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Gimme a Name, Any Name

There is no one secret, one magic pill to writing. Everyone who mauls a page does it his or her own way. That's how it's supposed to be, Junior. If there was shortcut it would have been taken by all those sonsofbitches you can't stand.


I did get one bit of advice about names from an actual author. It was at a New Yorker Festival open table by some incredibly talented crime writers. George Pellecanos. Walter Moseley. Laura Lippmann and other rock stars. One of them said, offhandly, that they found names to use in their novels from the obituaries. That names of actual people from the area you write about just fit.


Cue the light bulb. I nodded as did probably every other unpublished sap in the auditorium. But I use the advice and freely pass it on. Don't use the name as published in the paper. Take a first name and combine with someone else's last name.


I make no apologies for having used that advice. I have some character names I fall back because I envision them so clearly as so-and-so. Before last draft, though, I keep lawyers at bay by giving them a new moniker.

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