Character Names

Yad Vashem Hall of Names
Yad Vashem Hall of Names (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I had an interesting conversation about characters, specifically about names.  Now, this conversation took about 5 minutes, but it still brought to mind a point that feels like it was tossed to the wayside.  Tossed because we don’t think much about it.

We meet hundreds of people in our lives.  We’ve all met a Janet, a Susan, a Bobby, a William, and even a Jack (I still love that name, don’t know why).  Now, I am one of those people who like unique names.  Sela, Kalia, Selena, Mussel, Laco, Dinah, Cankra, Nyx, Dast…I could go on, but I think my point is made.  Each name is pronounced precisely how it’s spelled.  Unfortunately there are not a lot of names that have that benefit.  For example, my maiden name:  Michel.  Most pronounce it Mitchel, Michelle, Mikhel.  It’s actually pronounced like Michael, but very few do unless they have been exposed to German names.

It’s natural, in my opinion, to want to break out of the mold of the usual.  A great example is the names my husband and I chose that aren’t too exotic, but rare enough that you’re unlikely to find many people with it.  Raven and Isaiah.  See, unique, but easy to pronounce.  Everyone can do it, very rarely do we see them say it wrong.  They’ll spell it wrong, but never say it wrong.  (More Isaiah’s than Raven’s name though).

That’s the basis of the conversation that I had today.  My friend and I are writing a story together and we’re currently on character development and she wants her characters to have particular nicknames, but so that they can have those nicknames, their names have become disturbingly exotic.  That brought up the conversation of whether or not readers should be able to read a name and pronounce it correctly.  I mean, come on, like we’re going to know if they pronounce it right unless they come up to us when we are rich and famous (*snort* yeah right) to gush about the character at which point we’ll feel compelled to make the correction.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making name exotic, but I also am about making sure it’s easy to pronounce and not to get confused.  I hate when I get confused about characters simply because I can’t pronounce their names.  It’s one of my issues with Japanime and how similar many names are to one another … but that’s another subject.  My friend appears to be of the type of person that as long as she gets the nickname she wants, it doesn’t matter.

That leaves the question, of what should be the standard when it comes to writing.  Which constraints should be adhered to, something easy to pronounce or extremely exotic as long as the nickname is easy to pronounce?  I leave it to you, faithful readers, which do you prefer???

2 thoughts on “Character Names

  1. I hate it when I can’t pronounce a name and I have to skip over it every time I read it……lot’s of biblical names are like that. Still, you don’t want something all too common – hum…guess I’m a big help.

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