The name game

Every novelist I know makes up a name list to check for the sound-alikes.

You know what I mean. If you’re reading a book with a “Bob,” a “Rob” and a “Robert,” you quickly get them confused. You don’t want a “Leo,” Theo” and “Bruno” in your story or you get your audience confused. Need a new character halfway through Act II? You browse through your name list and think, “Hmm… nobody yet with a last name that starts with an H. I can call this one ‘Horowitz’.”

In “The Spellman Files,” mystery writer Lisa Lutz introduces us to a family of six: mom and dad, two sisters, a brother and an uncle.

The sister is Rae. The uncle is Ray.

She breaks the rule.

But see, that’s what really good writers can do. She inverts a classic rule for a funny play on words. We, her readers, never once confuse the teenage Rae with the middle aged, alcoholic, Gamblers Anonymous Ray.

Please open your hymnals to “Danny’s All-Star Joint,” in which Rickie Lee Jones tells us, “You can’t break the rules if you don’t know how to play the game.”

Lutz knows how to play the game.

About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on January 22, 2010, in Blog and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Cheryl Calcagno

    Have pre-ordered your book on

    I like your reference to Rickie Lee Jones. I am a great fan, have many of her CDs, including her latest(11/09) “Balm in Gilead”. Balm in Gilead will surely be considered one of her best albums.

    Also, we have a 2 hour VCR tape of Martin Luther King speeches, etc. and I believe it included footage from the jail in Birmningham. I picked it up when I visited the Martin Luther King Memorial Site in Atlanta(2002). You are welcome to borrow it.

    Cheryl(Katy’s cousin)


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