Saturday, September 20, 2014

Character Names: My Thoughts

The naming of characters in books, to me, is a precious thing. When done well, we can just say the first name of the character or even a couple's name (Mac and Barrons, Cat and Bones, Kate and Curran, Mercy and Adam), and anyone that has read those books will know exactly who we are talking about.

What's in a name?

Some monikers can give the reader a feel for the character. It shouldn't be too over the top though or I assume that I'm not supposed to feel any other way about them. When you've got a Cruella De Ville in your story, you just know this person is evil. The unfortunate last name of Gump for Forrrest is so close to 'gimp', that it was hard to imagine this would be an intelligent character. When you've got a character named Cain that turns bad, do you really think the reader is surprised? What about the name Vlad for a vampire, or Sin for a demon? Those are becoming so trite. Conversely, I enjoyed the use of The White Witch for the evil queen in Chronicles of Narnia. White is so often associated with good, that I fancy the twist.

Epic characters deserve to have names that will always be applied only to them. Think Dumbledore, Gandalf, and Aslan will ever be anything else to me as a reader? Those will remain solely their titles forever as far as I'm concerned.


Pet Peeves

I am probably going to scream if I see another derivative of Kathryn as a leading heroine name. Scratch that, as any character name.

We have Kate from The Kate Daniels Series, Cat from The Night Huntress Series, Katy from The Lux Series, Kat from The White Rabbit Chronicles, and even Katniss from Hunger Games. Two of these ladies have the nickname of "Kitten"! I'm sure you know of more with this name.

What I've found is that I do love these ladies. The name is generally applied to those sarcastic, sassy, independent, hard to tame, and bold women. From here on out though, I feel it will be hard for me to constrain my eye-roll at another character with this name.

I know Hunter, Archer, Lucas, and Cole are very often used for boy's names as well. Lucy, Mary, and Alice I've been seeing a lot for those damsels in distress, or girl-next-doors.

I am also irked when I come across unpronounceable names. It breaks up the flow so much when I'm having to pause every two seconds to work my mind around how I should say the name. By about the fourth time, I give up and they are forever called by the initial of their name instead.

I am against those names that are meant for the opposite gender too. I WILL have the gender that is appropriate for the name in my head the whole time I'm reading. It's terrible to read reviews for these books as well, as I get completely lost while trying to understand what they've enjoyed while reading since I can't work out who the characters are and match them with the 'he' and 'she' pronouns.

How do you feel? Do you care about character names?
Which names in fiction do you feel are most overused? 
Which ones work the best?


  1. I don't mind the common names used for characters. But I hate names I can't pronounce. I just literally skip over them and create a new name for those characters. I also don't mind boy names for girls, but the reviews are difficult to read. I never thought about it, but Kate is soooo common, it's weird.

  2. I love this post <3
    I hate it when characters have these common names. I strongly feel that characters should be named according to their "characteristics"! It gives them more individuality.
    Last to last week I read Charmed by Nora Roberts and the lead's name was Anastasia. It perfectly suited her as she was this old-school, quite and delicate girl (not to forget 26 year old virgin!) I actually fell in love with this name. But to my horror, the very next book I read also had an Anastasia as it's lead and believe me she was nothing like the name suggests! The second one really freaked me!

  3. That animated gif with all of Jace's last names is HILARIOUS! Love it! I think the only problem I have with unpronounceable character names is when I come up with my best guess at one and find out that it's nothing like the way it's supposed to be pronounced. By that point, I usually can't shake my own pronunciation from my head, lol.

  4. Kate is the name for most of the characters that I love so much so it's been in my face LOL. Not being able to pronounce a name is really frustrating. Places don't bother me as much as a character's name though.

  5. Thank you! I adore the name Anastasia and know exactly what you mean. When a character has a name that doesn't feel like 'fits', it makes it difficult as well.

  6. Hahaha! I love that gif too. I noticed that when I read Percy Jackson and then Zane read it, he would come in and tell me what part he was in. He's pronounce the character names and places a LOT differently than I do so we had a hard time figuring out who/what we were talking about. It's not until it's placed in a movie that I'm able to work out sometimes how it should really be pronounced. I LOVE that Rowling had Hermione pronounce her name for Krum. I had been calling her Her-my-own that whole time as well.

  7. I think that sometimes, and author will use a name that was actually a popular name for the year the character was born, thus, we have quite a few Kate/Cat who are a certain age. It does bring some sense of 'real' to a story, if you know what I mean.
    However, I agree with you, sometimes, trying to be very original just makes me roll my eyes - trying too hard makes me think something else is not good in the story at all.
    I do enjoy it when I meet a hero or a heroine who has an uncommon name that is still known to me. It feels a little like a secret, and at the same time, I'm in on it :)
    Great post, Jaclyn! I hope you've had a fantastic weekend.

  8. Great post, Jaclyn. I don't really have an issue with names, I guess. (I may come back and edit my comment after giving this some thought though ;) Well, names I can't pronounce do give me fits, I suppose. It took me a long time to come up with my own way of saying Algaliarept - which I learned was wrong - and thank goodness, Rachel called him Al. That's what I ended up saying in my head. I don't mind boy names for girls - both my girls have names historically used for boys. But it is bothering me lately that there are so many Jax's in books...because that's my son's name. Oh well. You've given me something to ponder though.


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