?

Log in

No account? Create an account

arhyalon

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
12:20 pm: Wright’s Writing Corner: Guest Blog–Danielle Ackley-McPhail!

Lovely Guest Blog today by returning favorite, author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Danielle is the author of numerous works and the editor of, among other things, the Bad Ass Faeries Anthologies. (For more on Danielle’s work, see links at the bottom.)

                                                           

The Naming of Names

(originally published in Allegory Magazine, www.allegoryezine.com)

By Danielle Ackley-McPhail

            Have you realized how much a name can say about someone? Well, maybe not so much today, where the blending of culture and celebrity and downright boredom has led to some combinations that simply ignore things like tradition, religious/ethnic background, and even gender. But at one time you had a good chance of telling where a person was from, their sex, their occupation, and sometimes even roughly when they were born just by learning their name. Some places in the world you still can.

            Our challenge as writers is to match that rich process. Parents on an average name one, two, or at most a bare handful of children in their lifetime. Authors populate worlds. Now, not every character needs a name with layers of meaning. Many won’t even need a name at all, but when the name does count, how do you go about finding or creating one?

            Good question! Let’s talk…

 

 

The Don’ts

 

            First off, let’s get some basics out of the way. There are a few things that you want to avoid when naming your characters. After all, you want them to complement your story, not detract from it.

 

Don’t Get Cute – Unless there is a specific reason for it, such as you are writing a children’s story or pulp fiction, try to avoid names that sound like they are the butt of a bad joke, like Hope Bright or Candy Kane. Do it too often, or without a relevant reason, and you’ll just make it harder for the reader to take your character—and your story—seriously.

 

Don’t Be Difficult – Names have a structure we are familiar with. Even if it’s in another language, we can generally recognize the pattern of a name. A well-constructed one is comfortable to say, as well as to hear (unless, of course, the voice is your mother’s and she’s using all three of yours at once).

            Now this is mostly for those writing fantasy or science fiction, but if you are creating a name for an alien or non-human race, have mercy on your reader and try and mirror the above-mentioned pattern. For example, in the movie the Fifth Element, the perfect being had a name about thirty syllables long…for effect. It was quickly shortened to the more manageable and name-like Lelu.

 

Don’t Echo – What do I mean by that? When you have a number of characters involved in a storyline, it is important that the reader be able to easily distinguish which character you are talking about at any given time. This need increases exponentially the more characters that are involved. So, even though in life it is quite common for people to at least partially share the same name or similar sounding names, you absolutely do not want your characters to do so—unless, of course, there is a very good reason for it that is integral to the plot. Mike and Ike makes for a catchy name for a candy, but have such a duo in a story and you could easily leave your reader confused when things really get going. Less common, but also something you should watch out for is having a character and a race, city, or other story element with similar sounding names. Like using Vargas from Vegas, this could be a rather unfortunate combination.

 

Don’t Mirror Life – Unless you are writing historic fiction or you story has a specific need to include or allude to a figure from recorded history or current events, be careful of using name combinations for characters that mirror those of notable people that actually exist or did exist at one time when you aren’t actually writing about that individual. Also be careful of mirroring the names of other distinct fictional characters. In extreme cases of either example, it could lead accusations of libel or copyright violation, and possible legal action against you. (For the same reason, some in the industry often caution against using the name or representation of someone you know even with their permission, because it has been known to occasionally be poorly received. This, of course, is a personal choice you must make.)

 

The Do’s

 

            Once you are ready to actually get down to the naming of names there are a lot of things to consider, questions to ask yourself as you establish your character, and steps you can take to ensure you have the right one. For our current purposes, let’s assume you have already chosen your character’s name.

 

Do Confirm – As I mentioned, sometimes a character’s name will have some particular relevance—as with Harry Copperfield Blackstone Dresden, from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, a wizard named after three of the world’s greatest magicians—and sometimes will just be a name, but in either case run a web search on it once you have chosen. I recommend you look for several things: Are there are any negative associations with real-life individuals? Does the (first) name have a meaning that is unfortunate, inapplicable, or perhaps apropos? Has a similar or identical name has been used for a character in someone else’s book? (With everyday kind of names, this isn’t really an issue, but if the book is of a similar type to what you are writing, or if there are parallels in the plot or character development, they could be used to substantiate an accusation of plagiarism, such as in the case with Disney’s Simba and the story of Kimba the White Lion. The best you could hope for in such situations is to be accused of a lack of originality. At the worst you will be looking for a lawyer.)

 

Do Be Consistent – Make sure your character’s name is both spelled and used consistently throughout. Settle on the different variations you might use for formal and informal encounters, any titles, ranks, or honorifics, and do not vary from what you have established. An exception to this would be if your character has a particular nemesis or bully that uses an incorrect or ill-preferred variant of the name to annoy said character, or a friend or family member that can’t or won’t use the more common variant, but without malice.

 

Do Be Appropriate – Make sure you select a name in keeping with the time, setting, and social position of the character, where applicable. Also make sure support characters have names that complement one another and work together to establish your environment. After all, having a character from a primitive tribe deep in the Brazilian rainforest named Charles isn’t really going to be plausible (Unless, of course, you build into the story some justification, but, as an example, you understand).

 

The How-To’s

 

            Some people are good at picking names. Some agonize over it. I find if you have a method, it goes a lot simpler, and the joy: you aren’t limited to just one! On those occasions where the name doesn’t just come to me I have plenty of tricks for picking one out. Here are a few of them.

 

Morality Play Method – It was standard in these medieval works to name character after the predominant trait they represented, such as Charity, Hope, Avarice, etc. That lacks a certain subtlety for modern works, except for the rare virtues that are accepted as names today. However, I still like the idea of this method, but with a twist. I write a lot of fantasy, usually mythology based; for those characters that I wish to use the MP method of naming I go to the language associated with whatever myth cycle I am using. For example, my first novel, Yesterday’s Dreams, is based on Irish mythology. I wanted to name my antagonist Evil so I looked up the word in my Irish-English dictionary. Several different words were listed so I chose to go with “Olcas” because it seemed the most like an actual name. By an ironic twist, when I was later doing research into the mythology I ran across a rather nasty fellow from the actual legends named Olcas and I was able to adapt my plot to that myth rather nicely.

 

Defining Characteristics – A variant of the above, only the name represents a notable physical trait, rather than just the more usual virtues. An example would be my character Kerwin. When he first appeared in the short story “At the Crossroads” he was introduced as the Dubh Fae, Irish for the black fae. This had a dual purpose because he was dark in coloring and nature. When that story was expanded into my novel, The Halfling’s Court, he needed a true name. It also turned out that he was an outcast among his own kind, shunned because of his dark, crude features. To that end he gained the name Kerwin, which means the little black one, in this case an insult to a grown fae.

 

Historic/Cultural Relevance – depending on what type of story you are writing it might be applicable (as in the aforementioned Dresden reference) to add layers of meaning to your work by borrowing all or part of a name from the history books or newspapers. This is a little different than what I describe above in the “Don’ts” section. Do so with care, I tend to use this more for naming vessels or instillations than people in my science fiction, and when I use it in my fantasy I’m more likely to borrow the name of an applicable mythological personage, than I am someone that actually lived. For example, I have a character that insisted on the nickname Scotch no matter how I tried to change it. I didn’t discover the reason for the nickname until I’d written three more stories using the character…he was apparently Corporal Jack(son) Daniels, (thus the nickname Scotch) and it just hadn’t come up on the page yet.

 

Made-up Names – for those that write fantasy or science fiction, at some point you are going to find yourself with a story where what we recognize as names just won’t be applicable. You could just pick something obscure from another language, or you can make up something yourself either whole-cloth or echoing an actual name. If you do be sure to read it aloud to feel what it sounds like. Keep it simple and follow a recognizable pattern. If you start out with a complex name, be sure to establish a shorter version that will be easier on the reader when the action gets going (or yourself, should you be in a position to read your work aloud in front of an audience.) When you must make up names for a group, try to establish a unifying syntax so the reader can believe the individuals came from the same culture. Or, conversely, distinctly different syntax if the characters are from separate environments. Try to avoid apostrophes or Latin-construct endings, these have become somewhat cliché.

 

For Your Toolbox

            To get you started on populating your worlds, here are some questions to consider in relation to the character and setting.

  • What timeframe/setting are you writing in? Very important as in some case this will determine if you use recognizable names or those that are made up or altered. Also, name usage changes over time, with old names falling out of favor and new ones being established. Lingual shift can even cause the spelling of established names to change, which you can use in your favor if writing a future piece.

  • Are there established naming protocols for this timeframe? Some cultures, classes, and religions are very specific on how a child is to be named. Research some of these traditions to give a more realistic feel to your work.

  • What is the character’s gender? Some names are clearly gender specific, while others are gender neutral. Over time, some have even switched their orientation. In some cultures names are unisex, with a change in suffix identifying gender, such as Angelo versus Angela, or Ivanov versus Ivanova. Whatever pattern you establish, remain consistent.

  • What is the character’s social standing? While in most modern cultures names are not restricted by social class, they can be an indicator, such as the stereotypical Buffy, Muffy and Biff of the well-to-do set, as characterized in fiction and media, or Billy-Joe-Jim-Bob and Katie Sue, for more rural individuals. Now I don’t usually recommend such stereotypes, but they can be useful to quickly and cleanly establish a type of character.

  • What is the character’s ethnic background? Some names are specific to those of an ethnic group, or such groups have a variant of a common name, such as the Polish version of Agnes, which is Agnieszka. Be careful of using a clearly identifiable cultural name when not writing in that particular cultural setting or of choosing names from different cultures for members of the same group and assuming the reader won’t notice. All they need to do is recognized one of the names to make assumptions about the characters that could be completely wrong. Not really an issue if you are writing in modern-day America, but if you are writing in a fantasy world a recognizable name could prevent the reader from immersing themselves in the created reality.

  • Is there a cultural/religious tradition in the naming of children? In centuries past, as in different societies today, children are named for relatives, saints, and other culturally determined conventions. This goes for surnames as well, where some children were identified by their personal name followed by their parent’s name (Erikson) or occupation (Cooper).

 

The Summing Up

            Now, there is no way I could cover all the possibilities or relevant issues here without writing a book…or at least a more extensive chapter in a book, so please understand this is just an overview. Basically, names should sound like names and they should fit your character and your story. With the advent of the internet it is relatively easy to find names from different cultures, variants on common names, and the meanings of names, not to mention historical documents such as census reports that can tell you particular names popular in a given era or region. If you are unsure, look to what exists in the world for inspiration; there are countless examples all around you!

            So, with no further ado, let us commence with the naming of names!

To find more of Danielle’s work and insights, visit:

Her website: www.sidhenadaire.com/books/LH.htm

The Literary Handyman blog: http://lit_handyman.livejournal.com

Bad Ass Faeries site: http://www.badassfaeries.com/

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon.


Comments

[User Picture]
From:annafirtree
Date:October 13th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
(Link)
Regarding the "Don't Echo" bit, I got to say that it always annoys me when multiple characters have names that start with the same initial, even if they don't otherwise sound the same (to make up a random example: Virgo and Vamon). I almost always end up confusing the characters at some point down the line, when that happens.
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 11:43 am (UTC)

Echo..o...o

(Link)
Thanks for reading, Anna.

I know what you mean. I catch myself doing it from time to time and have to stomp on it immediately. It can be very disorienting, particularly in a fantasy or science fiction setting where the reader is already trying to track many unfamilar details, but I've run into it in virtually every genre of book I've ever read. In some instances there is a reason for it, but most of the time it is just a lack of awareness on the author's part.

Best,

Danielle
[User Picture]
From:superversive
Date:October 13th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
(Link)
What do you do if a novel has more than 26 characters?
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)

Very good question...

(Link)
Really, it depends on the book. It is extremely rare to have so many characters in a book that require naming. Usually there are a handful of primary characters, a few secondary characters and a bunch of incidentals.

If, in deed, you have that many characters that warrant a name you need to put a bit of time into analysing the structure of that story.

How many of those characters interact with all those other characters instead of just one or two? How many of those characters appear only in an isolated situation? If you truly find yourself in a situation where it is difficult to come up with names that do not sound or start similarly to another character try to limit your echoes to characters that do not interact with the other character they are echoing. Since you will introduce each character individually if you make them distinct enough and there is enough distance between the two story-wise, there should not be a conflict.

However, I have to say that even with 26 characters to deal with you should not have any trouble giving them distinct, easily distinguishable names. After all, if you pick up your average baby book there are generally a minimum of 10,000 names or variations listed.

It will take a bit of effort on your part, but not an undue amount.

You could start by listing the characters by importance: one list for primary, one for secondary and one for stock characters (basically set dressing). Which list the character is on determines how much detail you put into the name. If you are really ambitious you can create a linked database that indicates which other characters a particular character interacts with. Once you have your lists then you can proceed by plugging in those names that are set and will not change, from there you can compare and decide what to do about the other characters.

You have to consider the following when picking names, in order of potential confusion:

1) the name is identical (not counting last names)

2) similar spelling and sound (Mike and Ike, or Mick and Mac)

3) first letter or first several letters are the same (Vic and Vincent)

Ways around these possible confusions:

1) Do not have characters with the above name characteristics in the same scenes or in relation to the same characters

2) If there is a (very good) reason for the echo that is vital to the plot, make sure the characters are very distinct and identifiable through aspects other than their name

3) With some of your non-primary characters give some characters only a first name, or only reference them by their surname (Mr. Collins, Ms. Timby, etc.) that way there is no conflict at all.

Ultimately, in the end, you need to decide how much effort and complexity the situation warrants.

Hope that helps.

Danielle
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
I forgot to add that you can get around the echo issue, particularly if there is a vital reason for it, by giving one or the other character a nickname that is primarily used.

D-
[User Picture]
From:superversive
Date:October 13th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Thank you very much; but that isn’t precisely the question I was asking. What I meant was: If you, as a reader, get confused when two characters have the same initial, and aren’t willing to make any effort to follow the writer’s meaning, then how on earth do you cope with a book like War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings?

Or, for that matter, the Harry Potter books. Goodness me, how inept J. K. Rowling must be to give two of her major characters such similar names as Harry and Hermione! Yet people seem to muddle through somehow. Perhaps it’s because they are, when you come right down to it, children’s books; and children are better at following complexity than adults — perhaps because they care enough to try.

In short, I’m chaffing annafirtree a bit for being a bit too sweeping with her demands. As a reader, you’re cutting yourself off from a huge swath of the world’s literature if you’re going to insist that every author keep every book on that level of simplicity.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
You give me hope. I'm trying to write up something John made up where the characters have names like Ar Elon and Aurelion.

Actually...those two are less confusing when written out than they are when you say them.
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Ah...okay. Well, key for me is I was approaching the matter as a writer and not a reader. As a reader I prefer not to be confused, but that doesn't mean I throw down the book if I encounter a situation such as what I was addressing. I don't think it makes for a bad book, it just opens up for the potential of confusion. (I do realize your comment wasn't addressed to me, of course, but can only respond from my own perspective.)

As a reader it is a minor annoyance for me if I get confused because I will go back and see if I misread the original passage. With that in mind, and with the understanding that each reader is different in their ability to corral details, as a writer I strive to avoid introducing things that may be a frustration to a future reader. This doesn't mean that I spend exhaustive hours just naming my characters, but it does mean that if I catch myself echoing I make an effort to change one of the names. In particular, this happened in my biker faerie novel, where two primary characters had similar names. The full form of their names was not an issue, but when shortened--as people will do--it could have lead to confusion.

This is not meant to insult the intelect of my readers or to imply that they are lazy, but is instead meant to be considerate and somewhat self-serving as I want them to focus on the story, rather than flipping back and forth to make sure they got the details straight.

This aspect of my article also was not meant to cast aspersion on those authors who don't see echoing as an issue as that is most definitely a personal preference and doesn't reflect on the skill of the author. Though I will point out that with primary characters (such as your Harry/Hermione example) echoing is less of an issue because both characters are primary and thus more developed and receive more page time both individually and together (not to mention the differences in their genders). Echoing, I find, is more of an issue with background characters where they are important enough to have a name and figure in some way in the plot, but can go long stretches without appearing on the page.

Anyway, regardless of the point you were addressing, thank you very much for instigating this stimulating conversation.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
So...the game I'm in that I want to write up where there are four characters named Peter... ;-)
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 14th, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Groan! You are too much!

D-
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 14th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Hi superversive...

I realize I owe you an apology...my use of the word "instigating" certainly could be misconstrued and that was not the intention. I meant "initiating this stimulating conversation". I really am enjoying myself.

Best,

Danielle
[User Picture]
From:annafirtree
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
I didn't say I don't read books that have more than one character with the same initial... I just said I usually get annoyed when they do that.

Harry and Hermione are both major characters who are on scene often enough that it is easy to keep them straight... and at least it is only the first initial that is the same there.

I did quite constantly confuse Sauron and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. It negatively impacted my enjoyment of the book. (Which, honestly, was pretty low to begin with.)

Some books have enough to offer that they are worth reading despite such annoyances. Some books don't. Almost always, it seems like such an annoyance was unnecessary and could have been avoided without detracting from the story at all.
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Hi Anna,

Yes, that was basically how I was approaching the matter in regard to my own writing.

I figure there is so much competition out there that whatever little step I can take to avoid a potential dissatisfaction with a book, even a small one, it's worth doing.

D-
[User Picture]
From:annafirtree
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
That is a very professional attitude to take, and I commend you on it. :)
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 17th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Thank you, I try :)
[User Picture]
From:headnoises
Date:October 15th, 2011 07:13 am (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Might it not also help that they are very different-- not the least of which is that one's a boy and one's a girl?

(heck, to this day I have trouble remember if Sarak or Surak is Spock's father, and who brought Logic to the Vulcans....)
[User Picture]
From:annafirtree
Date:October 16th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Yes, the boy/girl thing definitely helps too, especially since both Harry and Hermione are names that our culture can recognize as belonging to its particular gender (although Hermione might be pushing that envelope). If you had characters named Charenth and Corrani, a gender difference between them would not be as helpful as it is with Harry and Hermione.
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 17th, 2011 11:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
A very good point. There are always going to be exceptions, or situations where the issues we have been discussing are going to be more of a problem and when it comes to characters with made up names that is a prime example of a worst case senario since the reader will not have any established cues to follow in regard to the name, it will be based strictly on their memory and ability to retain specific details.
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 17th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Very good question...

(Link)
Yes, it does, as long as the names aren't gender-neutral, and are recognizable.

Again, it depends on how much focus there is on the characters in question. The type of confusion that is most common because of similar names or names that start similarly is mostly dealing with background characters that aren't as firmly fixed in the reader's mind and perhaps are not as developed.
[User Picture]
From:annafirtree
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I haven't counted the number of characters in the Wheel of Time series, but I'm sure it's a lot more than 26. If/when the author's estate ever finishes that series, I plan to read it all through and make notes on all the characters so I can keep the minor ones straight.
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Wow! Ambitious! LOL...

D-
[User Picture]
From:annafirtree
Date:October 13th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I saw a video that I think the author had put up on his blog once, or something, where he said that people kept asking him who killed Asmodean. He was thinking of giving in and answering, when one reader finally figured it out from the clues the author had left; so now the author wasn't going to tell.

The puzzle-solver in me has trouble resisting such a challenge... although I may end up deciding it's not worth my time. And either way, I resolved not to try to read the books again until the series is finished.
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 14th, 2011 10:38 am (UTC)
(Link)
I started to re-read the entire Valdamar series in timeline order but got detrailed 2/3rds of the way through when I got my Kindle...Can't get all of her books on Kindle yet (in particular the one I was in the middle of reading!) and even if you could, I can't justify the expense when I have the hardcovers...I'll wait to see if they come down a bit and start over...or maybe they'll be nice and put out an all-in-one!
[User Picture]
From:annafirtree
Date:October 14th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Does that mean the Kindle is so addicting that you won't read the hardcovers anymore? :)
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 17th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, no...not at all. Though several factors would go into making Kindle my primary source.

The fact that I can carry whole libraries with me...the fact that it remembers where I was...the fact that I can get free books.

Mostly my hard cover library is showing its age so if I am going to replace a book it will likely be on kindle, as long as it is available.

However, I do have personal guidelines on price...free is great, as is $.99. Anything between $1.99 and $4.99 requires little thought, if it is a book that must be bought. $7.99 only if it is an author I REALLY like and don't want to wait. Anything higher the author pretty much has to be a friend, otherwise I just wait until the price comes down.

As for print books...Good Will is great for cheap used books, so I'm sure I'll continue to go there, and I do reviews and end up with review copies just sent to me, so of course those get read in print, but other than that buying books will have to mean it is something I really want to have on a shelf.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 13th, 2011 12:29 pm (UTC)

Names

(Link)
Great post. I'm going to bookmark it so I can come back to it later. Names are so important.There is just so much to consider. My agent and I recently were brainstorming on names for a new paranormal series I'm working on. The character is a stuffy butler/assistant, sort of like Alfred in Batman. We did settle on several names that would be great. It's shocking how much finding the right name helps set the character.
[User Picture]
From:eleika
Date:October 13th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
(Link)
These are great tips. Thanks, Jagi (for hosting) and Danielle (for such a useful post!)

Lately I've been finding it useful to take a name or word that already exists, and modify it slightly, changing a few letters as needed. But I also really like finding names in my typos. Of which I make many. :)
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hi eleika,

Oh...I've done that! So glad you found the post useful. I had a lot of fun writing it and I'm glad it can help others which something I know is at times a challenge for writers. I have something of a strength for names, but not everyone finds it easy.

Thanks for the added tip!

Danielle
[User Picture]
From:wishesofastar
Date:October 13th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
(Link)
What's your feeling about characters of different genders with the same primary initial who wouldn't be easily confused? (I'm thinking of Nick and Nora Charles, for instance.)
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hi!

Nice to see a familiar, if unexpected face :)

In this instance I really think it depends on the context. It is less of an issue with characters of different genders and conventional names than it is with made up names and same gender character. It is also less of an issue when both characters are primary and more active in the story, particularly in the instance you have put forth where the characters are linked in such a was as by marriage.

Now, if it was Harry and Harriet, that might be a bit more disorienting for a potential reader, particularly if a scene deals with an individual character, rather than both together. You really have to weigh the potential confusion. You know who you are talking about and with hope you have made the characters distinct enough in the details that they couldn't be confused, but that doesn't mean it won't happen, particularly if the story is moving fast-paced.

Likely it would only ever be a minor distraction or annoyance, but when you want the reader's attention on what is happening, even something minor can throw them out of the story...it can be hoped, only temporarily.

Hope that helps.

Danielle
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:October 13th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I am reminded of my friend Paula Cassella who married my other friend Paul Cassetta. That was confusing, even in real life. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:lit_handyman
Date:October 14th, 2011 10:39 am (UTC)
(Link)
OMG! Are you serious?! That would be so mind-bending...

On a semi-related note...I actually knew a married couple named Jack and Jill ;)

D-
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:October 14th, 2011 11:00 am (UTC)
(Link)
I am really serious. Paul was the older brother of my best friend in high school and Paula was one of our classmates. They are still together. Live in Texas now.

I like Jack and Jill. I knew an Eric and Erica, too...but the Paul and Paula one still takes the cake for me, because of the similarity of last names. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:headnoises
Date:October 15th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC)
(Link)
How about a Chris and Kristi? (I'm actually still not sure if they're Kris and Christi, actually.... Neighbors, growing up.) To make it worse, their last name is another given name, and my family has a horrible habit of calling folks by their family name....
[User Picture]
From:princesselwen
Date:May 11th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Names are fun to think up, though sometimes I've had problems with some of them all sounding the same. In my current work, I had four characters named Findsom, Findor, Findas, and Findal. Since they were all guys, and they all had scenes together, I had to change some of them. Findsom became Firron, Findor became Saynor, and Findas became Feldras. And then there was the whole Eslan/Estam/Esran issue, which was solved by changing 'Eslan,' to 'Eydan.'
Of course, first and last names are even more fun. I'd probably never meet a guy named Percival Kentara or Thiswold Thyster, but its fun to make them up.
I loved Tolkien's names--and Rowling's too.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:May 11th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I love names, too. Tolkien's particularly.

My current book has lots of people with the same last name. Confusing but also amusing. Sigh.
Powered by LiveJournal.com