Author Topic: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?  (Read 991 times)  

Offline Paranormal Kitty

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Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
« on: January 07, 2021, 03:59:06 pm »
What are your thoughts on two main characters in a romantic relationship having first names that start with the same letter? Is it too confusing? Is it even more confusing if they are the same gender? Does first vs. third person make it more or less confusing?

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    Offline CassieL

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #1 on: January 07, 2021, 04:11:31 pm »
    I try to avoid having any main characters have the same first letter for their name. I'm a reader who tends to catch the first letter and size of the word when reading but not actually pronounce the whole name when I see it so that sort of thing trips me up as a reader. If you must have the same first letter, then at least don't have the same first syllable. Brian and Beth probably works fine but Brian and Brenda would not for me.

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    Offline Maura

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #2 on: January 07, 2021, 04:41:43 pm »
    I try to avoid having any main characters have the same first letter for their name. I'm a reader who tends to catch the first letter and size of the word when reading but not actually pronounce the whole name when I see it so that sort of thing trips me up as a reader.

    This. I've actually made charts to be sure I don't do it.

    Offline EmberKent

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #3 on: January 07, 2021, 06:51:26 pm »
    Doesn't bug me and doesn't make me stumble, but it's a "thing" that it does for others, so just best to avoid. It's not like there's a limited supply of names, after all.

    Offline Bite the Dusty

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #4 on: January 07, 2021, 07:56:51 pm »
    Harry, Hermione, Hedwig, Hagrid... no problem!

    If it's not important, you might as well change it to make it easier on yourself and readers, but if it is, I think 3rd person is less confusing.

    Offline Usedtoposthere

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #5 on: January 07, 2021, 08:27:28 pm »
    Ive done it. I dont see any big deal. It can even be kind of cute. By the way, my husbands and my names start with the same letter, and so do our sons and his partners. Everybody thinks it is, yes, cute.

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #6 on: January 07, 2021, 09:15:41 pm »
    I don't see how anyone would get confused with main characters in a book, although side characters or people only mentioned once or twice might be a different story. Maybe if their names looked really similar, like Abby and Addy, it could be a problem...

    Offline Marseille, France or Bust

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #7 on: January 07, 2021, 09:40:09 pm »
    New screenwriters are told this is a no-no. It can be confusing and is generally avoided.

    Offline NikOK

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #8 on: January 08, 2021, 05:07:19 am »
    The only time I really find it distracting is in sci fi books.  They tend to have a ton of new proper nouns for everything and it's nice when they are easy to sort out at a glance.  And I do think that first person could make it less confusing.  Your main character's name will be on the page a lot less in first person.  Well, unless they talk about themselves by name a lot.  But that might be a different problem all together.

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #9 on: January 08, 2021, 05:59:33 am »
    I try and avoid it in a book as a whole, but for a couple in a relationship I think it could work as a feature rather than a bug as long as the names aren't too similar.

    Offline ImaWriter

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #10 on: January 08, 2021, 07:02:04 am »
    I've done it.  I have one book where both mains start with C but their names are in no way similar.

    I started writing in 2006 and it was very frowned upon at the time, at least in romance. I believe most of the How to Write books I purchased at the time expressly said not to do it. But some in the big 5 were still saying romance readers had no interest in reading about sports or rock stars.  ::) So yeah, giant grain of salt.

    Offline alcyone

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #11 on: January 08, 2021, 08:16:11 am »
    I run into this quite a bit because I like to read historical fiction. For example, books about Julius Caesar are a flood of "C" names -- Caesar, Cleopatra, Crassus, Cicero, Calpurnia, Cassius, Cato, etc. It's not hard to keep major characters with strong personalities straight, but I would try to avoid using the same lettered names for minor characters if you can help it. (Unless you mean for the characters to be interchangeable, a la Rosencranz and Guildenstern.) 

    Offline c'est la vie

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #12 on: January 08, 2021, 08:45:02 am »
    I don't see how anyone would get confused with main characters in a book, although side characters or people only mentioned once or twice might be a different story. Maybe if their names looked really similar, like Abby and Addy, it could be a problem...

    Have you read Veronica Roth's Divergent series? If you haven't, book 3 is interesting from a craft POV. Unlike the first two books, the POV switches from one MC to two to include her love interest. They don't have similar names at all, but in first person they sounded so similar I got frustrated because I couldn't remember who's head I was in.

    Otherwise, it is cute and if they have distinct voices 1st isn't a problem.


    Offline Stagewalker

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #13 on: January 09, 2021, 06:51:15 am »
    I have conflicting thoughts on this.

    In my WIP I have a character named Thumper and one named Tristan. Thumper is the drummer/mentor. Tristan is the audio engineer. One of my beta readers asked me to change the names because he got confused. However, Jimmy, Jesse, and Jason are brothers, and there seems to be little confusion. I also have no pushback on Samantha and Sabrina although their roles are distinct. Occasionally I will play with this and link characters with their names as I did with the "J" brothers in that Ethan is having an affair with Esther.

    I sometimes wonder how much of this has to do with the difference between those of us who wore taught to sight-read as opposed to those who were taught phonics. I also chart all my names in my "cast list" as much as to not duplicate a name as to keep track of who is dating whom when.

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    Offline jb1111

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #14 on: January 10, 2021, 02:29:31 am »
    The first letter thing wouldn't bother me, just as long as the names are otherwise completely different, and sound different when spoken.

    That said, I don't think I've ever used the same first letter in names of any pair of characters, like in a romantic couple.

    Online Decon

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #15 on: January 10, 2021, 03:09:52 am »
    I've used Jesse and Jessica as  twins in my, In Search of Jessica. Male and female. Any confusion is intentional. The detective in the book is called Jason, but mostly referred to by his surname.

    Not had anyone mention it in a review that it was confusing and it was published in 2015. 4.4 stars average. I haven't looked in ages, but it was above 4 stars on goodreads last time I looked and we know how hard it is to get that on there.

    All three characters are so distinct in their scenes, I doubt anyone would be confused.

    It was deliberate that Jesse and Jessica had similar names for the plot. I'd love to give it away way, but it would be a massive public spoiler.

    Saying that, I deliberately make sure all my characters in other book have names that are not the same or similar. I know I have two now in a WIP many scenes apart, both called Ted, but I'll change one of them at edit

    I have a short story where every one at the bar is called Dave, so they refer to each other as Taxi Dave, Depressive Dave, Ugly Dave  and so on. I took that from a real life experience.
    « Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 03:27:27 am by Decon »


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    Online Decon

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #16 on: January 10, 2021, 04:09:42 am »
    I have conflicting thoughts on this.

    In my WIP I have a character named Thumper and one named. Thumper is the drummer/mentor. Tristan is the audio engineer. One of my beta readers asked me to change the names because he got confused. However, Jimmy, Jesse, and Jason are brothers, and there seems to be little confusion. I also have no pushback on Samantha and Sabrina although their roles are distinct. Occasionally I will play with this and link characters with their names as I did with the "J" brothers in that Ethan is having an affair with Esther.


    Bob

    If Thumper and Tristan are in scenes together, which is likely from what you say about their roles, maybe it's the beta reader saying that you haven't made their voices  or world view distinct enough in dialogue between them, and that maybe changing names is not the problem as the names themselves are completely different. Or it could be that they are not following exactly who is talking through a lack of tags.
    « Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 04:17:41 am by Decon »


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    Offline unkownwriter

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #17 on: January 11, 2021, 03:55:38 am »
    Quote
    maybe it's the beta reader saying that you haven't made their voices  or world view distinct enough

    Though directed at Decon, this is the main sticking point with me using names that start with the same letter, or even those that sound alike. If the writer can make the reader recognize each character, it's possible to use the same letter. I personally try not to, or to use similar names, because most readers won't see any difference and get confused. I keep charts of character names and details like some others, just for this reason.

    I don't know if it has anything to do with schooling. I don't think we had phonics way back in 1963*, when I started first grade. We learned letters, then words, then sentences.

    *I just realized that this year I will be 63. :O I get amused by coincidences like this.

    Offline Sapphire

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #18 on: January 11, 2021, 09:38:11 am »
    I'd avoid it just because it may bother SOME readers. None of us can afford to lose a single reader from one of our stories.


    Here's a funny anecdote, and it's true. My granddaughters all have unisex names. The youngest (in high school) is dating a boy with the same first name as hers. Their friends think it's hilarious.
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    Offline Paranormal Kitty

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #19 on: January 11, 2021, 11:25:50 am »
    Though directed at Decon, this is the main sticking point with me using names that start with the same letter, or even those that sound alike. If the writer can make the reader recognize each character, it's possible to use the same letter. I personally try not to, or to use similar names, because most readers won't see any difference and get confused. I keep charts of character names and details like some others, just for this reason.

    I don't know if it has anything to do with schooling. I don't think we had phonics way back in 1963*, when I started first grade. We learned letters, then words, then sentences.

    *I just realized that this year I will be 63. :O I get amused by coincidences like this.

    That's phonics. You learn the sounds of letters first and how to make words with the sounds and sound out words. Learn to spell cat and you can spell rat, bat, mat, etc. Sight reading is learning words as a whole like they're Chinese characters and not an alphabet. My first grade teacher was big on it and it made me hate reading for a whole year. She would get onto us for sounding out a word because we were supposed to skip over any we hadn't learned yet. I remember a character in our readers named "Vanessa" and nearly the whole class called her "Veronica" (we had a Veronica in our class), so I can see how learning reading that way could cause greater confusion with two names that look alike.

    Offline Stagewalker

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #20 on: January 11, 2021, 01:30:21 pm »
    Paranormal Kitty,

    I moved from a school district that taught a precursor to Phonics to a school district that used the "Fun With Dick and Jane" books which are the basis of "sight-reading". Fortunately, even in first grade, I recognized the fallacy of "sight-reading" and brought my objection to my teacher's attention. As I saw it, cat, rat, and sat all had the same shape. She was less than thrilled with me. Arrogant fool that I was, even then, I passively resisted and continued to read as I saw fit. By the end of the year, I was the fastest reader in the class and demonstrated, at least for me, that "sight-reading" was not a good idea. Unfortunately, I would up using a combination of the two techniques which still causes me problems and I am in my seventies.

    I am the kid who when we were doing alphabet drills in Kindergarten asked why we only cared about the first letter. Words were so much more complex than that. The question got me an hour in the corner.

    Bob

     
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    Offline Louise Bates

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #21 on: January 11, 2021, 01:53:54 pm »
    Unless it's necessary for the plot or for character development, I'd change one of them. If it's going to turn off even a few readers or cause them to be frustrated with the book, why go through that unless necessary? Although as someone else said, if the names are of a sufficiently different length and the initial sounds are different (the Harry and Hermione example is a perfect illustration of this), it will probably work out just fine. But no Harry and Hetty!

    (All this is coming from the perspective of a fast skim-reader, who glances at words only long enough to grab their sense and then continues. So I do get easily confused, and thrown out of the story when I suddenly realize I've been thinking I'm reading about one character and then it isn't. YMMV)
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    Offline kathrynoh

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    Re: Two main characters, first names start with same letter?
    « Reply #22 on: January 12, 2021, 07:44:36 pm »
    I get easily confused by names starting with the same letter. I recently read a book where it was a family thing for all members to have names starting with A. I had no relevance to the story and was confusing AF.
    TBH, I get confused between characters even if they have bland Anglo names of similar lengths. Eg. I'd confuse characters called Jason, Peter and Simon unless there's something major to distinguish them.

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