01 March 2019

I Collect Names

O'Neil De Noux

I collect names. Fiction writers need names. A lot of names. I have been collecting names since I started writing in the 1970s. Good characters need a good name. Raylan Givens. Hannibal Lecter. Scarlett O'Hara. King Kong. Tarzan. Kazar. Sherlock Holmes. Spade and Marlowe.

The names I chose for my recurring main characters were carefully chosen.

Dino LaStanza. My father was called 'Dino' by friends in the army. 'Dino' short for De Noux. LaStanza was a shopping district in Verona, Italy, I remember from my childhood.

John Raven Beau. I had a brother named John. Raven from Poe. Beau from Beau Geste.

Lucien Caye. Picked that name off the banquette (what we call sidewalks in New Orleans) near the corner of Royal and Toulouse Streets in New Orleans. Embedded in tile. I thought it read Lucien Caye when the last name was 'Gaye'. As you can see, the 'G' is messed up. Lucien Gaye French Restaurant sat at 603 Royal Street until @1941.

At 603 Royal Street 

Long time ago.

Jacques Dugas. We have cousins named Dugas.

Lucifer LeRoux. The fallen angel and Gaston LeRoux.

We all work hard on the names of our main characters and primary supporting characters, but I get a kick out of naming minor characters.

Needed a bad guy for the short story "Erotophobia" and came up with Pipi de Loup (wolf pee). When my son was a toddler, he mispronounced words. Belk for belt. Mianteen debil for Tasmanian devil. My   toddler daughter game me Finkle as in 'Finkle, Finkle, Little star ...' I have a Mianteen Bar, a Ms. Belk and a Finkle's Bicycle Shop.

For years I collected names as a university cop and always get good named during the Olympics. Who knows when you need a name of someone from the Principality of Liechtenstein or Mongolia or even Montana?

Sometimes, no matter how creative we can be, real life gives us great names. In THE BLOODING by Joseph Wambaugh, his non-fiction account of the first use of DNA testing in a murder investigation, the police discovered the killer's name was Colin Pitchfork. Hard to top that name.

Although Stanley Kubrik and Terry Southern came up with some beauties in DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB – Buck Turgidson, Jack D. Ripper, Merkin Muffley, Lionel Mandrake, T. J. 'King' Kong, Bat Guano, Lothar Zogg and Dr. Strangelove.

The names are out there. It's fun to find them.



  1. O'Neil, you're definitely right about Colin Pitchfork. Hard to top that. But the names in Dr. Strangelove are awfully funny. I always liked Jack D. Ripper, an a great performance by Sterling Hayden. Love the names you've come up with, too. And they are kind of all around us, we just have to notice them.

  2. I absolutely agree. I can't write anything until the names are just right.
    Yours are great, by the way!

  3. O'Neil, you gotta have fun in your writing, else you risk it becoming just another job. You're still having fun.

  4. Great names, O'Neil. And they have to be right. I've changed the names of some characters several times while I revise until they seem to capture the character properly. "Woody" Guthrie in my Detroit series had four other names as I collected rejections and revisions.

    My favorite naming project was my first Roller Derby novel where I hit on the idea of having all the skaters take a rink name that told what they did in real life. Nutritionist Annabelle Lector. Divorce attorney Roxie Heartless. Physical therapist Grace Anatomy. Social worker Tina G. Wasteland. And all the others.

    If we're going to make the character do our bidding, the least we can do is give him or her a good name.

    Colin Pitchfork. Darn, why didn't I think of that one first?

  5. Good stuff and I enjoyed hearing how you named the characters I have read about. Some of my favorite names for characters: Nero Wolfe, Easy Rawlins (and Mouse), Carlotta Carlyle, Martin Ehrengraf...

  6. Great names, O'Neil.
    For up here in the High Plains, I have kept all my student rosters from my teaching days (first from column A, last from column B), plus all the counties, etc., plus I picked up at a church auction their old church directories from the 1930s-1960s. Invaluable for older characters.

  7. Cool read! The Strangelove names are the best, esp. Bat Guano.
    Pimp-turned-author (and grand self-mythologizer) Robert Beck gave himself one of the best all-time names: Iceberg Slim.

  8. Great names, O'Neil. It's fun hearing about how you came up with them.

  9. Thanks for the comments. Glad I didn't put anyone to sleep.


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