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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As an author I toil to create truthful, descriptive names for my characters because I believe they can either propel the character forward or drag him/her down. Some authors have a gift - JK Rowling, for instance. "Harry Potter," "Voldemort" and "Snape" each evoke exactly who the character turns out to be. Other greats: "Heathcliff" - "Atticus Finch."

Conversely, some are so off, they create confusion: "Renesmee" (Breaking Dawn), or what about "Clarice Starling"?

Would love to hear how readers and authors feel about names.  What puts you off about a name or how it is used?  What grabs your attention?
 

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I honestly don't notice the names unless they feel really jarring for some reason. . .and I can't even recall a specific case.  I do appreciate when a name seems to be particularly 'right' but, again, I can't recall a specific case.  So the answer is probably that it doesn't really matter to me. :D


(btw, recall we're in the Book Corner -- authors who wish to discuss the question from the 'thinking up a name' point of view, should do so in the Cafe. Thanks. )
 

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I read quite a lot of Fantasy and Science Fiction, so I regularly come across odd character names.  I really don't mind them so long as I can come up with a pronunciation I can hold in my head while I read.  If the author provides a pronunciation key, I usually ignore that and just pronounce is however I feel.  There are some names I know how to pronounce and usually do so - like 'Siobhan' I will read as 'Shuh-vawn' and not 'Seeo-ban' - but usually I will just go with whatever my brain likes.

 

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Geoffrey said:
I read quite a lot of Fantasy and Science Fiction, so I regularly come across odd character names. I really don't mind them so long as I can come up with a pronunciation I can hold in my head while I read. If the author provides a pronunciation key, I usually ignore that and just pronounce is however I feel. There are some names I know how to pronounce and usually do so - like 'Siobhan' I will read as 'Shuh-vawn' and not 'Seeo-ban' - but usually I will just go with whatever my brain likes.
I'm in the same boat. I read a lot of the same stuff, if the name gets too weird, it's annoying. Otherwise, the names don't necessarily mean that much to me unless they are jarringly out of place. As an extreme example of this if Tolkien had used the name Fred instead of Aragorn, that would have felt out of place.
 

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It bothers me in historical fiction when the names are not appropriate for the time period. If you are writing about the 1900's, the women's names should be Alice or Gertrude instead of Tiffany or Ashlyn. The same with the men's names: William is a believable 1900's name, Brayden - not so much.
 

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Robin Lamont said:
As an author I toil to create truthful, descriptive names for my characters because I believe they can either propel the character forward or drag him/her down. Some authors have a gift - JK Rowling, for instance. "Harry Potter," "Voldemort" and "Snape" each evoke exactly who the character turns out to be.
That can also be a little too obvious though - or unrealistically convenient which makes it feel contrived. For example, Sirius Black is an appropriate name given that his animagus is a black dog (Sirius is another name for a constellation Canis Major which means Greater Dog). But how on earth did Sirius Black's parents know that his animagus would be a big black dog when the named him? While I appreciate the thought and research that went into many of the character names in Harry Potter, it's just too contrived to be realistic. That's okay for a teen fantasy series - but for many other genres, it wouldn't work as well.
 

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I wish I could remember the specifics. I read a book where one of the names was very close to one of the place names and another where two of the characters had similar names. I agree the names should be appropriate for the context. Also, names should be at least somewhat mainstream and recognizable to all.
 

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I just read a Science Fiction trilogy and in the last book the author gave the phonetic name of a character. That screwed me up for the rest of the book. Everytime I read it, I thought of both names. If an author wants to do that, they should do it in the first instant of the word, not later on. Otherwise, names don't bother me that much.
 

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history_lover said:
That can also be a little too obvious though - or unrealistically convenient which makes it feel contrived. For example, Sirius Black is an appropriate name given that his animagus is a black dog (Sirius is another name for a constellation Canis Major which means Greater Dog). But how on earth did Sirius Black's parents know that his animagus would be a big black dog when the named him? While I appreciate the thought and research that went into many of the character names in Harry Potter, it's just too contrived to be realistic. That's okay for a teen fantasy series - but for many other genres, it wouldn't work as well.
Well. . . .except Sirius isn't a natural animagus. . . .he learned how to do it and so could pick whatever he wanted to be. Maybe he picked a big black dog because his name was Sirius Black. :)
 

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It really depends. I don't read Fantasy or straight sci fi, so I am not used all to much to totally made up names.

I don't like those with ' in the name in random places.
But one example where the character names actually bothered me enough to stop reading the series is the JR Ward Black Dagger Brotherhood series. First one was "Wrath". So ok, I can kind of hang with that. Then comes "Rhage" and I am already twitching at this point. I started the 3rd and the character name in that is " Zsadist". I just couldn't anymore.  :D. I never finished that book and haven't gone back to the series.
So I am missing out on "Vishous", " Phury ", "Rehvenge" and a few others  :D

Also like someone upstream said about historical names. They have to fit in with the times. Unless of course its a made up world, then I guess made up names are a go. But they still don't have to be over the top silly and pretentious.

 

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As long as I can pronounce the names and they aren't too similar to the names of the other characters, causing confusion, I'm not very particular. 
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If the author has to provide the phonentic spelling of a name, then it's the wrong name.  Similarly, the reader should be able to pronounce the name easily.  I had a character from Turkey in my most recent book named Halil Bakar. One reader of the manuscript thought it was "Baker" so I changed the spelling to Bakhar.  It was a good call.
 

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history_lover said:
That can also be a little too obvious though - or unrealistically convenient which makes it feel contrived. For example, Sirius Black is an appropriate name given that his animagus is a black dog (Sirius is another name for a constellation Canis Major which means Greater Dog). But how on earth did Sirius Black's parents know that his animagus would be a big black dog when the named him? While I appreciate the thought and research that went into many of the character names in Harry Potter, it's just too contrived to be realistic. That's okay for a teen fantasy series - but for many other genres, it wouldn't work as well.
Maybe his animagus is a big black dog because his name is Sirius.
 

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I don't know about other genres but in Paranormal Romance there are certain names that get used over and over and over again.  Rafe and Gideon are two that I see so much that when I read a book blurb only to find yet another Rafe for the male character I can't help but roll my eyes.  I appreciate it when an author comes up with some different names or just uses standard names.  (Thank you Charlaine Harris for naming your vampires Bill, Eric, and Pam!  ;D )

 

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Yes, names can make a difference. I'm a fan of romance writer Mary Balogh, but she has one series featuring the Dudley family, who are supposed to be aristocrats in Regency England. Jocelyn Dudley and Ferdinand Dudley just didn't do it for me as romance hero names. I doubt anything would do it paired with Dudley, but those particular names?
 

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Adrian Parrish. I love that name. It's from Penmarric by Susan Howatch and my current read. I was predisposed to like the character, but I don't think he lived up to that wonderful name.

 

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As an author, interesting names seem to slip through my fingers, and I have to wrack my brain a good while to come up with one.  Maybe it's
related to my not remembering a person's name until I've met them a few times...?  Hmmm...  ???
 

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mish said:
I don't know about other genres but in Paranormal Romance there are certain names that get used over and over and over again. Rafe and Gideon are two that I see so much that when I read a book blurb only to find yet another Rafe for the male character I can't help but roll my eyes. I appreciate it when an author comes up with some different names or just uses standard names. (Thank you Charlaine Harris for naming your vampires Bill, Eric, and Pam! ;D )
M/M Romances are my guilty pleasure and I have to say I'm tired of all the manly man names used in them - Chad, Quinn, Sebastian .... I do like is when a character can just be a John or a Bill or even go crazy and toss in a Paul....
 

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I think "proper" naming is ignored by many authors (particularly the less successful ones ;) ). For me, names should "fit" the character -- not obviously, such as some sort of play on words (except in certain parodies and such where that fits), but maybe a hint of onomatopoeia or anything else about the name that gives a sort of subliminal nudge to the brain that helps me remember which character is which. More important, perhaps, is avoiding two or more characters with names that sound enough alike that it can easily confuse my poor old brain as to whom it refers.

It's definitely something I would sweat over if I were an author, anyway. :)

PS: I really dislike major characters with names that are difficult to pronounce or essentially unpronounceable, often littered with spurious punctuation characters in fantasy and sci-fi. I'm the sort of reader who hears every word in his head (probably the main reason I'm not a particularly fast reader), and if I cannot pronounce it in that fuzzy head of mine, it can be jarring and disruptive to the narrative.
 
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