Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Do I Pronounce That Name?





I read a massive amount of reading of fiction. I tend to read when I should be doing other things such as writing, laundry, cleaning, etc. Over the years I’ve found a number of ways names can distract me from the story. There aren’t many really, but anything which stops the reader’s eye and pulls them from the action is something I want to avoid in my writing.

Starting a lot of the character’s names with the same letter. This is a real no, no for me. I read fairly quickly and once I know the characters I’m sure I see the first letter, identify the character and skip the rest of the letters moving on to what is happening or being said. Using the same letter to start each name means my eyes pause to figure out which one it is. As the story goes on this becomes an aggravation which pulls me out of the action with my thoughts going to how the author has irritated me.

Recently I read a Sci-Fi novel in which five or six characters’ names all started with the letter ’S’. On top of that several had the same second letter. AUUURRRGGGHHHH. Why did the author do that? It had no connection within the story. Maybe the characters were named after family members or friends. I don’t know, but I’ll most likely check the names the next time I see a book I’m interested in by this author.

Taking about Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre. I’ve been reading a lot of Sci-Fi recently. Not werewolf, vampire and shifter which is fantasy even though Amazon mixes the genres together. The names in these can really test your phonetic skills.

One question I have is why do the names have so many ‘X’s’? The letter is used so frequently it’s become cliche in my view. In addition often strings of consonants before a vowel appears stops my reading as I wonder how to pronounce ‘lxrdornsqt’. I made that one up but it’s pretty close to a word I read recently. The actual name did start with ‘lxrd’.

Sci-Fi is lacking in the use of the letter ‘E’. Why, I don’t know. Maybe they shipped them all to Bosnia. If you want to read more about this program here's the link.

A number of aliens who had never heard of Earth have decidedly Earth English names. Go figure. It seems Dick, Jane, Sally and Tim are used across the galaxy as well as here in the good ol’ US of A. (If you’re old enough you’ll get the reference in the names, I hope. If not ask your mother or grandmother.)

There are several name generator sites. http://www.springhole.net has generators for all sorts of things. So does http://www.mithrilandmages.com which not only has a generator for the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre but also for the Old West.

If you use Scrivener to write in it has a name generator within it. You can add name lists and filter for the ethnicity of your character. I’ve added names of soldiers from the War of 1812.

A couple of more points about naming. Be sure you spell a name in the way it would have been spelled in the period you are writing in. ‘Meghann’ would not have been how the name was spelled in 1850. Also don’t get too cutsie with the names you pick. Ima Hogg, who was a real person, may be funny and all that, but just a little over the top.

These are my thoughts and opinions gleaned from my reading as well as a number of sites with advice about naming characters.

Here are a few more sites with generators and advice.
http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/character-name-generator.html
http://www.beavervalleysoftware.com/rpg/names.aspx
http://donjon.bin.sh/ (Copy & paste this one. It does work but Blogger won't make it a link.)
http://www.behindthename.com/random/


Sophie Dawson writes Christian fiction. She lives with her husband and cat on a farm in western Illinois. Her Cottonwood Series novels have been Indie Book of the Day and Healing Love received first place in the genre in AuthorStand.com’s 2012 contest and a second in eLit 2012 contest. Healing Love and Giving Love are finalists for Readers' Favorites Contest 2013.
Sophie blogs one a week on her website sophie-dawson.com as well as thebarndoor.net in addition to AuthorCulture.com.
She has recently released her fourth and fifth books, Leah’s Peace and Chasing Norie.
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2 comments:

  1. I so feel your pain!

    Back when Sci-Fi was new, perhaps the "xyz" naming syndrome was unique and gave pieces a specific flavor, a distinct otherness from the rest of the literary world. Who knows. But it's too common now, and nobody seems to have the ability to sell the names they use.

    Character names serve as part of the setting for the work. If it feels out of place or difficult to pronounce, it'll break the setting every time. Like naming a Frenchman "Seamus." While I'm sure it happens IRL, just don't do it in your stories. People like us will call you out on it every time.

    Great post! It's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I know writers want the names to be other worldly but come on. It still needs to be pronounceable.

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