Thursday, May 10, 2018

Choosing Character Names

One thing I have been asking myself is how I decided on character names for my story in progress. Do any of you authors out there ever ask yourself such a question?

I still am asking myself why I chose Martin as the protagonist's name, and Rachel for his mother's name. Not to mention Roderick for a classmate and Jana and Janelle for two other classmates (twin sisters).  How do any of those sound to you? Some sites advise against using similar names in the same book, such as this one:

Names That Are Too Similar

If your story has more than just a few key characters, you want to make it very easy for your reader to distinguish between them. That’s why you should avoid using names that sound too similar:
  • Similar beginnings:  Readers might be confused by a “Cathy” and a “Cynthia,” or a “Richard” and a “Roger” in the same story.
  • Similar endings: Avoid giving your characters names that end the same way, like “Madison” and “Jason,”  or worse yet, names that rhyme, like “Shelley” and “Kelly.”
  • Repeated vowel sounds: “Janeen,” “Lee,” and “Edith” all share a long ‘e’ sound. This can be tiring for the ear.
  • Similar length: You’d be confused too if you had to read a book about “Bob,” “Ted,”  and “Joe.” How would you keep them all straight in your mind?
Now, before you go and say you’re writing about a set of twins, just remember: names can have a similar feel without sounding alike. For example, “Matthew” and “Luke,” (both names from the Bible) or “Ava” and “Bette,” (both Hollywood film actresses).
Keep in mind, you want your characters to stand out as individuals, not meld in your readers’ minds.
And from Wikihow:

Even after reading this, I don't intend to change the twins' names. I've known twins to have alliterative names and non-alliterative ones, and even rhyming names. Many boy-and-girl twins I have met do not have alliterative names, and I can only think of one or two such sets of twins that I have met personally.

Also from Wikihow:

I certainly wouldn't name a person in a book Elvis, but might easily use that name for a dog or cat. And I'm not even going to get started on Adolf 🙂

I honestly don't see any reason not use whatever names you want to use. 

How do any of you choose your character names?


  1. I used a unique name that was the same as a secondary character name in a TV series that ran YEARS AGO and my reader objected because she associated the name with the series, so I changed it:)

  2. Yet another potential pitfall for writers. That said, reading Russian novels I do get lost in the maze of very similar sounding names.