The last week of the month I work on my blog, and every month I review what has happened (personally and professionally) in my life before I decide what to write about. I recently got into a great debate with another writer about character names and I wanted to share some of the discussion.
Character names are getting more unusual. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games, was the name that got the conversation going. While we did chat about a small handful of names, Katniss is a perfect example for both sides of the debate.
On one hand (pro unusual names) it gives the character an advantage to stand out from the crowd from page one. An extraordinary name can give them a larger than life personality because they are one of a kind. Amanda and Susan are nice names, but they have a totally different feel than Katniss. When writer’s use a name a reader doesn’t know in real life, it is difficult for them to put a personal opinion and prejudice on them, allowing their minds to be more open to character development and personality.
The other side of the argument (con unusual names) they can be difficult to pronounce or spell for readers. They may have challenges remembering the name when it is too unique. In fact, books with too many bizarre names can be distracting or aggravating for readers. In sci-fi and fantasy genres this may be more acceptable, but something to consider. A strange name may make it more difficult for readers to connect with characters, and
therefore not allow them to get lost in the book as a writer may desire.
Although you can argue points on both side of the topic, and I won’t tell you which side
I was on, there are good and bad points for each. It really just depends on the author’s vision for the character. At the end of the day, if an unusual name works for the character, the story, and ultimately the readers that’s all that counts.
Lisa Heartman writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels.