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How Do I Pronounce That Name?

14 September 2013

From AuthorCulture:

Over the years I’ve found a number of ways names can distract me from the story. There aren’t many really, but anything which stops the reader’s eye and pulls them from the action is something I want to avoid in my writing.

Starting a lot of the character’s names with the same letter. This is a real no, no for me. I read fairly quickly and once I know the characters I’m sure I see the first letter, identify the character and skip the rest of the letters moving on to what is happening or being said. Using the same letter to start each name means my eyes pause to figure out which one it is. As the story goes on this becomes an aggravation which pulls me out of the action with my thoughts going to how the author has irritated me.

Recently I read a Sci-Fi novel in which five or six characters’ names all started with the letter ’S’. On top of that several had the same second letter. AUUURRRGGGHHHH. Why did the author do that? It had no connection within the story. Maybe the characters were named after family members or friends. I don’t know, but I’ll most likely check the names the next time I see a book I’m interested in by this author.

. . . .

One question I have is why do the names have so many ‘X’s’? The letter is used so frequently it’s become cliche in my view. In addition often strings of consonants before a vowel appears stops my reading as I wonder how to pronounce ‘lxrdornsqt’. I made that one up but it’s pretty close to a word I read recently. The actual name did start with ‘lxrd’.

Link to the rest at AuthorCulture and thanks to Eric for the tip.

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10 Comments to “How Do I Pronounce That Name?”

  1. Sauron, Saruman.

    Worked for me.


  2. For a long time it was common practice in Star Trek that Vulcan male names started with S and the females with a T:

    Male: Spock, Sarek, Surak, Soval

    Female: T’Pau, T’Pring, T’Pol, T’Lar

    It worked really well at showing the Vulcan culture as different. I was actually a bit disappointed when they deviated from that practice.

    On the other hand I usually try to avoid using names with the same first letter for my MCs.

  3. I’ve got characters who have muzzles, no nasal resonators to speak of, and no lips. I’m sorry, but a large number of names are going to start with S, Sh, Sch, T, and L, and have “bright” vowels (i, e, a). Especially since offspring have names that are close to those of their parents (i.e. Tarkeela and Neetai’s son Tartai).

  4. Meh.
    We readers are smart enough to keep separate track of a Sunny, a Shelly, and a Sharon in real life so why would we suddenly lose that ability when reading?

  5. I’ve had that problem with David Weber’s Safehold series. So many similar names now that its hard to sort unless I reread the series. The fact he alternates between titles and names on the same page doesn’t help.

  6. Well, when you set fantasy books in a world of Welsh mythology, there’s just no way to avoid being reader-hostile regarding name pronunciations. At least it’s not a Russian novel, I keep thinking to myself…

    Next series, it will be a completely ab initio creation, so I can make the names more user-friendly.

  7. poor thing, had to read the whole word and then remember it.

  8. Good post. Names are important, and the wrong one can disrupt a reader’s enjoyment.

    For example, this name: “AUUURRRGGGHHHH” would totally break my concentration as a reader. First, like the author said, I couldn’t pronounce it, and it would break my trance every time I saw it. It would pull me out of the story. Also, I would think it was funny, which would also break my concentration.

    Finding the right name is tricky. The writer needs to find one that will be a part of the world of the book, but easily accepted by the reader, and not jolt them out of their reading trance.

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