Things I was supposed to do today: get up early, work out, write like the wind.
Things I accomplished today so far: I made a cup of tea.
RUBY FEVER is going into proofread, and I need to handle that too, but I do not have the energy. I think all of my stress decided to finally mature and settle onto me like a blanket. I was trying to work on the next installment of the Innkeeper yesterday, and I saw a fish in a funny video on Facebook, which I needed to identify. Usually this takes me about 15 minutes. An hour later I still had no idea what the fish was. I finally found it, but I am clearly dragging.
So today I will bring you a quiz.
For those of you who like to read fantasy, how do you like your names? Sometimes weird long names are the point, like in The Goblin Emperor, where names are used to a great effect to add to confusion and the sense of being overwhelmed. Sometimes the short names like the Gaw and Nam are used to demonstrate a simpler culture like in the Quest of Fire that is meant to portray prehistoric humanity. Sometimes the names are the result of extensive linguistic research, like Tokien’s Isildur or Faramir.
What’s your preference as a reader? Multiple answers are allowed.
Michelle M says
I love that you are feeling relaxed enough to post more slice of life and fun blog entries. Just to tell you that it lifts my mood to read them. Have a fantastic day an you should get some cookies to drink with your tea.
So far, you guys have been doing great, a mixture of names from m the culture you’re writing about, some made up names, some variations of common names like Joffrey, and all of those with your Sams and Pams.
Ms. Kim says
Many decades ago I was stationed at Carswell AFB (its gone now) and the Colonel’s secretary and I would drink Tang tea and have lemon wafers (looked like Vanilla Wafers). They went so well together.
I like the made up name, not to hard to pronounce. This way my mind wont link them with a person I know or have heard of
I LOVE The Goblin Emperor. And while I did not love the crazy names when I was actually reading the book, the names made me laugh out loud multiple times when listening to the audiobook – like when they were introducing people to other people. So – I’m pretty sure my no, but yes answer is not helpful but :: shrug::.
And hey – at least you got your cup of tea made! 🙂
I had to vote for hard to pronounce, just because The Goblin Emperor is one of my favorite books ever!
Sometimes getting a cup of tea is the the absolute best choice!
FYI… post says you can choose multiple answers. The quiz forced me to choose only one.
Moderator R says
I can see that and yet the “allow multiple answers” option is also selected in the Quiz. Will investigate and hope to get a fix soon :).
In the meantime, please put your second choice in the comments please 🙂
It seems technology is always helpful that way. My fingers are crossed that the fix is easy and painless.
I generally like names that I can remember, and that feel like they fit the world. So, maybe that’s a mix of made up and rarely seen real names, but if there’s a Robert mixed in with a cast of Ursines, Nogustas and Ta’aks, then there’s an in-world explanation (ex. maybe Robert comes from a different region or dimension.) One or two long and unpronounceable made up names in a book are fine – but if there are too many I have increasing difficulty remembering who is who! (And start to hope there’s a pronunciation guide. ????)
I tried to check multiple boxes including that last one, and computer said no 😉
I don’t like the kind that are impossible to pronounce, and I’m happy with a mix of made up and real ones, but it very much depends on the story. High fantasy Elven courts generally don’t have many Roberts and Pamelas in ’em 😉
I do like it if the names aren’t _too_ common, because then they don’t stick out and I start mixing people up…
The funny thing is that Pamela actually originated (as far as we can tell) in Philip Sidney’s The Countess’ of Pembroke’s Arcadia from the 16th century, which is set in a pastoral idyll / royal court setting that is basically the next thing to a high fantasy Elven court!
I prefer names that begin with different initials for each significant character in a book. It makes it easier for me to read and less likely to get confused. I also really, really prefer to know how character names are meant to be pronounced, including obscure names or common names that can be pronounced more than one way. I hear the text in my mind as I read. It frustrates me no end to keep stumbling over a name because I’m not sure.
Yes. This. Thank you for articulating so clearly!
Ms. Kim says
This! If too complex, gets in the way of the story. I will ‘check out’
I had not thought of it, but I love the idea of first initials to help with distinction, memory!
yes, I really really appreciate not having two names alike or beginning with the same character. I get very mixed up and have to go back.
Ooh- valid! Totally valid observation- drives me batty when I can’t decide how to pronounce it and have to wait for an audio book to find out.
Yes! I also hear the story as I read and odd names can pull me right out of the action of I keep stumbling over the pronunciation.
+100 really can’t read Derick Dave Darren in the same scene and keep them straight. Made worse if they are longer made up names that all start Dvowel.
Yes. Similar names make me crazy. Even Jim and Jack confused me in another long-running series.
Agree for differing first letters when possible, or at least different enough names if they have to be similar.
Rodney and Randy: too close.
Rodney and Ryan: better but there is still a Y.
Rodney and Richard: good!
Rodney and Rebecca: great!
I so agree with this. Complicated or unfamiliar names that begin with the same letter are hard to keep straight!
I’m exactly like this.
R Coots says
I went for “Made up but pronouncable” because that’s usially how I do my ownadr up names. But I cannsee the use of more complicated made up names to emphasize cultures (love Goblin Emperor. Also LotR and the Lackey/Mallory Obsidian Mountain books)
What really trips me up is too many characters in close proximity/sharing a scene who share the first few letters of their names. Hi, hello, Roman-esque Codex Alera. Who the heck is doing what in this scene now? (Also, actual Rome would’ve been so confusing for me I think)
Melissa Chapman says
That can be distracting, especially names like Kendiva vs Kendara, or whatever.
But came here to say, The Codex Alera are some of my favorite books!!! ❤️❤️
Maybe it’s the Roman life, maybe it’s the underdog. Tavi is fantastic though.
Historic fact which you two might find interesting. In WW2, the UK had a pair of admirals who shared a last name (no relation to each other). They decided to have one operate at the other side of the world from the other.
The US also had a pair of admirals with the same surname and no relation. Except they decided to have one be the direct superior of the other instead.
???? I do find that interesting! Thank you for sharing! I favor the British response in this case!
I just want the names to feel appropriate to the world. Don’t give me “Bob” if it’s not a “Bob” kinda world.
I also think tea-making could be considered a major accomplishment . . . so much so that you should reward yourself.
Of course tea is its own reward.
So the obvious reward for making tea . . . is more tea!
I agree with all of the above.
R Snodgrass says
I prefer something that I can pronounce even if it’s made up. Names like Cthulhu distract me from the story, because every time I see it I try to say it in my mind.
Sarah G says
Sometimes, long, difficult-to-pronounce names get distracting and take me out of the story as I subconsciously and then consciously wrestle with saying it correctly. And, sometimes just making tea is an excellent accomplishment.
If the names are weird – I “translate” them. For example, Cthulhu is Choo-hoo-too-loo and nobody can change my mind about the PROPER pronunciation.
Mary Beth says
Best belly laugh of the ‘morning’. Thank you!
Sue F says
However, I also usually shorten it a bit in my mind, e.g. for me, I’d imagine the “C” is silent, and Cthulhu would be more like thul-hoo in my head 🙂
Enjoy your tea and relax. Repeat as needed.
Quizzes are a great escape, too.
I like all types except when an author does totally unique made up multi syllable names that start w the same letter. Then I get confused. Lol but I survive 🙂
????I like weird names and I cannot lie…????
OMG Becky, Look at her name!
????I like weird names and I cannot lie,
You other folks can’t deny,
When that elf walks in with a name like G’wloriaist
and that dipthong in your face…????
Susan Maney says
JB, if it wasn’t for your first line, I wouldn’t have gotten the song. I immediately thought of Home Free’s Butt Remix. I started singing those words in my head. Great catch! Great wording!
Sarah G says
I love names with meaning, either made up and explained in the text or real names that have a meaning that is important to the character, plot or world. Best of all is when they are in the sweet spot, just obscure enough that the reader feels a sense of accomplishment at figuring out the “hidden” message in the name, but not so obscure that most people never get it. Desdemona the demon in Penric and Desdemona would be too on the nose if it weren’t for the tongue in cheek manner of her naming. But if I need someone on the internet to explain a name to me, I feel frustrated and dumb.
Yep! That explains my feeling nags on this better than I could.
Penric, too, given his addiction to “penning” translations etc.
I am good with all the three options as long as the names are world? and character appropriate and the author does not try to manipulate the names too much. I have encountered one book where the names were so manufactured and difficult to read that, ultimately, I grew annoyed with the whole book and deleted it from my eReader. It was very, awfully, bad. Seriously. However, if you go the difficult and unusual route, a pronunciation guide would be appreciated. Seanan McGuire provides one with her ‘October Daye’ series books and it is very helpful.
lol, Irish names…oy! I’m kind of glad my parents didn’t go full Gaelic and used the Anglicized versions, heretical as that may sound. I still have to spell it out on a regular basis.
We used the Gaelic spelling for our daughter’s name, and I’m pretty sure she will hate us forever for it! Ceili for Kaylee.
Actually in that particular case, I think the Gaelic spelling works better. But kids will disagree on principle.
Mary Beth says
I just love those mornings when I lie in bed and make all these plans, then I sit up and my body just laughs and laughs at me.
I’m just going to get weird with it and hope for the best.
Oh, and I love odd names that are considered common within the world. Like Spun, Gorm, and Tellate. (The equivalents to Sean, Gary and Timothy.)
Melissa Chapman says
This was hard bc I like both weird sounding names that are pronounceable, and names that sound aaaaalllllmost familiar. My favorite types of names are Spensa (Skyward series), Ilyaas vs Elias, Gavriel (Throne of Glass).
The longer more unpronounceable or hard to pronounce ones (Algaliarept comes to mind – Thanks Kim Harrison) are fun, but I tend to gloss over them when reading, and couldn’t spell them or remember them without serious effort.
There might be a small, even tiny, reason that the main character call him “Al”.
Yes that was an attempt at a “British understatement”.
Since I’m Swedish, it’s just an attempt.
Heh. …. bugger, now I crave tea, time to make a tankard. *
*Yes, tankard is right, 7dl of glorious sweet tea.
Kelley Ice says
If I cannot pronounce it I cannot spell it nor do I remember it, so something that is easy to pronounce is better for me. Please just make them easy to pronounce.
I work with a fair amount of polish and Indian people… there are many times where I just give up trying to remember their names. It’s really bad.
Danielle Tobin says
I usually do not care about the names one way or the other. However, if it is impossible for me to pronounce the name in my head I will make up an easier substitute/nick name and use that for the duration of the book/series. If I have to watch a YouTube video of the author (Rothfuss) pronouncing names, those names equal a negative for me. As a reader, I really don’t care how much work is put into the decision of each name. I hope that doesn’t sound harsh. I have not studied every possible religion, culture, language, or mythos. I might get some of the references and I might not. If I get the reference it is usually barely a passing thought and not something I dwell on. I read for a break. I enjoy a good story. Anything that pulls me out of the story is a negative. Names that are similar are also a negative. If I have to stop and think about who that character is because I can’t remember which guy whose name starts with P E R, or in general sounds similar, or is always described in a similar fashion it will pull me out of the story. I have real-life stuff (like everyone) that prevents me from reading. I really don’t appreciate it when these little things also stop the flow of my reading.
Nit-picky. I know. But you did ask.
I like names that convey (subtle or not) the essence of the character or being. Not every character has to have a name like that but I like when some of them do.
Just avoid the apostrophe tripe like K’tara or N’goth!
DeAnna Dear says
Have to play devil’s advocate for apostrophes because they can be effective when done correctly, generally when they act as signifiers of some kind. Two examples that come immediately to mind are the Dragon Riders of Pern series (an apostrophed name automatically tells the reader the character is a dragon rider) and the Miqo’te race of FFXIV (an apostrophed name denotes Seeker of the Sun clan with the initial letter of the name indicating which tribe). Horribly prone to misuse I grant you, but when done well it can convey a lot of information about the character just by stating a name.
Yes! Dragon Riders of Pern is an excellent example of a good naming convention, especially because for the male riders the first letter was from their father, and the rest of the sound from their mother. The names of dragon rider families are also made so that the transition to dragon rider (and the new name with the apostrophe) are easier to decide.
**Potential spoilers below?
F’lar and F’nor are half siblings on their father’s side. F’lar and Lessa have a male child named Felessan, who adopts the name F’lessan later in life.
Vulcan names from various Star Trek series use the apostrophe convention. T’Pol (science officer/diplomatic envoy) from the prequel series “Enterprise” comes to mind as an example. Also, a Klingon character from “Voyager” – B’Lana Torres, the bridge tactical officer. (Ok, technically, she’s multicultural – Klingon mother/human father.)
Yes – raises hand – Star Trek geek for 50+ years!! ????????????
Michael, the Lebanese side of my family has many names that have apostrophes. It is difficult for those of us in the second U.S. generation to pronounce them. My great-grandfather has two in his given name. Fortunately, most of those who entered the U.S. changed their names or were given names easier to pronounce, i.e., John, Peter, Mary and so on.
I think the apostrophe often signals the stopping of air, which really has a big effect on pronunciation…
If I can’t easily pronounce it, I won’t remember it and I won’t connect as well with the book.
Hope you can get some stress relief soon!
I like a mix of foreign but pronounceable, and common, but it really depends on the world.
Kate’s world is parallel or alternate to ours. Kate is a wonderfully common name that fits it. Najimi would make the world seem more strange than just alternate reality.
On the other hand, I don’t expect the beings from other planets in the Innkeeper series to be named Bill or Susan. However having familiar nicknames for unfamiliar names is also fine — Willmar I could easily take “Will” or “Bill” as long as I know that his real name is Willmar
Under the correct circumstances it’s a lot of fun to have an alien (whether born on Earth or elsewhere) named something downright homely. For example, the terrifying Master Shark Ed’Rashekaresket in Diane Duane’s Deep Wizardry who gets nicknamed “Ed” because viewpoint character Nita can’t cope with the whole thing.
I am terrible. If the name is too long/I can’t figure out the pronunciation it gets reduced to the first letter and an identifying feature.
I read Harry Potter prior to there bring movies. Hermione was H-. Even the Krum conversation in book 4 didn’t help.
Ah! Mod R! I apparently used forbidden characters. Hermione is H-(concept of bushy hair).
apparently HTML thought I was trying something fancy with the pointy brackets.
Moderator R says
WordPress has an issue with emojis of all type!
I mispronounced Hermoine in my head for years before a British friend set me straight. I eventually managed to ‘read’ it right!
But I suspect I have been doing the same with Dina, which is not a name/spelling I’d seen before Innkeeper. I always hear it as ‘Deena’ in my head for some reason (I am not from the US). I have come to believe it should probably be pronounced more like Diana (ie long i sound). I am struggling to make the mental switch. I think I need the audiobook to get it straight!
Renee Raudman does pronounce it “Deena” but she was known to mispronounce stuff, I don’t think she’d get the main character wrong.
Moderator R says
It is Dina rhymes with Tina, Mina, Lina, Gina etc.
The other pronunciation would require it to be spelled Dinah.
I hope this helps ????
Amazing! I was right all along. (Except about Hermione)
I like all of the above when used properly! The provide those signposts that you talked about and a variety ads richness to the world. So, a name like (say) Rose immediately indicates that this is someone we’re supposed to identify with and a culture that we’re supposed to register as close(ish) to our own. While a more formal name and different name — Caledonia — indicates perhaps a more formal, ritualized culture that’s still easy to grok while an unpronounceable name indicates alienness.
Remember. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a thing.
IHATE hate hate names with apostrophes in them. Yes, I know there are languages that do that, and if I’m reading something from that culture I just jump on the bandwagon with A’ald or whatever, but if your primary language is English and you’re writing for an English audience, give them something that they can recognize on some level. Blah.
Tiffany Crystal says
It really REALLY depends on the work. As long as the work can carry a name like Q’werty Asdfg’h-jkl, The First of Many of Their Illustrious Name, I will read it and be like, “GO, QWERTY, GO!”
I have dyslexia so I definitely prefer names that are easy to pronounce and distinct between characters. If the characters are all named similar things I get really confused and it takes me out of the book.
Martha L says
+1 million. That’s why I like the Audible books.
Jessie West says
I personally just glaze over the super long or weird names. I prefer names like Lessa or Frodo or Paks (short for Paksenarrion). But, names won’t keep me from reading a good story!
I find Elizabeth Moon’s names, both in her Paksworld fantasy and her SF, really well done. They’re just a tiny bit off from RL names for the most part, enough to give an alternate-world flavor, while reasonably easy to pronounce.
Melissa Fouse says
What I object to (not that I have observed this in your books) are names that are similar especially those that start with the same first letter.
Martha E says
I actually had a problem with Rodriguez (Innkeeper) and Ramirez (neighbor down the street, former Marine, reported shots to the police) in the first Innkeeper.
Rodriguez and Ramirez also occasionally trip me up – the words are visually and audibly similar to me. Usually just requires a quick pause and reread of the line to double check.
It depends on what type of fantasy I am reading, but I prefer being able to pronounce them. If I can’t come up with a pronunciation in my head, I have trouble keeping track of the characters. High fantasy, I like made up, but pronounceable names, like Tolkien. Urban fantasy, I like a mix of maybe uncommon real names and made up names.
Easy to read. Names can’t be made up. I like a variety but the harder to pronounce names kind of draw me away from the story distracting me cuz I’m not sure how the names are pronounced.
names that I can , a) pronounce. b) remember c) don’t sound like my next door neighbor d) I actually managed the names in Richard Morgan’s Steel Remains series
I think made up names add the si-fi/paranormal theme, but common names ground the character/story in a relatable human way. Both are necessary at different points of a good paranormal fiction story.
I don’t really care. If I find it too hard to get my head around, I kind of make up something
I worked in a library for over 20 years. Names were not only multiracial but many were common names spelled in a very strange way. I would joke about waiting for a Mary with a Q.
Moderator R says
Ah yes, a Psmith type situation 😀
My favorite of those is:
Me: Whom can we sign this to?
Gordon, wise from much signing: Could you please spell that?
Reader: T – h – o – m -e…
Moderator R says
???? Once Thomed, twice Tom shy
Siobhan is a known name now, but growing up I had some fun with it. One of my friends decided it had a silent 3, and would leave notes for Siob3han (she always put it somewhere different). Or, for example, on the first day of school I always knew when my name was about to be called because the teacher would pause for quite some time:
I have a friend from university who loves to make people do a double take. One way he does this is when someone asks how to spell his name, he sometimes responds with, “I’m Chris with an X.” Most people will roll their eyes or laugh, but invariably, he will get a flabbergasted soul who asks him to spell his whole name.
I don’t mind long unique names, but I NEED a pronunciation guide. It drives me up the wall if I don’t know how to pronounce something. I fixate on it and get distracted from the story while my brain tries to work out how it’s supposed to be pronounced. I love audio books for this reason. (I just hope the narrator / whoever checks those things makes sure the pronunciation is correct.)
Martha L says
Dearest Ilona, Perhaps you should take up yoga. I hate to think of you all stressed out while bringing us all so much joy. Please remember to breathe. Be gentle with and kind to yourself. Let your mind get off the merry-go-round of stressful thoughts and look at more cat videos on YouTube for a few hours. The world will still be there when you are done. Allow the knots in your gut to unwind and remember that you are truly loved. Being loved is a joyful thing. Allow yourself to experience that joy. Maybe you should watch a comedy – something at which you can laugh out loud. You are so lucky that you work at home and can take an hour or two to do something fun (with your husband?).
Question for the day for everyone: What would happen if you woke up tomorrow and the only things you had were the things you were grateful for?
Lots and lots of books, my mom’s Shelley china teacups, and many boxes of holiday decorations.
I like names that are consistent but not usually too long and elaborate. Kerr’s Deverry series had names that depended on culture and followed rules. Naming someone a weird collection of letters tends to bounce me out.
Shlomi Harif says
The fantasy novel series I’m working on uses as Hebraic, instead of Latin/Christian, root set. So “Moshe” is the “John” analog in terms of common names. And, like Johnny, Jon, etc., “Meish,” “Moish,” and other non-typical uses of the name are used for casual contexts.
Just as JKR uses pseudo-latin for Harry Potter spells, I use Hebrew roots to create both names and nouns for the world.
Love when authors use all of the above as needed and what fits best for the story … I feel you guys do a great job of naming your characters to suit the flow and place of your specific stories.
Long complicated names also should be done sparingly otherwise I just make up a short-form name in my head and read.
Recently read a good book that used numbers and things as names, after awhile I was frustrated trying to remember who was who, as the names were too similar. Which was sad because the book story was good.
Sorry if that isn’t helpful … love what you already do
Amanda Mimmi says
I like the difficult names so I am totally immersed in the new world….but I must admit as I really get into the story I mentally shorten their names or give them nicknames in my head so that as I read I don’t even see the given name anymore just my personal take on it…Sorry
Beth Lowrey says
I’m glad you got you tea made. A cuppa in the morning is my favorite way to start the day.
As to the names question, I don’t care if the names are made up or not. I do care that no characters have names that are so similar that I have trouble remembering which one’s which. If the names are long and complicated, I just figure out a shorter tag for them.
My preference is for names that suit the story. A serious story with gravity with simple cute names wouldn’t feel right. And a light humorous story would feel awkward if the names were mostly heavily researched with all kinds of meaning. You do such a terrific job of mixing a strain of humor into your work, including some of the names, that all I can really say is please keep it up because your judgement has been awesome.
While I like weird names, I tend to not even try to pronounce them. They just become a symbol. So I guess I’m wired for weird and lazy!
I only prefer if the character names are not to close to one another.
I like names that are descriptive of the characters’ personality and or physical description. Descriptive names, for me, help the narrative. There is no confusion about who is talking or being talked about. The story flow is smoother.
Mickie T says
If names are long and unpronounceable, I skim and skip over – Goblin Emperor, I’m looking at you. (But I love that book!) However, they really do have a place setting a scene/a world, and in GE they did it well. Authors can name as they choose, and I’m resigned to being really surprised if I listen to an audiobook.
My vote for ‘something else’ would be a combination of rarely seen in the English language but no longer than three syllables and a mix of made-up & common names. For me, it’s the storyline and world building that keeps my attention and fascination.
Judy Schultheis says
I like the way you name people and things.
I read a couple of other authors who combine ordinary names with less usual ones given according to what ancestral line is currently fashionable. Or just family tradition, but there is the dose of what’s fashionable – I do like that.
Other Barbara says
I prefer names with a permanent pronunciation from book to book in series since I listen to audiobooks. I sometimes go to Amazon, download the sample of a book so I can enlarge text to read the names as well. That way I can comment and BDH and similar groups know who I mean.
I like names that have a historical or conceptual related to the characters journey
R. Allen says
I greatly dislike names with an apostrophe. Not sure why…but it annoys me!
I would like to encourage you. I so enjoy your stories. You have a great insight in how to relate characters to each other. So thank you for all you do/have done. I reread many of your stories.
Whatever the author thinks represents their characters and works with the plot. I read a lot of Russian literature at one time and I had a lot of trouble with names, but they were part of the story. I don’t need everything pre-digested for me.
I like the weird or made up names like in Lord of the Rings the researched names. They are so lyrical and just add to the sense of magic. But when I spend a couple minutes trying to figure out how to read the name it takes me out of the story. When its urban fantasy type stories then I don’t mind the more common names.
I love a robust mix of the common, created, obscure and unpronounceable.
My favorite authors often do a great job giving character hints with their name choices. I also adore when authors can give shape to a culture by using common styles of names to indicate backgrounds and professions and such. Even for simple stories and settings, when names fit it really makes the stories come alive.
Just wanted to tell you guys how much I love all your books!! Especially Kate!!
Johanna J says
I loved The Goblin Emperor but it took a few reads to keep all the names (reasonably) straight. It worked for that book (the related series) but don’t think I’d have patience for that most of the time. Listening to the audiobook version also helped (as well as the “Handbook for Travelers in the Elflands”). ????
Hey – you’ve gotten one thing accomplished. That cup of tea should help. Since the pandemic I’ve (tried) to stop beating myself up when my daily accomplishments aren’t what I’d prefer. We’re all still establishing our new “balance.”
Erika Hedglin says
I imagine the poor audiobook narrator trying to consistently pronounce some 8 syllable name with multiple apostrophes and run on consonants…
For fantasy that includes an Earth analog, appropriate names for Earth folks and pronounceable-but-not-familiar off-world names are good. You’re stuck doing homework on new names whether or not they are pronounceable, given your standards for such things (thank you!!!). “Pronounceable” is also a slippery slope, with the Slavic languages somewhat downslope and others far below them! Please don’t wander into things like the click-based languages unless it really adds an element you need!
I saw a video recently about a CEO who got arrested last year for scamming. The guy doing the video didn’t know how to pronounce the name.
The CEO was born in the city I currently like in. The pronunciation of the name is exactly how its spelled in English….except it uses a sound which English DOESN’T have.
Ashleigh-Beth Blevins says
Please believe me when I write, you’re human. You’re not perfect and we don’t expect you to be! It’s refreshing to know that these things can take your attention just like us. Just remember, tomorrow is another day and today isn’t gone yet! Thank you for being….YOU!
Sharon Leahy says
Maybe a dash of your favorite liquor in that tea, and then go out to the zoo, or a museum, or somewhere peacefully delightfully and gently entrancing …
Cynthia R says
I am glad you are taking some time for yourself and just relaxing with a cup of tea.
I had a migraine all night so it’s going to be a relaxing tea drinking kind of day for me too and it has taken me years, way too many years, to get to a place where I feel comfortable emotionally letting myself just be and do what my body tells me rather than what I feel I should be doing.
As for names in books, I try to respect the authors world building and what they feel works best in that world. They lose me if the the name is super long and I don’t know how to pronounce it. Also, many characters with names that are very similar take me out of the story. Names are important even if it doesn’t seem like it at first glance and I appreciate authors taking the time to choose their characters names carefully.
Kat in NJ says
Cynthia R, hope you feel better! I had a migraine yesterday too…they are the absolute worst. I really love spring, flowers, trees, everything turning green, etc. but could do without those allergy-induced migraines…bleeeech! ☹️
I don’t mind weird names, which are difficult to pronounce, so long as at one point (preferably early) it’s given its phonetic counterpart or an easy nickname.
I think you guys strike a nice balance generally.
I do hate when there’s characters with extremely similar sounding names. Especially if I’m listening to an audiobook, it’s fine in print, but awful in audiobook to keep track of.
I really do enjoy the names that are the result of linguistic gymnastics and created languages but maybe not quite so complicated as Tolkien to preserve author’s sanity.
I think the names need to fit the setting. Names give me a sense of where I am and what I can expect. If I see names that are some long thing with commas I know tis world will be far removed from the one I live in. A name like Joffrey comes directly from feudal times. I expect to see kings and queens and magic. Short names to me either are nicknames or some sort of evil that has really low brain power.
It’s just not that simple. Names are like anything. They set the location and tone of a fantasy with their composition and structure.
I like names that have some kind of consistency in their structure. For example, in multiple cultures, I like names that reflect the different groups with structural or phonetic differences in individual names. Same with gender varieties. I also like musical names or other names that somehow please me aesthetically. I guess that puts me firmly in the Middle Earth camp. I’m not crazy about unpronounceable names because they are a distraction when I read and I was permanently scarred by Hooked on Phonics.
I like names that are easy to remember (even if I have no idea how to pronounce them) and not too similar to another character at the same level of the story.
IE: Chloe does something important. Me, “Chloe? Is that the brother’s girlfriend or the stuck up socialite? One of them is Chloe and the other is Cleo. Let me go back 30 pages and see if I can figure this out.”
I often find I have been mispronouncing a character’s name in my head. As long as I’m not misidentifying the character it doesn’t worry me.
Also, If there are too many highly unusual names, then it doesn’t matter how different they are, I won’t be able to tell the characters apart. I read a history book about the Empress Wu and could not keep any of the councilors or courtiers straight even though their names were not similar at all.
Sometimes the difficult names are fun, though usually I get frustrated because I want to pronounce it “right” and am not sure how. The ones I get a kick out of are the characters who are introduced by a mutiple syllable toungue twister and another character rolls their eyes and says “Right. Bob.”
It’s a good day for tea. Maybe a homey-type cookie and a floofy blanket, also.
I haven’t seen nearly as much classic Dr Who as I should but,
“…One more thing—-your name.”
“What about my name?”
“It’s too long. By the time I’ve called out, ‘Look out’—what’s your name?”
“By the time I’ve called that out, you could be dead! I’ll call you Romana.”
“I don’t like Romana.”
“It’s either Romana or Fred.”
No!! How can unpronounceable names be winning. I can’t pronounce them!! Sometimes I can get a pronunciation off of the web but sometimes not and it plagues me the whole book!!
It depends on the setting; for high epic fantasy non-human races should have weird elaborate names.
A lot of it depends on the series, and what you mean by fantasy. Do you include something like urban fantasy or are you referring to stuff more along the lines of grand fantasy (or low fantasy etc).
Something I like to see is when authors can make the names noticeably sound cultural, ie region one has Alison and Oscar while region two has Ratimir and Dragutin.
Something which can be…..interesting is something like David Weber’s Safehold where all of the names are misspellings of real names, like Tymythy or Zhaspahr.
Depending on how you read, you can get a massive dichotomy in what the names look like as opposed to what they sound like.
Greg Morrow says
I prefer names which suggest that the author has at least thought a little bit about linguistics in their setting. English names sound English, Russian names sound Russian, Sindarin names sound Sindarin, Klingon names sound Klingon. Languages have different sounds, different combinations of sounds, different allowed syllable structures, different allowed ways to build words. You don’t have to go all the way to a conlang to get names that sound consistent within an ethnic group in your fantasy world and names that sound distinct across ethnic boundaries, but if you have an ear for how words sound, your names will sound better and will support the reality of your world.
Reading the comments made me thing of Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels. So many names beginning with “Vor-“ was a little confusing, but it did not detract from enjoying the books. I started subtracting the honorific to determine who was who. It did make a big impact when someone was not a Vor.
I like naming conventions that have internal logic within the narrative. If there are two people from the same culture, the story better have a good reason if one is Linlothien and the other is Bob. Also, if the story uses different than standard names for objects like swords, clothes, etc., than names should be a little unusual, too. Other than consistency in world building, I’m easy.
In general I like names that are normal but not common. I like how you link back to cultural references (especially in Kate Daniels) and/or use odd but still relatable names (Cerise and Kaldar in the Edge, Nevada and Catalina in HL, Sean and Wilmos and the Nuan clan in Innkeeper).
Not real fussy about length or spelling, but I do have ‘dislike’ name characteristics, whether short or long. When a character name is ‘similar to’ the name of another character in the same story or series, it causes confusion and generally yanks me right out of the story being told as I try to figure out who is speaking or being spoken about. e.g., “julia”, “jules” and “julie”, or “thom” and “tom”, or “kerythinian” and “kerythanan”. That said, I have a hard time believing in the story when names of non-humans have anglo-saxon names, unless it’s a human-assigned nic-name because the human character can’t pronounce the non-human name.
I feel like I’m having the same issues, Ilona. I also made a cup of tea and my grading pile is still staring at me reproachfully.
Self-care is important. I’m glad you are taking a short break today.
I tend to avoid reading books with names that I can’t figure out the pronunciation. Or I just skip over and assign a mental reference. If the names are too complicated – I have a tendency to lose interest in the book. I couldn’t read Tolkien at all. A few interspersed seems to be ok. I read for escape and enjoyment and I don’t want to think or work too much. I leave the heavy stuff for work.
I also like a mix of common and made up names in the text. When names get to difficult to pronounce or sound out then my eyes tend to skip right over them and not take in their existence.
Barbara Shelby says
Whatever the names, I appreciate a clue as to how its pronounced in your world. To me that’s very important. Why, I don’t know but knowing I am pronouncing it correctly helps me to immerse myself more in the story.
Something else – I prefer names with a purpose – i don’t mind whether they are in English or another language (real or made up) but I get pulled out of the story when they’re long and ‘foreign’ for the sake of it, but nothing else is in the narrative! If you’re going to tell me X is from another culture then I want to see it from names to mannerisms to clothes to behaviour and if they’re in ‘normal dress’ is it because they’re trying to blend in etc.
I love your books because there is always something new to learn – the body of research is clear and evident and believable!
I guess it’s the sign of a mature writer vs. an immature one.
I don’t care if is made up or a regular name, but it needs to be easily pronounceable or with a nickname. When I am reading, if the name is hard to pronounce, I struggle in my mind how to say it & it slows the flow of the story. If I pause every time I come to that name . . .
Because of the way my brain works, I decode words based on the first few letters so I prefer names that a not similar when it comes to sounds or letters. So Brenda and Briana would be harder for me to track as I read. I can’t remember it ever happening with your books though.
I find if a character’s appearance is not described with enough detail I end up not caring about them as I can’t form a picture in my head
If a name is too complicated and there are other characters that start with similar letters it gets confusing leading again to not caring.
Too much of either / both and the book becomes DNF
I don’t mind a complex name, but I prefer for them to have a nickname if they do. Such as Cthulhu being cut down to Lulu. This is especially true of things based in the modern era. Unless there’s an explanation complicated names in modern era snap me out of the story.
Also an overtly simple name in high fantasy, particularly that of Nobility or other races is equally jarring. If someone in high fantasy is being called Andy I don’t want it to be short for Andrea or Andew, give me Andromeda.
Now I am always going to think of Cthulhu as Lulu…. in a pink dress, matching nail polish on its claws and bows on it’s facial tentacles. My sanity is escaping me already. 🙂
Fantasy is basically 90% of my reading and I find names don’t really affect my enjoyment in book, but I do have a preference. It kind of falls into second category, but I like traditional Celtic/ Gaelic/ Welsh names in fantasy. They don’t necessary need to be unpronounceable or complicated, I just like how they sound: Alasdair, Wulfric, Niamh, for example. Currently playing Elden Ring and there is a character named Blaidd. That’s a really cool name.
I become so involved in reading that it plays out like a movie in my mind. When I come across a name that is just a collection of letters, that movie comes to a halt while I try to figure out what I just read. If it is a made up name then I prefer short names.
Other Barbara says
I like authors who subtly clue in name meanings, example if a character was named Nevada and another character comments on it meaning snow covered…
Poll response: I like names that reflect the story. In The Goblin Emperor the names are masterful and contribute not only to the feel but are presented in a way that contribute to how language is presented as a whole in the book (author often emphasizes the change between pronoun tenses to further illustrate changes in emotion or response in a character for example). In Patricia Briggs her names are a reflection of either Mythology or raising (Mercy & her Christian upbringing, Bran is a Welsh name that means raven, etc) but takes place in the “modern” age so there is also a sprinkling of “normal” names that reflect the setting. Similarly in Ursula le Guin, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and many others there have stories in which the names are long/complicated/not common to the English language but are a direct reflection of the setting that they are presenting. When it adds to the story and at the least does not jar me from my immersion I am happy.
If the name is too long or hard to pronounce, my eyes will skip over it and will become “A-something” and “C-something” unless I am reading them outloud.
And please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t give your character 3 or 4 different titles/nicknames that are used interchangeably, or have multiple characters in the series with the same first name. Yes, it’s more realistic, but unless it’s the point of the story, it’s just going to confuse me when I’m reading late at night. Or at the very least give me a cast of characters at the end so I can look up to remind me that Lord Whatshisface is the same person as Bob Jones.
(I don’t mind when it’s a character with a legit dual identity – thieve’s guild name vs day job name. It’s not as bad when the cast of characters is small. But if I have to keep track of an entire army’s worth of characters AND remember that General so and so and Lord Whatsit and Mr Smith and Bob are all the same person? Yeah, I’m going to spend half the book going “who is this again?”)
jacqueline nielson says
Really, as long as the names match the world I am all in. Unless the world is really high fantasy or science fiction ( is high science fiction a term? Some sci fi is like being high…same thing?) outrageous naming would seem to be out of context. Unless the writer as a character wants to poke fun at something:) AND this appears to be way oversharing! Sheesh.
I like Tokien’s names. I am biased as LOTR was the first book I bought with my own money!
Faramir and Isildur are linguistically researched names, but then the hobbit names like Pippin and Bilbo are wonderful too. Threw in a common name like Sam, only it was Samwise. Orc names fit orcs, etc.
I like names that feel like they fit the context of the world. So if the world has an ancient Celtic/Druid vibe, then a name that has a Gaelic /ancient Gaelic flavor would make it easier for me to immerse myself in the world. And while an easily pronounced clearly common and modern name in a world with heavy ancient Celtic/Druidic vibes would not stop me from enjoying the book, it would make it harder to sink myself into the world.
However, I think that if I am not paid to read, edit or review the book, then I am a guest in someone else’s world and should use guest manners. If I don’t like the book/characters names/direction a character takes etc, no one if forcing me to read the book or buy subsequent books. However if a book is not well written (has many grammatical errors, many spelling errors, is not coherent, has no plot, has thin character development, etc), I am willing to be critical.
Olasard, the Ripper of Souls. Those are the names I like. ????
I feel like this won’t be helpful but I don’t actually have a preference. Names help cement a series but how that comes across doesn’t worry me.
I hope you enjoyed your tea and the edits are less stressful than you think.
Susan Spears says
I detest really weird names – especially those that are long or have apostrophes. I won’t read books that have them.
Moderator R says
Apostrophes seen universally reviled based on this comment section!
Ms Blaise says
Apostrophes are perfect in the Liaden universe series.
The Harry Potter names are delightful too. And don’t forget Shakespeare’s cast of thousands. The most confusing names for me are when there are multiple names for a character (Tolstoy!). But that is part of the story too.
I voted, but believe in author’s choice.
Thank you for asking.
They don’t bother me if the rest of the writing is good. I know of a few Hawaiian words that legitimately have apostrophes in them – Hawai’i, for one. The apostrophe has a genuine function in pronunciation. If the rest of the writing is too precious though, so are the apostrophes.
So …. O’Brien? De’Medici? L’Engle?
Honestly, I like all the names I’ve read in the books I’ve read (of yours). I’m lagging on the Innkeepers, but I’ll get them all read. ❤️
I usually see very long and complex names as a sign of amusement or extreme snobbery. They have their place but not as the usual.
The weirder and less pronounceable the name, the harder it is to remember which name belongs to each person/group, the more it throws me out of the story trying to remember who is who, and the more that happens the less I enjoy the story and the less likely I am to finish it much less read the next.
But I don’t need common everyday USA names either. I just need them to not be horribly confusing to mentally pronounce. I don’t even care if my mental pronunciation is correct, I just need to be able to put a mental sound to the name. I’m fine with oddball, other language common, type stuff.
But theres no hard and fast rule for me either either, as long as the weird and unpronounceable is consistent and isn’t easily confused with another weird and unpronounceable I’m ok with the occasional, such as an alien species with a name that has no vowels or something. It fits its ok in my brain.
For me the biggest thing is not to have too many names starting with the same letters. If the main characters happen to be Sam and Sarah those names are obviously gender specific so I can tell them apart.
If you’re using made up names, having the first letter be the same makes me have to pause and think about which character it actually is. I have found this to be true throughout my reading experiences. (Maybe it’s just me)
I know that sometimes when the names are longer they include family names and that’s fine as it helps you connect the members of the family. But I have a harder time if the connection word, such as the title (or like in Korea when the surname is first), is the first word you see because then you have five people whose names start with SOO and it can be a little bit harder for me to remember who is who.
On a side note, I love your books!!
If the names are too difficult for me to sound out, i.e. I have to pause to think about how to say the name for the first 10….50 times, I will either shorten the name in my head or, more likely, unless I find myself extremely interested in the book, I will stop reading it because I won’t be able to immerse myself in it.
It depends are se tallking epic or urban. In urban fantasy I like my normal human caracteres 2 have normal local names unless theres is good reason 2 be diferent but epic I prefer diferent names even more if they sould like names people would have like the exemplo above unless its from a very diferent culture we been introduced in that case I like my big weird names lol. Caldenia full names are a good exemplo of how I like those. One of my fav fantasy names of all times is Raistlin.
Sarah Chapman says
I voted something else – my request is a mix, whatever narratively makes sense. Sometimes you need transportive – that signals some high fantasy. Sometimes you need common – that signals more urban fantasy. Basically what emotion/genre/feeling do the names need to convey and that’s what it should be.
I choose names that are weird but easily pronounceable. If there is something really outlandish making it unpronounceable and strange is ok, but it really interrupts the flow of the story in my mind and makes things difficult to track. If I can’t pronounce it even mentally they usually become “C-guy”. I also don’t like it if names are similar for no good reason.
Nancy Tice says
I like all types of names, depending on what the author is doing with their world snd the dialogue. Gnaw might not make sense when everyone is thee-ing and thou-ing, bowing and banqueting, but it might make sense in the same story for a culture whose emphasis was different.
I like names that mean something, like the seniority, family, sex, or relationship of the individual.
I detest names that are quite similar, especially in a big, complicated world, (Think GRRM, Tolkien). I am ashamed to admit that the first time I read The Lord of the Rings, (at the age of about ten or so), I continued messing up Sauron and Saruman.
cheryl z says
I don’t have a name preference, it depends on the story/world and the characters. Sometimes names are an inside joke like Victoria Speedwell, sometimes they are deeply poetic and seem to add to depth of character kinda like like character onomatopoeia. Good question; this is the first time I have thought about it.
I am glad your family is OK, I can only imagine how stressful that drive through the storm must have been until you knew your daughter was OK.
cheryl z says
Sorry, my comment posted twice, I don’t know why.
Moderator R says
No worries, I kept the longer one ????
cheryl z says
Thank you. I forgot, sometimes names are chosen for one hilarious line in the end of a book-like Luke in Time Police (You Jodi Taylor fans know what I mean). I just love to read, need to read, crave reading, and there just are so few writers anymore that are one click, order as soon as there is a link like IA.
I will add that I don’t like names that are too similar. Such as no Pamela and Pamelia. I don’t want to figure out which is which. Names that I can’t pronoun are a big no for me.
what I *don’t* like are names with lots of apostrophes. I can handle one here and there, but I get really tired of tripping over them all the time.
Moderator R says
It’s at least 5-0 against apostrophes!
What have they done, do I need to get on the apostrophe-hating wagon ????
They represent a glottal stop that definitely Western languages don’t include, and if you haven’t heard it — I don’t want to say CAN’T be imagined, but I haven’t met anyone who has.
NativLang on YouTube (a channel that has absorbed me for hours) showed in the video exactly the way the tongue and teeth and soft palate should behave in order to make the sound. It was awesome, I watched and imitated and could do it! And I can’t remember how. I have tried over and over, but no matter what, I can remember how to make the sound until I say a sentence in English or German. Then it’s completely gone from my memory.
I THINK it’s in here, but it’s been a couple years since I last tried, and I have more issues with watching videos now than I did then. But I refuse to take responsibility for anyone who gets stuck watching NativLang videos!
Acknowledging author creativity when naming characters adds so much richness to the writing.
My preference is names that have meaning in the context of the story whether made up or common. Sometimes during the story the partnering of characters for an adventure, relationship or other supporting parts of the story works better when the names link so well until that becomes a part of the story like Kate and Curran or Julie and Derek. When the character names come together in a story whether just two, three or more sometimes it sets the stage for great anticipation. Kate, Derek and Ascanio for example. You know it will be funny and adventurous because of the dynamics between the three.
Not so much what I want, as what I don’t want… Uncommon names which are too similar (unless the characters are connected somehow).
Perhaps a little explanation… Some years back I read a series with about 5 main characters. The (multi-syllable) names of three of them started with the same letter, two with the same three letters. It was not only confusing, it made the books difficult to talk about – I couldn’t keep then names straight. Its hard to make a story sound interesting when you’re saying things like “the swordsman”, “the mage” and “the guy who great at both”…
The fact that I have a horrible memory for names only acerbates this…
Mary Cruickshank Peed says
I have ADD brain. If the name has a point in the story, as the place names in The Goblin Emperor, that’s ok. But my neuroatypical brain shortens them anyway. So Untheileneise’meire becomes Uthamary. Or even UM when I’m reading first time. I tend to read a good book 3 times (or more). Once for the story (plot, overall layout) once for the color (background, description, full names) and once (or more) to savor the entire thing.
Yes, yes, see the above description “neuroatypical”.
I’ve had days like that, so sorry!! Can’t even say I was stressed, unless bored with all the normal things to do is a stress. And of course, a good cup of tea is frankly always helpful (or in my case a yummy cup of hazlenut coffee). Add in the slice of applesauce spice cake and maybe the day will look brighter. Hang in there!
I think it depends on what kind of story it is; fantasy is very variable.
Re: stress, I think it’s important to not get too annoyed with yourself over lack of products. I like to try out a new craft type at times like that – something distracting, not too hard, but not so familiar that you can do it without focusing a bit. When my kiddo was having her surgeries earlier in the pandemic I decoupaged maps all over a cedar chest and did some paint by numbers.
Rhonda Daniel says
Got my vote in but had an additional comment. Really hate it when major characters names start with the same letter. Apparently I skim because with same letters I’m always having to go back and check who is talking. Hope your day is going better.
I like for them to fit the world author created.
Tuulikki Tammi says
The stranger the name, the better, but I want them to actually fit the world. And hopefully be chosen after extensive linguistic research. I wish I did that when writing, but I tend to just choose names that sound good and fit the world…
Shannon Fink says
I’ll come up with my interpretation of a made up name and use it while reading. Then once I get the audio book I am completely thrown off hearing a character’s name pronounced as the author intended it to sound. Leads to a disconnect with the material. (I recently read books by the author you recommended Jessie Mahalik and I appreciate how she will sound out a characters name that has an unusual spellings.) Thank you for all your hard work!
I like “almost English” names. Such as “Aquesta”.
Mostly I prefer common names, cause I like to be able to pronounce names I am reading. I feel uncomfortable if I have to think too much about how to pronounce a name (and I really hate it, when narrators in audiobooks change the pronunciations, what happens more easy with complicated names.)
That still has place for side characters with bizarre names, cause there should be some spice to reading.
Lisa Smith says
I like when names have internal logic and fit the overall style of the narrative. That could mean they’re known names from an existing country/historic period that match the atmosphere and setting or that the author created naming conventions or Google for fun names or whatever. I also enjoy breaking the fourth wall and short, simple names in high fantasy when it’s done well. If names are crazy long nicknames can be nice. Aka, it really, really depends on the narrative and author’s voice.
Donna A says
I opted for something else as I don’t think I have a preference so long as the made up name is not too ridiculous nor the contemporary name too jarringly so (unless it’s a fantasy where this would make sense like alternate universe or time travel or some such).
I think if the story is good enough then generally names are sort of irrelevent which sounds quite harsh. I don’t read a book based on the characters name and I think since you sort of both become and befriend the characters when you read their stories and really enjoy them then their name becomes secondary to who they are inside. Sort of. If you know what I mean?
I like common names that appeal to me, not because they are easier to remember. I also really like names from different mythologies or that derive from different mythologies. They get me into research – mode & I get to learn more about the myths & cultures of other places.
Honestly depends on the story. Robert and Joffrey work in game of thrones cause it’s taking some context from history. Cthulh’s story wouldn’t work as well if it was named Jim.
I like the made up names, but I have never been able to finish the Silmarillion because the names are so similar. I know he had reasons for it, but it just gets really confusing after a point and I can’t remember who did what.
Honestly there are plenty of reasons not to finish the Silmarillion, and I say that as a Tolkien fan. Ben Aaronovitch even has a running joke about it in one of the Rivers Of London books.
For those who have actually finished it, go you! It’s an accomplishment.
I will admit that I like names that are not incredibly complicated–or too similar to each other! Because then I have a hard time keeping characters straight. However, if there is a naming convention that is explained and is part of the culture– for example, dragon rider’s names in Anne McCaffery’s Pern series–then I can learn to tell a F’lar from a F’nor because their names tell me something about their lives. Also, if it’s a totally different world from our earth, names like David, or Christian, which are tied very specifically to our culture and history are jarring. But for example, if you’re setting a world in a middle-eastern inspired desert culture with djinns and lamassu (;D) and scimitars, then using Arabic names would help to build the world for me.
Hopefully not too confusing of an answer!
Too many strange names make it quite difficult for me to follow the plot; different names do add to the entire experience but too many odd names, especially several which are very similar, just ruin the experience for me as I can’t tell which character is which.
Joann Grey says
Whatever fits the story. I am always floored by the diversity of names found in our world. Recently read ‘The Merciful Crow’ where the crows were all named derogatory words. Their names increased awareness of the Crow’s standing in their mythic universe.
I like weird names, but NOT if they are too difficult to pronounce! I also like it when there’s a meaning about the choice, a link to the lore of the books/worldbuilding.
As you said, like in LOTR.
Or like in Chronicles of Elantra, where different races have different name “roots”.
Or like in Black Jewels, where the Eeryans have names ending in -ar/-an depending on the characters being male/female…
I like unusual names that I can easily pronounce. I also find it easier when names of characters are very different and distinct from one another so I don’t confuse the characters. I read about 150 books a year so I have a lot of character names roving around in my brain:) I find myself more confused by similar names of secondary characters without lots of “screen time”.
You have had a LOT of stressors in your life the past year, (Covid, deadlines, fires, and storms to name a few). You should take some time for you to wind down. A cupppa sounds like a wonderful start along with a nice cookie to nibble while looking at yarn and knitting patterns. The BDH will even survive if you skip the snip installment on Friday for your mental health–we may not enjoy it, but I think everyone wants you to have fun writing so you will continue to do so.
As for naming conventions, I like a mix of name types, though if you go towards Welsh/Celtic forms a pronunciation guide is helpful. Then again, I’m used to using all sorts of names in conversation since I’m in the SCA.
David Becher says
To me it depends on the context. If the characters are human with a culture similar to ours, then common names or made up ones that sound similar are good. If you are dealing with non-human cultures then strange names are preferable although coincidences can be used for a plot point (I liked ALAN in Sub-Nautica Below Zero). Hard to pronounce names can be used for effect, (they do not have to be made up – see Welsh or Irish names), but they should be consistent to a culture.
Ms Blaise says
Just noting 1 vote for apostrophes (think Anne McCaffrey and Liaden Universe books).
Caryl J Moulder says
I like Gaelic and Scottish names when appropriate to characters
It needs to fit the context for me. Like Patricia Briggs naming the Goblin King Larry, short for Lawrence. It was a bit of comic relief, allowed him to hide in plain sight, because who ever heard of a goblin king named Larry? Or Mercedes Lackey in her Valderrama series making everyone from one kingdom have a complicated name. There’s a reason behind the name
Jennifer Ginn says
I sometimes look up my parents nicknames in other languages and create something out of them. It’s a way to be creative while honoring them. They don’t have to make sense or be pronounceable to anyone but me.
I do enjoy getting opinions from your readers on how names should be pronounced or on the disability of being named Jennifer in your books!
Much love to you and yours!
My only gripe is when weird names are similar or all start with the same first grouping of letters. When that happens it can stop my immersion in the story, as I try to decipher who is it this moment.
I like names that relate to the character using a connection to a word in other languages or deep roots in English. Something like Mare or Maris for a water mage, for example.
Ginni Morgan says
The name style in each book should fit the type story. Thus, I like just about anything.
Claire M says
If you made a cup of tea, you did better than me ???? I managed to boil the kettle and fill my mug ….and realise there was no tea bag in the mug ????????♀️ Fail.
Dreamboat Annie says
I like strange names that go with the worldbuilding. You add a piece to the puzzle of the culture and history of your characters. Like Gerwar, who has become his function instead of a poetically named member of a family and a clan.
Thank you for all you give us, including this blog. Difficult to express, how much this means.
So tea is good. I am glad your family is safe. And I‘ll be happy to read Innkeeper whenever
To be honest I really had to think about the answer. Usually if the names fit the characters and their world it is somehow consistent for me,no matter if the names are complicated or less so. For instance your worlds are very beautiful in details and the names harmonize very well. One such detail is that Roland would have chosen a contemporary namefor himself (and it is actually one that has been around for a while as well).
High fantasy or space worlds tend towards more complicated from my previous experience but again it is only strange if it doesn’t fit well with the whole setting.
Bliss Crimson the Mooncatx says
I like names, made up or not, that aren’t too complicated and fit the character. For me a sturdy heroine name could be common like Kate or more exotic like Katniss which I think is a real word for the cat tail plant, but anything that would be easy to say and not horribly long. I also hope the writer gives characters that interact DIFFERENT names so John Jon and Johan aren’t in a scene together. Because that can be a bit confusing on who is saying what. I like it when a name has a traditional spelling instead of trying to make it seem exotic by giving it a strange spelling. For example Doris instead of Dhoores. Just because you could yous three extra letters to get the same sound, doesn’t mean you should. But that is just my personal preference.
Heather Graham says
I like names that have meaning and define the individual (their character, where they are from, their family or maybe the name defines them as what they don’t have or who they are not).
Kat in NJ says
My favorite character names of all are any of the names used in new IA books. ????
I think it works best when the names fit the culture described and tone of the text. If that means complicated or simple the so be it.
Robin Šebelová says
The naming? I think it depends what are you trying to portray.
If you do urban fantasy, then modern common names and surnames are appropriate, but rare names are more memorable and can give character a more “juice”.
Should you do historic/high/dark fantasy I would expect names in tolkien style – mix of historic ones with artificially created.
Names (and surnames) are part of character description, since they often portray nationality – Chidori (japan), Xia (Chinese), Nalighni (hindu), Katia (Russian), Jana (Czech)…
Also a third name can be significant too. Society can have customs of third name giving higher social status (Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time – names in age of legends)
Karen S says
I like how you handle names.
I like names that fit the world-building. Have read books with names that are just weird and made-up with no rhyme or reason, and that don’t fit the world (same with other cultural signposts like food and clothing and slang). If it’s too close to “normal” but the setting is very different from real life, it interferes with my ability to immerse in the world regardless of how compelling the storytelling is. Same with names/other cultural indicators that are way off but used in a setting that is very similar to my everyday reality. Let the names fit the setting.
That said, I do prefer names I can at least attempt to pronounce.
I love the linguistic research behind a name that sheds light into the character or the story itself (if the reader looks into a name, which I always do ????????♀️).
Don’t be hard on yourself. These days exist and that’s okay.
I don’t like names so strange I don’t know how to pronounce. I end up just making up an easy name in my head which is related to this strange name. In the whole book i will end up speaking my made up name instead and skip over this weird name.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind long names. But if it’s strange please let me know how i’m supposed to pronounce it.
I like names that show heritage, culture, or hints to the character’s hidden nature or ultimate fate. If a name looks un-enunciat-able then I like to hear how other characters hear their name spelt.
Readers are capable of learning new sounds and names, so I believe that it should be done if it benefits the story and world. (I loved what you did with the Driziri language).
I made two not-great examples below (this is why I’m not a writer):
“Aoife and Seamus stepped aboard. Seamus explained that Aoife was from the same planet as him, so Shea-moss and EE-fa had names that were spelt differently than universe standard. I always thought that their planet tried to name people after the sounds of instruments, with Aoife mimicking notes of a tin flute, and Seamus a traditional hide drum.”
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Savaross,” the creature hissed each ‘s’ and growled the middle syllable low in it’s throat.
“Ss-acha-rohs-s,” I tried, failing to emulate the second sound quite right.
Emma L says
It turns out I don’t actually read names in the text. I just “recognise” the name(s) visually and tie them to the character, and seem to rely heavily on the first letter to do that. So, it generally does not matter what the name is as long as 1) multiple character names don’t start with the same letter, as then I get confused, and 2) I recognise it as a name.
I am perfectly willing to accept that this is me being a fast (i.e. lazy) reader.
Well, you did ask!
Since the pronunciation of names never matches the way I say them mentally, it doesn’t matter. I will get the pronunciation wrong. It’s always a surprise- the difference from when I read a book to listening to it as an audible.
I like the names the authors choose for their characters – however they choose them & whatever they choose. It is then interesting to learn the reason for the various names. For example, why Kate Daniels? Why Curran? (Please forgive me if you have answered this elsewhere. 😀 ) I find I do not have a preference for names. The characters are who they are. What is interesting to me is why they are who they are… part of that is their name.
I am fine with whatever option as long as it fits the setting and is consistent. I read a (high) fantasy series a while back with a barbarian tibe and I COULD NOT with some of the main characters being called Braden and Caden. Totally ripped me out of any immersion via eye rolling.
But the sometimes unpronounceable name is fun too…. ????
I hate names that are difficult to pronounce; it trips me up as I read. I prefer unique, pronounceable names.
Jocelyn Malone says
In general, I like the “pronounceable but not common” and “mix of that with common names” approaches, but I appreciate when a different style is used for literary effect, as in your examples. That won’t put me off reading something. If it has a “just to make me feel cooler” vibe to ridiculous naming conventions, well, that’s a bit of a red flag about the book!
I like a mix of names, but the important thing is that they can be remembered well enough that they don’t cause confusion to the reader (me) or slow the story.
Bill from NJ says
Not surprised you are overwhelmed, to be honest I think the last 2 years w covid and other things have driven us all to the edge. I have a ton of things I need to do but have a really hard time doing it…and then get tired so easily. Some of it is age, but even comparing it to 2 years ago this isn’t normal tiredness. Whether physical or emotional or both, we kind of have to coddle ourselves and try to recover.
Given we aren’t really ‘back to normal’ ( and I am praying that with Covid the new varient turns out to be mild,like a cold, it is hitting Korea and hong Kong hard) it is just time.
And celebrate what we can, our son’s chamber group just had their NYC debut, so we could see it live:)
I like a sprinkling of unpronounceable names and unfamiliar names,among more recognisable ones. it makes the world seem more real and multicultural, with the storyline part of a much larger setting
I chose the “mix” category, but I figured I should add a caveat to that – when the story demands it. An example would be humans alongside some type of supernatural/alien creature. Humans would have “normal” names (where normal fits the culture of the human), and the critter would have whatever mashup of syllables makes your little hearts happy. If I can handle the fact that Seanan McGuire’s character the Luidaeg is pronounced “Loo-shack,” I can handle most anything lol
CHRIS BRADY says
I like that she tells you the pronunciation.
years ago on some show i don’t remember the two dogs were trained to kill but could only be instructed in chinese and there names were (something like) sam and chuck
i still get a chuckle from that mix
if the names are way too long or wierd i just give them nicknames
i like hidden legacy because the names are easy and the wierd is in their titles.
getting older and getting to be lazy and sometimes enjoyig the laugh from the dyslexia
deep breath on the lazy daze * enjoy the break
Maria Schneider says
Names to me are mostly first letters if they aren’t common names. Short, easily pronounceable names stick okay, but anything else, and my brain takes it down to one or two letters, especially if there are a lot of characters whose name begins with the same letter. So Adriginetia will be A for a while and then Adri if there are too many characters with “A.” I can get pretty confused if an author happens to love a single letter for names too much. Frank, Forosues, Fallinet, Fizbulet. I’ll tend to remember Frank. But then the others…well. I do like real names from various languages and cultures even if I don’t recognize the culture. Some authors, especially fantasy ones, create a pattern that is recognizable even if not using real names. My brain tends to latch onto that okay if the names are not too long. I don’t care much for dashes in names since my brain is shortening them anyway.
Short on Brains
Moderator R says
I love Fizbulet! ????
I like names to be completely different from each other. I am dyslexic and names that look alike too much, especially with the same starting letters (like Kathara and Kadelia) confuse me to no end.
I’m pretty flexible on names; it really doesn’t matter if I can pronounce them, because I make up whatever works and tag it to that name. Of course, if I figure out how to pronounce it later, I change that in my head.
+1 for the Anti-Apostrophe gang. It doesn’t bother me enough that I would stop reading something, but its not my favorite.
I think my issue is that my brain stops in the middle of reading it and I can’t make my brain NOT do that. Its like leaning too far forward on roller skates and getting tripped up by the toe break – which is annoying when I want to DEVOUR the book.
I love getting really into a series and then going back and realizing that the names were clues all along but not mentioned to be in the text. It feels like little Easter eggs 🙂
A category of naming that I also like a lot, is names that spell out the meaning.
For example in Tanya Huff’s “Valor Choice”, there is an ambassador named ‘Listen Wisely and Considers All’, and during around of diplomatic dinner meetings, the humorous comment is made that one of the ambassador’s assistant must have changed its name to ‘Well If You Insist Just One More’…
When this kind of naming convention is done well, it can give insight into the character, without a lot of exposition, especially secondary characters.
I enjoy uncommon but fairly pronounceable names, and apostrophes are really okay. There are and have been languages where, for example vowels were not written out, and are indicated by (at least in English language translations) by apostrophes. So I typically just fill in an apostrophe with a pause, or a soft vowel sound, depending on the kind of culture I think the tale is closest to. (Egyptian, First Nations,Hellenic, etc).
“Listens WELL and Considers All” sheesh
Something else: I like the long names and the weight/history it adds, and the feel of different. But if it is a main character then reading/hearing/saying it every time is a bit much. If it is a main character, a shortened name or nickname makes it easier. Then when the full name is said there is a wallop of weight and power that reminds you of who, or what, that character is.
Love unusual names, made up or not, that have actual meaning that describes the person and or the person’s role (meaning explained of course)
I like names that add demention to the character. Like, Edith is old fashioned so a character with that name is either old or she’s a quirky younger person whose parents gave her a name that drives her nuts.
Or, a guy named Bob with a strong accent that doesn’t match his appearance. Makes me want to know more about the.
I only recognize the spelling so i can keep the characters separate in my mind…pronunciation is also only in my mind….you could spell it out and tell me how it is supposed to be pronounced but in my mind it is always going to be what I attach or attribute to it personally……..it is another reason I can’t listen to books on tape…..it is never how I imagined it ….I ALSO wander while listening and will loose my place in the story ….lol
I have the same problem with audiobooks. If they pronounce a name or word differently than I do it bugs me. I also don’t like it when the voice the narrator uses for a character doesn’t match what’s in my head. That’s the biggest reason that I don’t listen to audiobooks.
If it isn’t a common name, I expect the author to give a pronunciation.
If the name has linguistic significance, I expect the author to tell us what it is. Otherwise, it feels like when there is an inside joke and the author is laughing at my expense. No one wants to feel like they are being made fun of or excluded in an intellectual way. I don’t know why some authors ( not you) think they are being so clever to do that.
I really hate to stumble over pronunciations. It is like coming up to an unnecessary road block. It stops the flow of the book, and sometimes can be really costly when said book gets forcefully tossed across the room and breaks the TV. There have been times when I just threw the book away or returned it unfinished to the library and scratched the author’s name off my list.
Oddly enough, I just returned a book today after the first few pages. There is just not enough time left in my life to play those games. I won’t be reading that author’s books again.
If I can’t pronounce a name in a book I rename the character something more manageable and just change it in my head. It does cause a bit of issues in book club when people have no idea who I’m talking about but eh, it is what it is.
I like it when the name and the character fit. I don’t know if this makes sense but it’s jaring when characters have names that don’t suit.
For the love of Chernobog, PLEASE write easily pronounceable names! Unambiguously pronounceable would be best (e.g. I can think of several ways to say Banelion, from your examples above), but I’ll take what I can get. (:
Would it horrify the authors who write those Asdfghjkl’zxc names to learn that, in my head, I’m calling them Al & Susan, so I don’t lose the flow of the story?
The only times I have problems with names is when there are 2 similar names in the book and I have to figure out which person they are talking about. The other is if the name is so complex that I have to figure out the pronunciation and it distracts from the rhythm of the book
Common names are okay as well as the made up names that are easily pronouncable. It’s okay if one or two characters have a loooonnng name. It makes them memorable (and I will look at it and maybe try to pronounce it once then just glance over it the next time I see it and know, basically, who it is). But not everyone. What I have issues with are similar names in the book or book series. Like Johan and Joham or Kalla and Kalia. I”m getting older and similar names are starting to become an issue.
In regards to names, the thing on top of my wish list is for authors to list the pronunciation of those names somewhere in the book.
I’m fine with hard to pronounce names as long as the author includes a pronunciation guide. Otherwise, I spend too much time trying to figure out how to pronounce a name and it takes me out of the story.
I as a young girl was introduced to fantasy books through Anne MacCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern and through her I grew to love made up names. Fast forward to the 90s where I was introduced to Muds and Mucks online. (multiplayer games and dungeons) where you need to create a persona and my boring RL name became a much more interesting t’irla in honour of those dragonriders with the “‘” in their names. To this day I have online friends who I have known since those days in the 90s refer to me as “t” or t’irla even though they know my RL name.
Just an example how an author’s imagination and creativity can impact their readers in a very long term way and know your time thinking up and researching names is appreciated.
Anne Sherbert Deegan says
If the fantasy is set on Earth, then names from our cultures. If it’s a made up world, then strange names that convey that sense of otherworldliness. (But it helps if I can pronounce them in my head!)
My pet peeve is characters (whatever their name) who use clearly modern slang or curse words when they are not part of our world.
Drinking coffee in Frisco TX and realizing I am not the only one who gets sucked in to the “oh look at that” of the internet!
I like names like Tolkien’s characters where you actually have a reason for the name, but then all names originally meant something even if we don’t always know what that is today. I especially like Norse names but that’s because that’s where I’m from but there’s also names that I really dislike because they remind me of someone I don’t like which means I’m bound to dislike that character a lot. But it also depends on the character as some are meant to be disliked:)
I like word association names too, when done by fun like Cacaphonix & all the others from the English versions of Asterix and Obelix. (I’m a huge harry potter fan but can no longer do rereads as an adult and enjoy it as much, the word associations there don’t sit that easy anymore).
Ooh, and to add, I don’t want fantasy/alien names to be entirely like known/Earth ones at all. Like why would this awesome alien species that is nothing like denizens of earth follow a first name + surname system? Why wouldn’t their kids have entirely new names that are somehow a derivative of se alien astrology of birth rather than parents surname (matriarchal or patriarchal). I guess I am reframing the request for weird new names but yeah. I do get mad when something alien is too of-Earth. It’s like what is the point then. And currency!! Why should there always be money system, why can’t there be a society which has a basic of life package for all & is thus devolved into a complete barter economy. One wonderful thing from Harry Potter was the difference in the goblin/wizard concept of ownership. It never got anywhere as a plot point but still. New = awesome.
When I was a child, on TV you could find a lot of japanese anime wrongly adapted for children. The funny things was that japanese names where considered too difficult so everyone had an English name and surname which was as strange as japanese for and Italian child!
Definitely NOT weird names that are difficult to pronounce. This throws me out of the story every time I try to pronounce the name.
I also dislike names or nicknames that are not gender specific. I’ll find myself going “now who was that again?”/was that the guy or the girl?”. Usually this happens when the man’s name is
odd and the girl is using a male-type nickname like Sam or Jac, etc.
The only thing that i find confusing is when you start a book, and there’s more than one character starting with the same letter. I become confused which character is which.
I prefer names that aren’t too similar to each other, unless confusion is the point. I don’t want to have to take notes to keep track of who is who.
Gloria J Magid says
I like a mix of names, but I’ll admit that some of the really long names, such as those used in The Goblin Emperor (A favorite book, by the way) can get confusing. Some of the names are similar enough that I am not sure which character is speaking (or being spoken of). And really confusing are books where the characters have different names for the same person – formal name, family name, nickname… It makes my reading life better if the characters have one (or two if it’s something simple like Andrew and Drew) name.
Still – if the story and characters grab me, I’ll deal with the complicated names.
I actually don’t have a preference at all. I assume the author has put some thought into their names and just read 😉
Can anyone let me know what program the blog is managed out of? I only want to know so I can look how to change my profile picture. The picture is about 15 or more years old and not relevant in anyway but I can not figure out how to get to my profile at all.
Moderator R says
In order to change your profile picture, you need to head to Gravatar, here https://en.gravatar.com/
Once you create a profile associated with the email address you comment with (or log in of you already have an account), you can replace your profile picture and the website will automatically pull it from there ????.
Hope this helps.
Hot damn! Finally in the majority.
I like some of all or the above, a in Magic Triumphs.
Such an interesting question. I actually love Tolkien’s approach, but he had a deep well of linguistic knowledge that preceded his fiction writing. Not everyone has the time to do that.
What I always appreciate is when names are quite obviously based in a particular language that’s from the culture the characters are in and that shows a general sense of continuity in the phonemes and word parts used for any invented words (names or things). If the culture is a hodgepodge of influences, having name variations that reflect that is good too. I personally dislike it when stories set in a wildly different culture from the modern US uses our currently fashionable names or common names that are just spelled differently. It’s not going to kill my enjoyment, but it sometimes breaks the fourth wall. That’s my two cents.
I’m seeing lots of other commenters say pronunciation is important. I don’t find that bothersome unless the name has sounds physically impossible or unlikely for the character themselves to pronounce. I find myself just recognizing the shape of the name and moving on. It’s not like I pronounce them in my head while I read anyway.
Moderator R says
this seems to be the divide between people with an inner monologue voice and those without https://amp.abc.net.au/article/11931410
Social media blew up about it halfway into the first pandemic year ????
Oh interesting! That one totally passed me by. Actually, I do have inner speech, but apparently I’m not highly conscious of it while reading. Of course, while I was reading that article my brain decided to start paying a lot of attention to it all of a sudden. ????
Moderator R says
It’s always the way ????.
Quick, don’t think of a pink elephant ????
Kelly J Jacobs says
Because I’m getting old, I don’t like it when a story has any similar names that begin with the same letter.
Debra Henn says
I wouldn’t mind the complicated names if there was a clear guide in the beginning (or end) of the book explaining phonetically how to pronounce them, lol.
Enjoyed seeing how many House Andrews fans share my love of The Goblin Emperor-wishing Katherine Addison would write more about those characters; am looking forward to the next installment.
I’m lazy so I get a bit annoyed when a totally unpronounceable name pulls me out of the story to struggle with it. Orro is a great compromise between obviously alien but still pronounceable.
As you mentioned with Tolkien, I like names that have new and interesting conventions that show relationships between sets of characters. For example: Faramir and Boromir, sons of Denethor. Or Eomer, Eowyn, and Eothain.
I like how some writers have an entire (or somewhat large%) backstory of a world and why/how names came to be. Names in your books are great because they’re not pretentious and they generally make sense.
I also enjoy your science-based magic.
What’s in a name you ask? Everything and sometimes something or sometimes nothing! ????As I’m such a devoted Tolkien fan, I love the linguistic research … because who wouldn’t? It rates right up there with my love for the All Blacks! But, I also like the quick and quirky nicknames, more often than not involving an addition of the vowel “o”, we Aussies/Kiwis/Antipodeans come up with …. So, Steven becomes Stevo – the guy with Thompson as a surname becomes Tommo, and John? Yep … Jono! There’s a thought … drop a few letters and add “o” to a name … it’ll be very interesting to see what you come up with!
NB (easy confused) says
I like names to be different enough from each other so I don’t get confused. I have had to go back to almost the beginning to sort characters out.
Athena Knight says
I have to say as someone with dyslexia I find it really difficult with none common name that’s aren’t phonetic (I struggle a lot with Irish names as well).
So for me names that are easily pronounceable (even just in my head) are much preferred. They don’t have to be common names or even recognised names – just words that no more than three syllables are very MCU appreciated.
Robin Šebelová says
Looks like Soul Taken from Patricia Briggs got delayed one final time to 23.08.2022. Guess what other title is going to be released on same day? That’s awful dilemma… Just what do I listen first?
Dan H says
I love character’s names and prefer a common (even if spelled in a weird way and not pronounceable) name that is nice, but an honorific that goes on for a sentence or two is also cool, like Bill/William/Hondo; the Duke of the Weird Splenda Farms, Keeper of the Sharp Things, and Poet of the God Bobo.
But I am always open to whatever you do because I am a fan.
I’m also a proofreading person in disguise as a retired person.
I can work to a deadline.
I like names that hang together linguistically, like Tolkien’s. Extra points for different styles of names for different races. I suspect authors aren’t so keen on those because they must take a lot of work.
Ordinary English names in fantasy sometimes throw me out of the story. If there isn’t a clear story link to the English language, then why would people have English names? My brain does not compute, and that’s bad for suspension of disbelief.
Dan H says
Who would have thought you would have so many comments.
By the time you get to this one, STOP.
Go get a drink.
Tea, beer, Tequila, I don’t care, just take a break.
Good writing, I’m a fan.
Fiona J says
It depends on the fantasy world. If the world is similar to ours with added fantasy, then common names are fine. As the world becomes more fantastic and different from ours, then the names can become more fantastic too.
Tine MacKay says
I dislike names that are unpronounceable, too long, filled with apostrophes, or too weird. I find that I can’t hook the name in my mind and I start glossing over the name. When that happens I lose interest in the character and that will make me lose interest in the story.
Karen L says
On the types of names, I like it to fit the world the story is set in, when possible. If the world appears to be like a culture on Earth, the names should be as well. Or vice versa. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden stories, for example. He introduces someone named Sigrid and then certain characters that come from that person’s magic would have Scandanavian based names.
If the world is totally different, then the name should be either explained or sounded out or just spelled simply. I don’t want it to jar me from the story. If it’s intrinsic to the story, complicated is just fine. Was that as clear as mud or what? LOL
Jan Marshall says
As a writer myself I had feedback that some people were put off by difficult names, so I had my character devise simple names so he could remember them, based on their characteristics or look. That worked. I find if I come across a difficult name, in my mind I transpose it into a simpler form, and ever after that’s the name that character has.
I really love names with linguistic history behind them like Tolkien used them. Especially like Tolkien used them, since they also have a special sound when pronounced and I feel that the name alone somtimes tells you something of the character of the the, well, character. You can tell from the name alone what race the character belongs to, if he is a dwarf, human, elb… If you know your Tolkien you can even guess which group of elbs he belongs to. I’m just fascinated by all the work and thought he put into something as ‘simple’ as a name.
I’m a science teacher and I like to look up the old meanings of names and words. That feels richer than made up gobbledegook. The human brain tries to make sense out of any input. That’s why when you listen to a language you don’t speak you still think you hear a familiar word or 2. The same happens visually. You probably have small blind spots and your brain fills in the missing parts so you think you see an unbroken image.
Tea is important. Never doubt the value of tea. Current cup is Stumptown Chai.
I voted as an “other”–I like a combination of “different” names and weird names because sometimes it’s just fun to be someplace new, but if I wanted to read Tolstoy, I would be reading Tolstoy. I will say that there is also something to be said for nicknames–where a nickname represents a long, weird, unpronounceable name. I think it’s important in world-building to be true to the narrative and world (loved what you did with the Flock names) but short versions tend to make the story flow for the reader and can also give insight into the culture of a new race. Name: Lothgarian Lord of Froth if the nickname is Sharpie (because he once fell asleep…) vs. Gary or Lofro it gives even more opportunities to learn more about the world and character (and friends!) of the new arrival. Hope this helps.
I’m the type of person who can barely pronounce common names while reading (my brain likes to decide on a particular pronunciation immediately upon first reading and then stick with that no matter if I later realize I missed or re-ordered a letter and got it totally wrong). So, if the names are too complicated, my brain will instead choose the most closely resembling common name to replace the weirdness anyway. For that reason, weirdness or hard to pronounce names tend to draw me out of the story. But I’ve also pronounced quinoa as kin-owe-a forever because I first read it in a book, so who am I to judge. 🙂
I like a mixup of names that are made up or rarely seen in English literature but easily pronounceable, and weird names, which are difficult to pronounce. The easily pronounced yet made up or rare names keep the material accessible, while the strange names signal a different culture or species and keep me in mind of that.
That is part of Tolkien’s genius, IMHO. His naming conventions were beautifully drawn. Frodo, Bilbo, Aragorn, and the like are odd but with a level of familiarity. Khazad-dum, Thror, Azog, Ciritb Ungol, etc. consistently remind the reader of the strangeness, history, and beauty of Middle-Earth.
Lou Ann Vitolo says
I love the long weird names but would love a pronunciation page just so I don’t keep trying to guess at the name.
I dont like names diffixult to pronounce , neither común names…
I think names that are difficult to read and pronounce in my head [mainly an English/French speaker here], make it difficult to remember for my one pattern brain :). I don’t mind long names, but if I can’t figure out how to pronounce them, I just end up “blipping” over them and giving them my own name to remember the characters. Hope this helps.
Lol, I want to change my vote from fake names to real names. I do it in my head anyway
I like weird names like Cthulhu for weird things. I like names that are unusual but easy to remember for less weird things.
The names in Tolkien’s stories were unusual and easy to remember.
Michele Myers says
I like it when the author is amused or moved by the name they chose.
i have to be able to pronounce it otherwise i have to give them a nickname, but i delight in different names. i don’t like having to do a flow chart to keep track of who is who. also, i can’t have names that start with the same letter or i get confused. the goblin emperor was a good example, but i did okay with that one. SC Emmett’s the throne of 5 winds, i have not gotten through yet because i need the flow chart and haven’t done it yet.
I like names that are relatable to the world or worlds the story is set in
It depends on the book, total fantasy odd but easily pronounced. Things rather are alternate universe or set in our world with extras Like the edge novels, a mix of common and odd as applicable
Elaine Morton says
Hugs. If you don’t take care of yourself, the stories will suffer and the BDH will descend on doorstep with tea, chicken soup, warm blankets, homemade quilts, knitting supplies, casseroles. Much better to rest and recover until you are ready.
I enjoy occasionally when a name is almost an onomatopoeia for the person’s personality, like the sound of it matches the feel of them ^_^ like if it’s a grumpy growly character their name comes across the same way.
Ooo, it’s also fun when names can reflect something of their culture in some way (a good example was referenced in the lead up to the quiz).
FYI, the names and varying forms of address in The Goblin Emperor just about did me in. I managed to learn a handful of them, but for most I just substituted “somebody.” I think the “learn” part is key. I’m not great at languages so having to learn one to enjoy fiction doesn’t work for me.
I think I meant, FWIW, there.
I read the Iliad for the first time when I was eight. The Greek names made me crazy because I didn’t know how to pronounce them and it kept taking me right out of the story, So I made up a shorthand of only reading the first syllable of the name so I could read without hiccups. I still do that. So non-English names (to mark fantasy or non-American 20th Century place and time) that are short enough to pronounce without difficulty are my preferred.
I voted “Something else” because names don’t matter much to me compared with all the other parts of the story. There are particular blends of elements that resonate with me, and if one of those blends is present, then whatever names the author uses will work. And if not, probably none of the names the author chooses will help keep me in the story.
Here’s a tea for you to try, Ilona. 😉
That price probably won’t help your stress levels, though.
Susan Kim Reynolds, MD says
I like names with meanings, at least in the context of the given work–Edrehasivar was a king of peace and prosperity, and our hero chose to reign in his memory instead of his abusive father (Goblin Emperor). I dislike names which obviously don’t fit the location/time. Putting names of modern celebrities in an Arthurian context, for example, or setting a story in a generic “Africa” with made up names and ignoring how varied and beautiful different parts of the continent are, just don’t work. Cultural respect and research make a book much more appealing.
Other Barbara says
To add to the word lovers here “ Word of the morning is the Old English ‘uhtceare’ [ucht-kay-ara]: the sorrow before dawn, when you lie awake in the darkness and worry.”
Posted by author Ben Aaronovitch of a tweet by Susie Dent, apparently a wordsmith? as a link to her Twitter https://mobile.twitter.com/susie_dent
Her tweet site even had explanation of how pronunciation is determined.
Looks like she has radio show about words?
I once took in college, for fun, Modern language, Classical roots
Catherine Cake says
I realize that “common names” are subject to cultural norms, but constantly tripping over complicated names messes up the flow of reading for me if it’s the main character. Pronunciation guides would be helpful.
I answered “Names that are made up or rarely seen in English literature but easily pronounceable” but want to put in a vote for names from other cultures that are not too hard to pronounce. I like learning new things yet puzzling over pronunciation pops me out of the story.
Sandy Bequette says
So this is pretty out in left field, and not a request to put any stress on you especially coming out of a major project like Ruby Fever but have you ever considered doing a cook book? I know you gave us Dina’s Apple Cake, but Rogan’s Pancakes, Kate Daniel’s Bread recipe, Duncan’s Frajitas, Catalina’s everything,etc. the thought of Primes exchanging recipes puts a smile on my face. Thank you for the wonderful reads!
To be honest, as an Australian, names can be fun. We often have a different emPHAAsis on the sylAHHbis, which can make thing amusing when we hear it pronounced correctly(??).
The fun part is hearing foreigners pronounce our everyday place names:
Quilpie, Thargomindah, Woollongabba, Wagga Wagga … yep lots of names with a red underline 🙂
Flow is the most important thing for me when reading. As long as the name doesn’t jar me back into reality forcing my brain to work then I’m good. When names are too complex or “hard” I just skim over them and fill them in with something else that begins with the same few first letters.
I need main characters to have names that start with different letters. For some reason I identify them mostly by the first letter, and any repeat breaks me out of my rapid-reading phase.
It really depends on the setting. If it’s modern urban fantasy, I expect a different set of name options than if it’s in some other world.
I like names that have meaning to them, even if we as readers aren’t aware of it until “the compendium of secrets” is revealed. Chinese webnovels are packed with this, main characters often have very poignant name meaning in the hanzi– of which I, as whitehead Americana, know nothing about and must rely on translator notes. Or finding out the main lady’s name in the novel’s made-up language means moonflower, but when seeking revenge she changed her name to mean fang of the moon. Sometimes it’s waaaay overdone though, which can get a bit tacky. I also enjoy a similar theme, wherein occupations are associated with last names. Kuru Tailor is a seamstress, Darien Carter and his family work with horses and transportation of goods, etc. Names and naming are fun!
I prefer option 2 or 3. I feel like option 1 only works for me if the character has a nickname that is something I can pronounce. For example, Tamora Pierce has a character named Veralidaine but that character goes by Daine 90% of the time. I feel like that makes the world feel real while keeping it from feeling too alien
I find names that are hard to puzzle out/pronounce interrupt the flow of reading.
Similarly, if two characters in the same series have similar-ish names… that can really throw me. For instance, Sauron and Saruman from Lord of the Rings. Erk! Lesser known characters that even start with the same letter can be equally confusing at times.
I was the only person in my 11th grade English class that bothered to study the pronunciation guide in Watership Down so that I could properly pronounce the names of the characters. This includes the instructor. Of course, I was also the only person in the class who had her own copy of the book at home when it was passed out and had previously read it four times.
But I still like a mix of made up and common names. Though when a book is set somewhere completely off Earth (and its variations) made up names can be fun.
I like when first names repeat. Currently working with a Jill, Gillian, Victoria and a Vic. So much more realistic. I know of at least 4 people who have the same name as me. Our current trend to name kids something original bother me. Ask a teacher.
Names that are too long and strange oftenake it hard to follow for me.
A mix that yields texture works, something that will stick in the mind and a plot clue isn’t lost in being unnecessarily fancy.
As long as each character name starts with different letters, it doesn’t matter. Having 3 characters names that are hard to pronounce and all start with “I” ( for example) makes for a tough/ distracting read trying to keep them straight!
I, personally, have trouble remembering names, so option 2 is best because I can recognize the name but it still helps build the fantasy world.
I appreciate authors that name people, creatures, objects relative to the context of their particular universe. If they’re common to Earth, appropriate Earth names seem logical to me. If they are from another realm, something uncommon makes sense to me. It also helps to categorize foreign entities.
I’m not the biggest fan of made up unpronouncable names, because having to stop to figure out how to best pronounce them in my head takes me out of the story.
Meh. The apostrophe? Use the Hawaiian convention; it’s a glottal stop. For the incredibly long and weird names, I take direction from a guy I used to work with. His parents immigrated from Thailand and his first name had nineteen letters. He pronounced it “Fred”.
I will admit to gratitude when I get a clue on names like “Aoifa”. Celtic baffles me. And if I figure that the author is just messing with me, that character gets a nickname, or even a face. I can tag a random string of letters with a face.
The names that make me crazy are the ones that violate the internal conventions of the story. Chthulhu in the midst of Hogwarts, for example.
I will say that I have been unable to follow and have given up on otherwise good books because I could not keep track of long, completely unfamiliar names. This seems to be a norm in many military sci-fi. Of course I am 75 and a bit quarrelsome.
Judy B says
You worded that much better than I did.
I really don’t mind an occasional weird or long name as long as they are few and far between – like accent notes.
What really bugs me about authors’ naming patterns are when they have characters with very similar names (like Sable and Sarab or Greg and George) who frequently appear in the same paragraph. My brain reads chunks of words and I lose the flow when I’m trying to figure out who is who. Part of the reason it really bugs me is authors can name their characters anything. So why does one insist upon naming two people very similar names?
Jacob K says
Huh I’ve never thought of names like this but yeah all my favorite characters have either normal names or seldom used names that still are easy to pronounce.
Kazaril, Honor Harrington, Miles Vorkosigan, etc, etc
I also like the extensively researched names like the ones used by Tolkien and mentioned in your blog post.
Ashleigh Kuhns says
While I love made up names, preferably those I can pronounce, I like names that have meaning and love it when a name’s meaning matches the character’s personality
Judy B says
I was surprised that anyhow voted for weird, impossible to pronounce names. I rarely buy a book based on the blurb on the back cover, but never buy books that use them.
My first memory of strange names was with CJ Cherryh. One book, I can’t remember which, seemed to have characters whose names were mathematical numbers and symbols. I still remember having to work out who was who but not really caring that I couldn’t even say the names. She does aliens really well, by the way.
I usually relate to names of characters by visual only….that means I recognize the shape of the word, but hardly ever come around to pronounce a name in my head…that makes storys difficult where two caracters share the same first letter and pehaps even the lenghth of the word…so I prefer when the lead carakters have names that ” look differend”
I remember quitting a story because the names where so similar I got totally confused about who doing what talking tho whom….
to say I´m bad with names in real life is also an understatement…that makes conversations really akward sometimes…
My something else : names that align with the culture / social mores of the world I’m reading about (and the specific society within that world). It helps if I can pronounce them but not essential!
The Goblin Emperor is one of my favorite books ever! I found that if I skipped reading the names I could still tell who they were talking to/about from context.
I think made up but easily pronounceable names are the most practical for a fantasy series.
Elizabeth Jensen says
Every time i read a fantasy with unpronouncable names I snicker and think of Diana Wynne Jones: Tough guide to Fantasyland.
Deirdre (yes, I know) says
And a mix of names with a varying number of syllables is always more readable for me. Bob, Sam, Tim, Ben etc. all become the same character in my mind and I have to stop and think too hard.
It’s also easier for me if most of the names, whether common or unusual, can be sounded out using common phonetics. I Leary to read before I could talk, and once my mind decides on a pronunciation, that’s it forever…hence awards (awry), and I’ve embarrassed myself with the mispronounced word many times 😉
Deirdre (yes, I know) says
That’s aw-ree for awry – darn spellcheck
I don’t really care, because I’m terrible with names. I’m as likely to forget Beth as I am Cthulhu ( I had to refer back 3 times to get that name typed). I rename everyone. Cthulhu will be Tu in my head, and it get cemented. I don’t even see the real word. I see Tu. Oddly this all started with Tom Clancy and Russian names in his Cold War era novels. And it never stopped. It’s weird because I have an excellent memory for spelling, pronouncing and using words. As long as they are not names. You know those people who say, I’m terrible with names, but I never forget a face? Sadly, not me. I’m also bad with faces. This makes my life interesting when I’m meeting friends in crowded places!
i like real names because my eyes can just fly over them – but also, real names really just immerses me more into the story because i feel like i could easily be part of their world <3
I voted for hard to pronounce but I do like a mixture. Maybe mostly for the humor factor where most names are completely unfamiliar and one character is something ridiculously common.
Eben Gay says
The Joffrey Ballet would argue about a mix of made up and real world names!
I have trouble remembering large numbers of names (in a book or in the real world) and it just gets worse when the names are confusing. That’s my problem, not yours, but I rarely have that problem with your stories (which is a tiny part of why I love your stories so much!)
Hello, and thanks for the question. Names really do need to fit the context of the story. If the setting is in Eastern Europe or Britain you expect the names to “fit.” A vampire story will hopefully have names that sound slightly seductive but also a little bloodthirsty.
Sometimes it’s refreshing when names don’t fit a stereotype – like your Sean from the Innkeeper series, but it’s a gamble isn’t it? Names are so evocative. House Andrews has done well in this readers opinion, by not landing clunkers that make me forget who I’m reading about.
Depend on the world building, I once read a book in a made up world with made up species and english names, I DNF it. No complaint about your naming choices.
My problem with super detailed made up names is when I start trying to read it I just skip over them, and then I find out like two pages later the other person who had a made of name similar to them was actually the one from two pages again, and my mental story gets angry at me for not reading the full name, and then it starts swearing and renames all the people it cannot “say” bad easy to say words. “Fartbucket” was subbed for one with a F and a B in it in the past few years.
First, I don’t mind apostrophes. ::ducking::
Second, I like names that fit the characters, location and story of the book.
Third, I occasionally screech to a stop while reading in an effort to figure out how a name should be pronounced but mostly can skip past it.
Last, the names in IA’s worlds fit so thanks for your choices!
I’m having some tea and reading today. Last days of Spring Break.
I tend to like a mix of names as long as they make sense.
I read a story a while back that mixed English names (John, Sarah, Michael) with Native American (Ag-wah-tee or Ma-la-pu) and also descriptive forest names (leaf, tree bark, or rain). As the story had to do with forest spirits, playing tricks on the valley people (English) and the mountain people (Native American tribes) that no longer acknowledged their existence, that made sense to me. Also it set up certain social views or stereotypes that got broken in the story without having to explain the whole system of interaction between the three people in minute detail.
J T says
I prefer an easily pronounceable name for a simple reason: when my book club discusses the book we are reading, we don’t argue over pronunciation forever and then finally settle on a nickname we create for the character so we can easily discuss the book.
For a different author we read last year, we spent 3 hours simply settling on pronunciation of charter and place names, created a chart with original name, nick name, and who was from where just to keep them strait for the series. Our group is all college educated, but age range from 24 – 76 yrs, so you can imagine the conversations.
April Pickett says
Names of characters in stories. I am perfectly fine with whatever names the author chooses. If it fits the story and the author is happy with it, I am too.
Rob McDonagh says
I think I’m weird about names that I can’t instantly pronounce, though my daughter tells me she does exactly the same thing: memorize the sequence of letters and just assign it a “that person” in my head without ever trying to pronounce it again. I can tell them all apart and I don’t lose track of which “that person” is which. But I never try to pronounce them.
I don’t have any trouble with long names that I CAN pronounce, for example the names in Herun in The Riddle-Master of Hed – they’re very long and typically abbreviated in common usage (El for the Morgol, full name Elrhiarhodan), but almost musical in construction and easy to pronounce. To me, at least.
M.S. Linsenmayer says
I like it when names tell you something about the character (although not too obviously, Dr. Doom is an icon, but we really don’t need 600 of him.)
So it should be culture-related?
Go ahead, if you have non humans, give them non human names. But give your human characters human names.
I once made the mistake of using proper roman titles for nobility in a novel.
Princeps was easy enough, and Imperator, but after the 16th time of writing Porphyrogenitus…
Names that are too hard to pronounce or sometimes even comprehend I don’t learn. My brain will literally skip those words in the text and I’ll assign the character a nickname to substitute. Otherwise I trip over the dang thing and it pulls me from the narrative.
I like names that I won’t mess up or mix up with other characters in the same series. Since my eye sight is going, audiobooks are needed so they really need to sound different…tuck and puck talking to each other is annoying. Trish and Chris saw Mitch trashing Kris. So weird or not so common names I like.
I like best the names that are dissimilar to others in the story. For example: Marc and Cthulu are great, but Aiden and Adrian are terrible for me because I confuse them easily.
the last couple of books that I read by David Weber, 90% of the characters seemed to have Eastern European style names which seemed to consist of at least 8 consonants and three vowels. Please believe me when I say I have nothing against these names – except I can’t remember them and so I have difficulty attaching them to their relevant characters.
His recent HH books have been (in at least one instance) over 1,000 pages long but I’ve ended up reading less and less because the names interfered with the flow of the story-line and so now I’ve just about stopped reading his books. His story-lines were good, but I couldn’t get at them through trying to translate the spelling of the names into something I could understand.
I trust the author to pick a name that communicates how they want me to regard the character. Difficult to pronounce names create distance for me from the character (enforced “otherness” that’s hard to warm up to). Puns, illusions to other languages and cultures, close but not exactly English names for me say: this is someplace you haven’t been, but with relatable inhabitants. Names I know make me feel this is in my world, or an alternate version of essential my world.
I find that my mind does not stop to pronounce names in my head. I recognize combinations of letters that refers to character X, but do not actually take the time to sound out the names. This leads to confusion for me when I listen to audio books sometimes.
Wendy S says
I chose the made up or rarely seen, and I do prefer those but when the difficult names fit the character or culture, then I don’t complain, just wish for a way to be told how to pronounce it. Like names spelled in traditional Irish and pronounced? I can never figure out without guidance. In the end, the Author Rules!
Sharon Leahy says
Smiles and good morning, and listening thru the House Baylor series again … and OMG, I’m at the hospital scene with the bonsai azalea … OMG, I LOVE that bonsai tree scene … I can visualize it … getting that tree out thru the door is going to be a project! That’s just a fabulous scene!
Angela Knight says
Nice quiz! Thanks! I hope the burnout lifts. I’m between books right now, and I’m amusing myself listening to Graphics Audio. Love love love their version of Innkeeper. Can’t wait for the next one.
The name have to fit the context for me. It does not do to put English names in an exterestrial world and is not covered by the history. Names are derived from ancestry and history
I like a mix of common, interesting, and distinctive names. I’ve noticed that authors who are accomplished at world building use names that have a ‘hidden’ meanings that add layers to the characters personas or they might have inflections from their native languages. I like the melting pot of unique societies, races, and characters you bring to life in your books.
I used to prefer common names, but I’ve learned how helpful it is to have a unique name. I don’t mind difficult to pronounce names, but I’ll probably be momentarily stuck there until I can decide how I want that name pronounced in my head.
I used to prefer common names, but it’s easier if it’s unique, since that means I’m less likely to associate it with someone I know in real or another book series character.
Gemma Thiel says
I read somewhere in your blog where you get names for characters. You posted a link. Now I can’t find it. Would you please post that again.
Moderator R says
Hey Gemma, I believe you’re referring to the Fake Word Generator ???? https://randomwordgenerator.com/fake-word.php
It was in this post https://ilona-andrews.com/2022/paint-names-and-fussy-chancellors/
Hope this helps ????
I love the meaning of names. I love when the name reflects the character in unexpected ways. All languages have a break down on what the names in their culture means. All of it adds layers of texture and content as my mind builds it’s images of a character. A delightful moment in “once upon a story”was a mother hell-hound, after puppies & herself are rescued, named herself Pond Flower. ???????? The break down of the Ancient Greek, suggests Hades, named his three headed dog…Spot.
I don’t really like simple names, but appreciate nic-names that get us through life with our complicated name.
When the character is deep and strong, then a simple name is deceptive leaning towards an icon. My poor sister lost part of her name at 14 years old, when my parents named me after my Grandmother. She was called Helen Mary, as some go by MaryAnne, or MaryBeth. After I was christened Mary Elizabeth, she was just Helen. I have always wondered at the psychological impact on her life. I’m almost 50 now, so many other things have happened with all that time, she just rolls her eyes at me when I asked of it.
I really don’t mind. I like the ones which use common English names only the least
I don’t care if they are real, made up, common, or rare, as long as they are pronounceable. Or, at least include a pronunciation guide lol.
I prefer names to reflect human/alien/supernatural being origins and their cultural identities.
Mark Leighton Fisher says
Commonplace names are good when the world is somewhat close to ours. I find them jarring if the world is too different from ours (totally alien species with Fred and Jennifer).
I don’t have one specific preference; I like a whole range of naming schemes. I think the biggest factor for me is that the names feel like they make sense for the story — continuity / cohesion (in so much as there is continuity in the culture — a character from a different culture having a different name makes sense, etc.). Mixing made-up and common names can work but needs to be done well. I do find that names that are very similar to each other, especially visually / orthographically often lead to confusion (e.g. if I were reading about a character named Karnelion and one named Kralenia, I would frequently mix them up and have to go back to check which one I was reading about).
I love it when names matches the story. There was one story that I just couldn’t get into and stopped reading because the characters had modern names for elves or fairies. If you’re going to use modern names, at least get as close to possible to Scottish spelling or sound. I think I tried to read a sci-fi in which the alien had an English/American name. It just messed my visual of him. I stopped reading it. Names doesn’t have to be too long – just be believable to fit the narrative.
Susan Monroe says
I like names that fit with the story. They can be incredibly intricate, they can have meanings, or they can be short and sweet.
But what they can’t be is someone not doing their homework and dumping a name in there that can not be reasonably pronounced, can be mistaken for a common name (as in the author switched two letters to make it sound “fancy” or “mysterious”), or that the author stole from another author for no other reason. I don’t mind characters that are named after literary characters (after all, I named my children after two), but they really should have a nickname to go with it. It should also feel organic. You know?
Lorrie Thompson says
I just love your blog.
Today I particularly love your description of stress “maturing” and “settling on me like a blanket.” Yes! I’ve been feeling like this all week, but didn’t have the words to describe the feeling, which has been upsetting. Now I feel less abnormal. Thank you!
On names — the mixture of real and made-up names (that are in the realm of pronounceable) is perfect, because I love urban fantasy and that makes sense.
Am I the only one that genuinely doesn’t give a hoot one way or the other? ????
Picking characters’ names is 100% a writer’s prerogative, and I have always thought of it as a part/an extension of an author’s world building process. There is always so much more to a fantasy world in an author’s head than what s/he ends up putting down on paper – as a writer, you give life to your characters, you talk to them or speak as if you were them in your head… as a result, as a reader, not knowing why X character is named Y way just adds to the richness/the mystique/ the realness of a story.
There are no rules and no limits in a world entirely born out of a creative writer’s mind, I say – do what you like! That’s what I am here for, after all. 😉
Something else: it doesn’t matter because WITHOUT FAIL I will forget character names
I love names. I love studying the evolution of names. When I write, I like to invent a naming convention, or several, for the culture to follow. It doesn’t matter if it’s long or short as long as it fits the people. If the story is set in the future of the human race, I play around with how names might change over time but still be somewhat familiar to the reader. I usually end up with more names I want to use than characters I have to go with them.
Just a (probably unnecessary) reminder that you are an incredible world maker and that your stories have helped distract me from some of my darker days!
Actually, sometimes I just like weird names, like Cthulhu and Azathoth. (Big fan of Lovecraft’s work, just not the man.) However, no one does word-building and naming like Tolkien. He went to old cultures and languages, so it is all cohesive.
I don’t like hyphen names, like ja’adair and his brother ta,adair and they are sons of the ba’adair. Lol, after a chapter I’m so confused. ????.
I actually don’t have a preference .. I like when there are simple names mixed with the complex names .. I like a little unknown mixed with reality .. I think it’s because I like the idea that even though it’s fiction and fantasy how cool would it be if it was real lol and when a simple or common name is in there with the weird beautiful wonderful and hard to pronounce names .. it helps my imagination
My choice of something else is I like the use of easy names for lesser characters but that can get more complicated as they gain status
I dont really care, as long as there are consistency and rules in the naming. I draw the line at names like “America Singer”, though.
Of primary importance to me is that the names are visually (and for audiobooks audibly) distinct from each other. I love The Goblin Emperor, but it can be very confusing to keep track of who is who, especially in the audiobook. After that, my preference for names is distinctive to who that person is (species, geographically, socially, etc.).
I like names that adds character or has a meaning with depth.
I’m dyslexic so made up or rarely used names short circuit my brain. They pull me out of the story.
I am not sure if this is the right place to put my comment. ????. I am flexible regarding types of names in books, what bothers me is when several characters have similar names so it gets hard to tell who is who. I have seen this in common names, made up names, historical names etc.
This is probably not going to be as useful as you might want. I am happy with whatever names the author/s of any books I read use.
It’s your imagination, word smithing and hard work that makes the books so enjoyable. The names of the characters/people in those books need to be ones that resonate with you.
This post made me feel so much better. Making tea is one of mine main occupations lately ????????
Debi Majo says
Cool quiz! I know there is stuff to do, but take a little break. You deserve it!
I really dislike unpronounceable names. Short names for the most part are best.
I like the names to make sense and to fit both the character and the universe. (Having names differ depending upon country of origin, race, job or whatnot)
I’m not particular about names until I listen to an audiobook. A character in a recent series I listened to was named Benigno, and every time the reader said it, he pronounced it ben-ig-no until I wanted to slam him in the face with a Latin textbook. And this is just one example. I have a pretty standard (I thought) education in foreign languages, but judging by the readers on MANY books, I’m apparently above average even though I can’t speak any of them fluently, because at least I can figure out how names should be pronounced.
I like them all it depends on the book
I’m okay with any names so long as they aren’t too similar to the other names in the text. Having a system is well and good, but if everyone’s name starts with “Tel” (Tellon, Telly, Telvin, Tel Amar, Tel Barron), I’m going to have confusion. Also if some of the main character’s names are too similar.
Names that are difficult to pronounce make it difficult to talk about the characters. Short but catchy and easy to pronounce words are good if you want the books and characters to be frequently mentioned.
In urban fantasy, I expect common names. (Wherein common names can obviously include a whole range of common things, not just common names in the US.) Mostly because urban fantasy is generally set in a world not very far off of this one in the present day.
Otherwise– as long as there’s a pronunciation key, that’s fine. I do hear the names in my head when I read, so it’s a big deal if I can’t figure out how to say them. Yes, I’m looking at you, Ghisteslwchlohm.
I like all sorts of names with the caveat that if I need to remember who is who then they need to be pretty different if they are long and not commonly found on Earth. Reading something involving politics where Ingveldir Estreban the Fourth is the conniving opponent and Isredan Sengrievar is the kindly grandpa politician that might stab me in the back is a recipie for me not remembering who is who and skimming.
Names generated by mashing keyboard and not from any actual source – at least not on purpose.
Flyover Zoe says
I like names with obscure/inside-joke/historical/etymological/important-to-the-plot-at-a-later-time meanings 🙂
I prefer names I can pronounce.I remember reading wheels of time and the names just got longer and harder to figure out how to say them in my head… before internet.. I’m not sure google could help with some of them
Gai LaMarche says
My favorite word EVER is ushivim. I use it daily.
Marian HK says
Sometimes I like two names like in Sweep of the Blade. A family name and a formal name. Or a common name and a secret name (because secret names have power).
I have a family nickname and a given name, and I think it’s cool.
Pablo Alvarez says
I prefer names that have a common linguistic origin that is not in a tongue I know, so that they give an impression of a different culture. How pronounceable they are is not too critical. The common linguistic origin can be from a real or constructed language.
When every single name feels unfamiliar I find it hard to follow the characters or remember who “Xackjdia” is versus “Zickiazy” or to say their names in my head. I’ve found some authors I love will use some very challenging long names (see: Goblin Emperor) but the main character has an easy to say name (i.e, Maia). But sometimes the struggle is part of the reading experience. CONVERSELY, Martha Wells chose very simple names for her Raksura, “Cloud”, “Moon”, “Pearl”, “Jade” and they still seemed exotic and foreign and of a different land. So there you go.
Maria M. OToole says
I’m kind of an “all of the above”. It depends…on the cultures that are being depicted, for instance; on the ambiance the author is trying for; the attitude of the creatures involved, are they likely to be polite, dismissive, arrogant, hostile?
I like a mix of names as long as the make sense in the context of the books setting. The best example I can think of would be Raymond E Feist’s Riftwar Saga. Humans from the Kingdom had Anglo like names, elves didn’t with more Tolkienlike names, humans from the Empire had Japanese inspired names. It felt like the culture and languages of the different peoples was made more obvious by their naming conventions.
names are the result of extensive linguistic research, like Tokien’s Isildur or Faramir
These types of names resonate with me.
Names that are distinct from each other.
Names that advance the story… so sometimes common names, sometimes made up, sometimes from different cultures or linguistic backgrounds. Whatever fits the story. I also appreciate when the author clearly puts thought into structuring peoples’ names and place names too.
Also I immediately reserved The Goblin Emperor at the library (in audiobook per comments) so that suggests something, lol.
I like names that start with different letters. Because I often can’t pronounce names, having them be visually different helps. I end up pronouncing a short version in my mind which may have nothing to do with the actual name. If there a too many name that are too similar, I’ve been known to stop reading the story. I’m a little sorry about that, but there it is.
I really enjoy both of you writing! I am wondering if you will produce more with “Iron Covenant”. I thoroughly enjoyed the Kate Daniels series and moved through it quickly. Thank you for writing such an outstanding series!
Moderator R says
Ilona Andrews will not be revealing works in progress or future plans until the books are finalised and ready to go on preorder ????
For more information, please see here https://ilona-andrews.com/2022/on-being-difficult/
Hope this helps ????
I’m shocked I love wierd names hahaha, thought more people would be with me on that one,
What I love with books and is the reason I don’t really like historical books or biographies is that I want to escape and I don’t want my books to remind me to much of our own world, it has to be a bit different. The more different it is the more I like it. Which why in all your series for example I like less Hidden Legacy, it is different and I love it but not as different as the Innkeeper series which I love. Kate Daniels is awesome because you broke our world and put it together again mixing what we used to know with what’s new. And it was the first story I read where the character knows what their doing. Kate speciality is combat and killing, she knows people, history and mythology, she’s not clueless, she was my first badass female character, love her so much with her flaws and all.
Love your work, when you get a book out I know before I read it that I am going to like it, going to enjoy myself, going through several emotion and laughing at your jokes ????
Bref hahaha I am digressing
I think it depends on the world or genres mostly; if it’s an urban fantasy in a more realistic world then normal names are best, but if it is a high fantasy fully different world then it ruins the emersion if the half demon prince or elder god is named Fred…
I like just about any names so long as the beginning and length look different. My biggest pet peeve is when there are multiple characters that could be confused for one another but they all have names like Mike and Matt or longer names that are easy to confuse while speed reading
While a book with a lot of totally unpronounceable names an be confusing, I otherwise don’t have a strong preference. It is nice if the names reflect the societies to which they belong. If it is one where “normal” names make sense, great. If it is one where other names make sense, also great.
I find that I am reluctant to read more epic fantasy novels because of the time and effort it takes to understand the rules of the world. I hate feeling like I don’t know what’s going on for several chapters. Part of that includes names. I read for fun and often am looking for a page-Turner to take me away at the end of an exhausting day. The more I can relate to in the book, the easier it it to understand and keep track of. Of course, it helps if the author takes the time to explain the world to the reader!! Ilona Andrews books have become comfort reading for me. ????
Several years ago I had the joy of reading a PhD dissertation on naming in literature and fantasy/scifi specifically was addressed. The biggest take away I got from it was that naming characters regardless of how intentional or not it is done has a big element of unconscious meaning to it. With that in mind I like when authors let that unconscious meaning guide them into choosing a name that fits the story regardless of how easy or difficult it is to pronounce the names.
Karen Stewart says
I hate it what names are too close together and they are unusual, so therefore I cannot keep the characters apart like Froda and froisha. Etc…. And I prefer they are easy to pronounce
I like unusual names. They seem to go well with all kinds of characters created in your stories as well as other authors. I think they help make the story more real
I like names that are revealing of contextual meaning. The example for long names and short names are both good examples of this. They have meaning that is contextual to the story/setting. If a name is unusual for us but not for the world I like seeing that. But there have been plenty of times that I’ve read things where the names seem contrived without proper contextualization and it makes me crazy because it will feel jarring to the setting and is then never acknowledged as being odd.
Pronounceable is nice, but nicknames are fine. Mostly I just want my characters names easily differentiated. When they are too similar, especially when there are a lot of characters, it’s easy for me to get mixed up…
I will read ANYTHING you write. Your posts lift my day. We are all in the trenches together in this changing and endangered world. Thank you. Waiting patiently for your next book….
Ruby Nightingale says
Truthfully, I’ll just flow with the author. This isn’t something I’ve ever bothered with UNLESS names keep on changing like if in the 1st chapter the character was Gerald and the next Gavin. Yeah, that can totally throw me off
As per usual with me, none of the above is my answer. I’m actually not picky about names. I like a character to have whatever his or her or its name is given by the author, but a cute nickname is also given. Very cute if they are especially dangerous.
In general I like names to be a mix of cultures and languages. I adore the fact that there are so many different cultures, languages, races, and names on this planet, and adding other planets with more of this just makes me happier.
Christine lewinski says
I like names that are pronounceable, at least in my head, but offbeat from normal- just like fantasy in general. Some sci fi/ fantasy authors base their names ( people or otherwise) on a language (j k. Rowland = Latin, le modesitt = French) which is ok in general if done well. Thanks for asking.
Nancy Longatan says
Two important characters should not have names that start with the same letter. The first time I read Lord of the Rings, I was pretty young, and I had a lot of trouble keeping track of the difference between Sauron and Saruman. They look too similar at first glance. People who read novels don’t spell out words, they slide over them and only go back if the sentence stops making sense. So the names should look different superficially.
Moderator R says
I don’t think we should generalise ????
Kim C says
I like a mix of unpronounceable and pronounceable. It keeps the mind nimble. Plus, I have a fun last name so I am a bit biased.
Another thought on this- I really like that the authors use common every day names for extraordinary people – Kate, Maud, Dina, Sean. It makes me think that anyone could have special powers (hopefully for the good side). I also love their sneaky side with names, Melizard = me lizard, which he was. Ilemina for a hostile prospective MIL. It is all so well thought out and makes me love the books. Thank you.