Friday, February 24, 2012

Naming Your Characters - Stereotypes

Try your best to avoid stereotypes when creating the names of people in your stories, although admittedly this depends on the story and what you are trying to portray. A scatterbrained scientist might have a quirky name if he is being used for comic relief, for example. However, it can be tough for the reader to take him seriously if at some stage in the story he has a role in saving the day or has to deliver some important dialogue. And don’t forget names that tend to fit certain genres. Texas Pete and Wild-eyed Jack might be very well suited to a Western, but totally out of place in a romance novel, where names like Dexter T Barrington or Elektra Delicious are more likely to appear. Okay, Elektra Delicious is a little ridiculous, but you get the idea. And finally, avoid the temptation to invent really different sounding names for aliens or people from the far future or even those that inhabit fantasy kingdoms. T’paldrhyl or Xydridalt might sound just great as the names of the wise counselor of your magical realm or the commander in chief of the alien fleet approaching earth, but if the reader is struggling with the pronunciation every time the character makes an appearance or utters a sentence, this is definitely going to detract from your telling of a good story.
As a final note on the subject of creating names for your stories, even though you’ve spent hours days, weeks or even months coming up with just the right ones, don’t be offended if one of your readers tells you that although they loved the story, they hated the names of the characters. Everyone has different life experiences and consequently have memories, both good and bad, of someone who has the same name as your hero or heroine. You’re never going to please everyone, so focus on choosing names that you feel are a perfect for your characters. After all, it’s your story. 

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