Top ten character names

If you read my flash piece Seeing Things then you’ll know that the main character is called Anatoly Meliakoff.

I like this name. It has just the right sound to it, just the right right rhythm and shape. It took me a while to find first and last names with the right combinations of syllables that the name falls off the tongue, but when eventually I put these two together I just knew that I’d got the right name. It’s hard to explain, but it feels right.

Why is it that one name sounds right whilst another sounds wrong? There are six billion people on Earth – just going on a percentage basis this means that there are probably more than four billion people whose names I think “don’t sound right”. These are real people, so by definition their names can’t be wrong. But I’d never name a character Mark King, or Neville Brown, or Ray Turner.

I suppose the trick is to strike the right balance between “memorable” and “plausible”. But if that’s the case then how did these next guys ever get into print?

1. Israel Hands
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

2. Humbert Humbert
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

3. Victor Frankenstein
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

4. Raoul Duke
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson

5. Pi (Piscine Molitor Patel)
Life Of Pi, Yann Martel

6. Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
Another name that has been normalised through familiarity,

7. Anton Chigurh
No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

8. Boo Radley
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

9. Quasimodo
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo

10. Benny Profane
V., Thomas Pynchon


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