• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Betty When You Call Me You Can Call Me Al

My older sister read my script over the weekend and noted that she didn’t like one of the character’s names. When I asked her why, she shrugged, “I don’t know.” It was meant to be a funny name, or comic name. It rhymed with looney. It clearly wasn’t working. How is it that sometimes a name seems just right, perfect, beyond question? Other times, they ring wrong. Sometimes it seems as if the right name can set the stage, open doors, lead the charge. King Lear. Jo March. Augie March. Boo Radley. Newland Archer. Dick Diver. Nathan Zuckerman. Hanibal Lecter. Herbert Pocket. Victor Frankenstein. Elizabeth Bennett. Esther Greenwood. Daisy Buchanan. The World According to Garp. Garp? What makes a name memorable? Is your name your destiny? Scout. Pip. Jude the Obscure. Where do you find your names? What’s in a name? I think, for me, Charles Dickens is the author to beat for great names.

Yesterday, I was in a museum and I saw a portrait of a society lady by John Singer Sargent and I thought the name of the woman would be a terrific character: Louise Inches. What are some of your favorite character names, or if you’re really brave, fly one of your own up the flagpole and see if it waves.

84 Responses

  1. I like Lea de Lonval (Cheri), Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara (GWTW)…and my own favorite character name is Samuel Michael Sullivan…

  2. Load Toad, Fast Eddy and Decker are my three main characters.

    favourite character names in print are Ignatius J. Reilly and Myrna Minkoff.

  3. Tom Wingo, Holden Caulfield, Enzo

    characters in WIP: Emmie Worth, Aidan Fisher, and Aidan’s mother, Indica

  4. Mary Poppins. I mean, really. It’s practically perfect.

    My favorite from my own work is Amber Sweetly.

  5. Owen Meeney was perfectly chosen IMO.

    Also Toby and Ren from The Year of the Flood.

    From my own stuff: Alex de Persaud, sexy French photographer who causes all the trouble.

  6. A couple of the main characters in my husband’ book are Booker T. Bakkus and Harmony Fist.

  7. Atticus Finch, Able Magwitch, Antonia Shimerdas. I like A’s.

    My current WIP: Evangeline Walker, Hudson Kemper, Gideon Harrison.

  8. My first drawer novel was set in a future time when everyone had hypenated names—that got old really quickly. Members of some specialized professions took their names from the companies that interned and sponsored them.

    One tech-augmented pressman was named Reynard Times-Courier. Yeah, I know . . . but I still love the character and his name.

    But my very favorite—used in a short story that was otherwise unremarkable—is Armageddon Bumbershoot. Ged’s mother wanted her children to have biblical names, but she couldn’t decide—so she opened the Good Book and pointed.

    It was his sister Gomorrah whom everyone felt sorry for . . .

  9. Holly Golightly

  10. Joe Christmas

  11. My newest manuscript has a character originally named Con, short for Conrad: Con Quinn. It seemed like a good idea at the time, until I realized his daughter’s name is Cassidy, and even if Con was a good idea (it wasn’t), there was too much alliteration going on. He’s Jack Quinn, now.

  12. Detritus the Troll, one of many wonderfully named characters by Terry Pratchett.

    Thursday Next, et al., by Jasper Fforde.

    The plot of Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge, is based on two sisters whose names do not reflect their personalities (Marianne is the stern sister, Marguerite is the soft one), and a rather weak-willed man who can’t keep that fact straight in his mind, with dire results for everyone involved.

    • I agree—Terry Pratchett has a great talent for names—and so does Fforde.

      Sort of off topic but have to share: there’s a yarn dyer in Germany who has created and named yarn colorways after Terry Pratchett’s characters. A friend of mine is getting two new skeins a month.

      So far, she’s received Detritus—gray with colored bits—and Cheery Littlebottom, which has cherry shadings along a creamy taupe (I think—only saw it once).

      i can only guess what Nobby’s yarn will be like . . .

  13. Ethan Frome

    My own: Beamer Talson

  14. DIck Cheney.

  15. Some names that come to mind (and I agree with some of the comments above, like Holden Caulfield and Atticus Finch…I’d also add Boo Radley to that…and Scout and Jem): Susie Salmon, like the fish 🙂 from The Lovely Bones, Ramsey Acton from The Post Birthday World, and Wolf and Davey in Tiger Eyes.

  16. I think my fav character name at the moment is Camilla (Cam) Parker Price. She’s quite bitter that her mother named her after Camilla and not Lady Di.

    Favorite character names:

    Atticus Finch
    Bernard Black
    Sally Owens
    Arthur Dent
    The Marquis de Carabas

  17. Myu favorite name ever is the guy who won the hotdog eating contest in NY

    Joey Chestnut….if that isn’t a great character name for either a detective or a hood,,,

  18. Agree with Holly Golightly.
    Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    Nurse Ratched
    And personally, wish I had thought of Quentin Tarantino for a character name.

  19. I’m shopping around a middle-grade mystery with a cocksure detective prodigy named Brock Rockster.

  20. Paris Trout
    Evan Twombley
    Paul D

  21. Jeremy Jackson is really good at character names, like Andanda Dane, Tyler Arkass and Umber Porphorhessholn.

    My favorite from my own stories is Batie Gravy. I’ve taken some grief for giving him that name, but I didn’t name him, his parents did, and he can’t help it!

  22. One of Evan S. Connell’s short stories features a bestselling author named A. Telemann Veach.

    There was an English MP in the seventeenth century (real, not fictional) named Sir Harbottle Grimstone. Dickens couldn’t have bettered that.

  23. I love the name Louise Inches.

    I write biographical historical fiction, so I don’t often have the luxury of choosing a name. I was therefore delighted to discover that my last subject had a maid named Clorine.

    BTW: I loved THE FOREST FOR THE TREES and have recommended it to all writers: http://ow.ly/3sAly

  24. One of my favorites is Bonanza Jellybean from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; her name epitomizes the playfulness of the novel. Inman from Cold Mountain seems to fit also. Another name I like is from The Razor’s Edge–I think it’s Gray Maturin.

    I working on a character named Captain Diesel–he’s a bus mechanic.

  25. Betty Al is good.
    I love all Evelyn Waugh names: Sebastian Flyte, Charles Ryder, Tony Last (the most brilliant one, I think), etc. He manages to nail his characters with their name, but without drawing attention to it.

  26. Lemore Lemerrier

    My friend Mike always wanted to write a story with a character named that. WIth the French pronunciation, of course!

  27. My favorite is Loveday Carey-Lewis, from Coming Home. She’s described as having violet eyes and hair like a shaggy chrysanthemum. I also love the Harry Potter names – they’re whimsical and perfect for that world.

    From my own, Nigel Ennis, sexy Irish cellist.

  28. In the real world, I’ve had a veterinarian named Dr. Doolittle — everyone called him Dr. Doo — and an OB/GYN named, honest to god, Dr. Pickle.

    • Dear lord. Dr. Pickle? Paging Dr. Pickle, we have an emergency.

      I used to work in an oncology office, and we had one patient named Bunny Easter. As in Easter, Bunny. She looked exactly as you would expect.

      And there was another patient named Haroldine Cuchie. Her nickname was Harry. Harry Cuchie. Swear to god.

    • we (we as in my town) used to have an ob named dr. hyman. i always like believing that when you’re from a small town, sometimes you just have to do with whatever name you were given all the way through life.

      my grandfather’s name was Dennis, but the name on his birth certificate actually reads Dentist because that was the only doctor available to deliver him in the woods of KY during the early 1920s.

    • I’m crying.

    • Oh, now I remember… The teacher from junior year, Miss Gutekunst. Yeah, it’s pronounced like that.

      • Actually, “Gutekunst” means “good art” in German, and is correctly pronounced “goot-ah-koonst.” Just sayin’.

      • Unfortunately, lots of names get butchered in translation. My married name is a good example. We just repeated what she said.

    • Kids in the special ed. class when I was in junior high figured out the name of their teacher spelled backwards was Nats Nipals.

  29. Frodo Lives! And so does Gollum….

  30. howard roark is my favorite fiction name and scout and isadora wing and danny zuko (which i know isn’t even a book, but that’s a great name).

    i was heartsick in love with a boy all through high school named adrian gleason. i keep waiting for a character to show up on my pages with that same name.

  31. One of the most popular realty agents in town when I was growing up was, I swear to God—Head & Seeman.

  32. My 8-year-old came up with the name Donovan Drax. I just really like it.
    I’ll tell you a name i really don’t like: Katniss Everdeen from HUNGER GAMES. i liked the books quite a bit, but had a hard time with the character names…like Plutarch Heavensbee, although that one is amusing at least.

  33. The memorably odious Undine Spragg of Wharton’s magnificent Custom of the Country

  34. Dean Moriarty, Henry Chinaski, Philip Marlowe, Esther Greenwood, Franny, Zooey, and Seymour Glass, Quentin Compson, Binx Bolling, Jim Burden.

  35. Saving ideas for a future character, Mrs. Sherry Bundt-Cake, solver of mysteries and quite possibly, closet nipper of gin.

    • And her late husband Arthur, who sits on the mantel in his tasteful urn, and is useful (as he was in life) as a silent sounding board.

      Sorry for the hijack—I can see her so clearly just from your single sentence.. . .

  36. Sheldon Dick. Or, the formal: Mr. Dick.

  37. Let’s try this again.

    My husband, as I said in absolutely the wrong thread just now, has been reading everyone’s contributions over my shoulder. He came up with this one:

    “Dirk Turgid—erotic space adventurer! Up, up, and awaaaay!”

  38. Just read the blurb for a new YA novel and two of the characters’ names bear uncanny resemblance to two of my (unpublished) characters.

    I’ve never read this person or her latest book, so it creeped me out big time. (Why do I store stuff online!)

    BTW, I always liked a guy called Mervyn Purvis who sold fridges out my way. Can’t be a more evocative name than that for a certain type of character . . .

  39. I know I’m late but I wanted to add. Dirk Diggler. Niiiiccce!

  40. Tallulah Bankhead
    Baby Doll Meighan
    Elwood P. Dowd
    Asa Fuse

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