Thursday, December 22, 2011

Character Names

What I'm reading: Eye of Heaven, by Marjorie M. Liu (bike)

I hope everyone is getting ready for their holiday celebrations in a calm, peaceful, stress-free way! And if you're stuck having to find a last-minute gift, may I humbly remind you that e-books can be given as gifts. It's been around for a while on Amazon, but Barnes & Noble has joined in the "gifting" parade, and you can buy any e-book (of course, I hope one might be mine) and send the gift to someone on your list. They'll get an email telling them the gift has arrived, with instructions for download. The only caveat might be where they live—for various legal reasons I don't understand, non-US folks might not be able to redeem the gift. But it definitely works for anyone in the states.

No braving the crowds at the mall, no standing in lines, no postage, no wrapping. Easy-Peasy.

On the writing front—a recent read had me pulling my hair, and not because of the quality of the writing, or the story. It was simply one of those things that tangled my brain and kept slowing the read. I've talked about it before, and it's a common enough "problem" that I wonder why editors aren't more alert to it—or at least the editor who was "in charge" of the book. However, since one of my editors apparently paid no attention to character names, I can sympathize—WHAT'S IN A NAME? had 3 characters named Hank/Henry If you have the print version of that book, you can find them. The new e-version, thank goodness, has been fixed.

While it's true that families often name children with similar names, or with the same initial. That's real life. Fiction doesn't have to be real life. If it's confusing your readers, it shouldn't be real life. (Although I recall people saying that my girls couldn't possible be twins because their names didn't rhyme or start with the same letter—something I pointedly avoided long before I gave a thought to writing).

At any rate, in a book where there are 3 sisters as major characters, and their names all start with "Ma" (and then there's their mother, whom they refer to as "Mama") means I'm constantly trying to remember who's who. And then there's the detective, who also has a major role, and his name is Martinez. Two other characters have 3-letter "J" names.

And, because it's the holiday season and I'm as busy as everyone else, here's another post I did early this year on this topic, which includes pictures of the spreadsheets I used when revising "What's in a Name?" for indie-release.

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Jemi Fraser said...

Great advice. In my first ms, my 2 MCs were Alex and Ali. Didn't cross my mind that could be a problem. Thank goodness my crit buddies mentioned the problem!

Terry Odell said...

I thank author Jeremiah Healey for his advice at a SleuthFest workshop. Another hint: Don't use either initials of your protagonist for anyone else. Not always possible in series, though.