NAMES

How do I name fictional characters?

Some are Dickensian plays, such as Peter Shortbridge for a cowardly governor or Chigger for a small, annoying thug who gets under your skin and can be deadly. Others are tomfoolery, such as Jerry Multirosa for a malapropic Mafia enforcer or Dean Stuntz for a hard-edged academic administrator.

I occasionally conscripted either a first or last name from high school, college or other years. I know, for example, several Arthurs and Jerrys, none of whom resemble characters with those names. I knew a Greiner in high school. This name in German means quarrelsome or squabbler. So I patched it onto a play-both-sides-of-the-street Pittsburgh police detective who mixes things up.

I admit that several characters are based on real — or unreal — people as the reader prefers. Rooky Gondleman acts and talks a lot like Mark Rudd in 1968, acting and talking which Mark Rudd now disavows. I made up dialogue that I attribute to Grayson Kirk, president of Columbia University in that year. These are not his words, they’re mine, but they’re mine based on those of his that I heard and read.

And some names came out of old phone books, which are troves of fun accessed digitally, like with fingers.

January 6, 2019

 

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