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.)
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.
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.
Linda Apple is the author of Writing From Your Soul, Writing Life ~ Your Stories Matter, Connect ~ A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers, POW; Promises Kept and Women Of Washington Avenue, her debut novel and the first book in her Moonlight Mississippi series. Her personal experience stories have been published in 16 of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her devotions have been published in numerous devotion magazines and books. She lives in Fayetteville Arkansas with her husband, Neal, their five children, five children-in-love, and ten grandchildren.
Jody Bailey Day writes inspirational fiction from west Texas. Her debut novel, Washout Express, released June 2013 from Harbourlight Books. Her short stories, poems, devotionals, and articles have appeared in Mature Living, Splickety Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Southern Writers Magazine, and Christiandevotions.us, She is a two time Grand Prize Winner at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference, and a Faithwriters.com Best of the Best award winner. She and her pastor husband have six grown children and nine grandchildren.
Deborah Dee Harper writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, by way of Michigan, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, and Alaska (again). Deb is a graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild classes and writes Christian humorous and inspirational books for both children and adults. Her children’s adventure series, Laramie on the Lam, available in both e-book and print, is being re-published as six individual print books. Her Road’s End series (Misstep, Faux Pas, and Misjudge) for adults is also contracted and should be published soon. She is currently nearing completion on the first book of another series. She is represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency.
Lisa Lickel is an award-winning multi-published inspirational novelist, blogger, reviewer, and writing mentor. A freelance editor, Lisa loves all things historical. Her work has appeared in Writer's Digest and Christian Fiction Online.
Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador, where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea. She is the author of Emergence, Retaliation, and Capitulation, novellas and novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in English literature (Renaissance) and for eighteen years taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His poetry has appeared in leading journals and is collected in his book Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond.His fiction includes a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red, and two suspense novels, Deadly Addictive and The Lazarus File, and a historical romance, Lightning on a Quiet Night. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ groups and conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction and poetry, as well as essays on writing, ethical issues, and U.S. foreign policy.
Editor/Author Linda Yezak lives with her husband in a forest in east Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She is a speaker/lecturer for various writers' groups and conferences. Her fiction books include Give the Lady a Ride, The Simulacrum, and The Cat Lady's Secret. Her nonfiction books include Writing in Obedience, co-written with Hartline Literary agent Terry Burns.
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