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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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CassieL said:
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.
 

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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.
 

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I’ve done it. I don’t see any big deal. It can even be kind of cute. By the way, my husband’s and my names start with the same letter, and so do our son’s and his partner’s. Everybody thinks it is, yes, cute.
 

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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...
 

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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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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.) 
 

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Carol (was Dara) said:
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.
 

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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.

Bob

 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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Stagewalker said:
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.
 

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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.
 

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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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Discussion Starter #20
unkownwriter said:
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.
 
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