"Gimme an Arnie" and see what you end up with.

Thanks for the name generator. So then I ask, does the name fit the character I think I see, or does the name create the characters traits?

Jenny said...

I'm glad you're all having fun with the name generator. Maybe we could use it to rename the Arnold Palmer...? Nick Winters is definitely easier to pronounce!

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