Character Names in a Book I Can’t Pronounce


WednesdayBloggingChallenge-copyI have a confession… I can’t stand not being able to pronounce a character name in a book, so I immediately look it up. Yay social media! 

As a learn more about writing on my own, I have discovered how difficult it can be to name characters. Even if I have a name in your head, often I will change it by the time I draft chapter three or so because I have too many characters with similar names (Amy, Amanda, Amelia) or it is too cumbersome or too common. Or I already used a similar one in another story. And I think some names get overused. I remember long, long ago when I worked for a review blog there was a spate of books with heroes named Liam. There have got to be other choices for an Irish character.  As an aside, there are too many Hollywood Chris’. The limit has been reached.

 If you’re doing SFR, it’s tough to come up with alien names that sound ‘alien’ but aren’t too distracting. I used to get annoyed with too many alien character with names like Zar, but then I tried to  write an SFR and realized how incredibly difficult that is. Writers have a tough job. 

I remember reading a book, again awhile ago, and it was about hero names in romance. This was before indie publishing took off so the ‘rules’ are rather restrictive on what traditional publishers wanted. One rule was that you couldn’t have a hero with a Russian name because those didn’t sell. (There are tons of Russian heroes now, but apparently that was a thing.) And if the character was Latina it was almost always Maria.  Asian characters in romances were rare, mostly supporting characters stuck to a handful of  (Chang, Patel, Sato ) here or there. Southeast Asian names were non-existent.  

You also weren’t supposed to have names that were too ethnic. If you were writing African American romances you had to make sure the names were more ‘neutral’, but not too ethnic like ‘Tameka’ or Keisha’. I had a problem with that. I still do. As a young woman, I read Harlequin’s now defunct line geared to African American romances (there was a teen one also) and I liked having characters that looked like me and people I knew. So it grated that certain names were considered ‘bad’ by publishers as if a person’s name automatically makes them less worthy to be a hero or heroine in a romance. 

This post went off the rails. Oh well. 

15 thoughts on “Character Names in a Book I Can’t Pronounce

  1. It didn’t go off the rails at all. Those rules are ridiculous. Why should a character have a safe name or a name that’s not too racial? I’m glad those rules changed. I wish Harlequin still had that line. I enjoyed those books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what makes no sense. If you’re writing for an audience, then you should respect that audience.


  2. I dunno, looked like a pretty logical progression from the prompt to me! And yeah, you’re absolutely right about the “too ethnic” issue; it’s one of those solutions that perpetuates the problem instead of solving it, and creates other problems into the bargain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I guess I’ve been lucky, since no editor has ever asked me to change a character’s name. But since I write primarily inter-racial romance, I get cover artists bitching at me all the time, about how hard it is to find images with the nationalities that my characters are. Too bad. I write the kind of world I think we should live in, where love is love, and people are people, and no one should be judged by where they or their ancestors came from.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember reading that Russian name rule somewhere when I was starting out and thinking, “Really?” That stuff is so ridiculous.
    Fab post, Echo. Not off the rails at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That really surprised me because it seemed so arbitrary. I would like to know how it came about.


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