More thoughts on character names

I thought more on the names of my characters yesterday as I drove to and fro trying to sell ads yesterday.  Was there a reason I preferred one name to another for a character?  How may times had I pronounced them only to hear someone else pronounce it differently when they are shown the name?

I have never liked unpronounceable, line long  names that twist your tongue into knots.  Its fine to every once in a while have a longer one with a full name, but to repeat that over and over in the story drives me insane.  Short names, even if they are unfamiliar are best.  Long names get shortened even in real life to just a couple of short syllables so your names of  your characters should follow.  Usually the less important in society a character is the shorter the name.  Most people with long complex names are of a higher social class than those with a short name.

If you make up your names have others try to pronounce them without any prompting from you.  You might be surprised as to how differently your name is pronounced.  For example, Ryen is one I have asked people to pronounce.  In my head it is Ray’ en, but others have pronounced it like Rain, Ryan and Reen.

Unless you give your reader a definite pronunciation guide for your names, you are going to find that they will pronounce your characters differently than you intend.  Is this a bad thing?  Of course not,  this gives your reader a tiny chance to personalize your character.  It gives them a bit of control over the story.  If you have control over one little thing, then you are more apt to continue.  In other words finish the story. 😉


3 responses to “More thoughts on character names

  1. For the record I pronounced it Ray’en. \o/ Nice name btw.

    I can’t tell you how many books I’ve made names up for characters because I couldn’t pronounce them right, or tried my best but knew I hadn’t hit the mark.

    Then theres just HARD, easy names. The only example I can think of right now is Tristran from Stardust. I’m sorry but seriously? It’s no wonder they changed it for the movie. Tristan is Sooo much easier to say and think.


    • I am not going to be too possessive about the names are pronounced. No one is going to do it the right way unless you use common ones, and that is quite boring. I will just try to to use ones that are pronounceable. 🙂


      • Indeed, nothing’s more grating than overly-silly fantasy names.

        I think the most effective ‘unpronouncable’ fantasy names are the ones that Lovecraft uses in his mythos. “Nyarlathotep”, for example, rolls off the tongue like a dead octopus, but it helps add to the ‘unknowable’ aspect that he plays on so much.


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