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?