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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.

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