Lv 7
Joss asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 8 years ago

Would you change your character name if asked? And 10 naming don'ts?

Would you or would you defend it? What's your character's name? I tend to choose unique names for my main characters. I'd definitely put up a fight at the suggestion of changing it, or I'd just change it to another unique name that's on my list of unique names. :D

Anyway, this is from Harlequin - you know, the romance publisher - they have a list of don'ts for naming your character. What do you think about this list? Agree? Disagree with something on the list? Any pet peeves with names?


1) You’re writing your first paranormal romance, and you really love the name Damien. Guess what, so does everyone else. If you’ve done your research and you’ve read oodles of books in the genre you wish to write in you already know what names keep cropping up again and again. Be original!

2) Be historically accurate when you’re naming your characters.

3) No apostrophes in character names, especially if you’re writing fantasy.

4) Can you pronounce the characters name? Chances are, if you can’t do it, your reader will have a hard time as well, and the last thing you want is for your reader to stumble over your character’s name.

5) Does the character’s name sound okay when you speak it out loud? You’ve determined that it’s pronounceable, but does it sound goofy? What if your book is selected to become an audiobook? Is the name lyrical enough to be repeated over and over? And does it sound silly if it’s exclaimed? This might be very important if your novel is steamy.

6) Don’t name characters after anyone you know. You might cause offense, even if you don’t intend to, and you might not want to associate the person you know with the actions of your character (and you can get sued.)

7) Don’t name characters after famous people, or style names after famous people. Names have associations that sometimes can’t be shaken off, despite what you have the character do. It doesn’t matter if your Severus is a ruthless shipping tycoon, if you can’t shake the image of a hook-nosed and stringy-haired professor from a certain children’s series, neither will your reader.

8) It’s too late to add an extra letter to your character’s name to make it unique–J.R. Ward has already done that.

9) Don’t use the same first letter for several characters because it can be confusing. As in, did I read Taylor Jackson’s story? Or was that Teagan? Or maybe Ty? Was it Travis…?

10) Pairing your hero and heroine with famous couple names is less cute than you think it is. Laurel and Hardy were one of the most popular comedy duos in American cinematic history. Unless you want to bring a groan to the lips of your reader, you’ll avoid this cliché like the plague.

BONUS TIP: No apostrophes in character names. We can’t stress that enough.


source: top-ten-things-you-should-not-do-when-you%E2%80%99re-naming-a-character/

BQ: Any names that you're tired of seeing in fiction? I'm tired of seeing Gabriel in angel/fallen angel novels.


I've caught myself running afoul of #6 a few times; naming characters after people I know. It was purely accidental, though, and I ended up changing the names because I don't want anyone thinking I named the character after them!

13 Answers

  • 8 years ago
    Best Answer

    Would I change a chatacter's name. Possibly, if the reason given me was a good one (such as it has an unpleasant but moderately well known meaning in another language.) Once an editor told me to change the name of a character because 'it was from Tolkien.' It wasn't and isn't, and I told her it's real origin and the name stayed. (She was an up herself so & so anyway!)

    Asfor the list--

    1)Agree. Too many Damians,Vlads, girls called Kat, pagans called Rowan, Morgan/Morgana and Rhiannon etc in paranormal and suburban fantasy

    2) historically accurate. As an archaeology student this really annoys me. Sometimes the choice of names by a bad author can be howlingly funny. One such as an 80's bodice ripper with a Saxon heroine called 'Fallon'--straight out of the tv show 'Dynasty'! Innacurate names abound in so-called celtic fantasy (esp when written by US authors), and also are over-used (back to question 1)--Caitlin, Ellen/Elen, Beth, Meghan/Meagan,Elsbeth, Rowan et al are not ancient celtic names.I've also seen a Dawn-Lynn in a medieval bodice ripper. I'm reading a book right now with minor celtic characters called Ulf and Frith--both clearly Germanic names.

    I'm not that bothered with the apostrophe thing, but the rest I broadly agree with as well.

    Other pet hates--authors who give their characters cutesy short forms of their names. This again seems to be primarily a US fantaasy author thing. For instance the character usually has a multi-syllable name such as Tallandrica, and they end up as Tally, or worse Landria or Landri, or even get the idea. Very twee. Very fake. (Mercedes Lackey, take a bow.)

    Fantasy names that begin with Z. An unwritten rule of bad fantasy! These names always sound as if they have come from a bad 1950's Science Fiction film. Zod, Zorg, Zed, get the picture.Fantasy names that start with J are generally bad too.

    Mega-girly girly sounding names for the 'pretty princess type'--anything that sounds like Shallandra, Sharona, Shara,Sharina, Sharla,Sharlanna,Sharlinda...and so on. Sounds more like some bleach blonde propping up a bar outside of some trailer park with a ciggie dangling from her lips...

    Names that have another better known meaning. A well known fantasy author had a minor but recurring character called 'Belial.' Now, Belial is a name for the devil. Her character was a 'good guy' but because of the name I spent the whole book waiting for him to turn bad!

  • 8 years ago

    If I changed any characters' names now, it would be a nightmare. When I started the idea, then yes, I might consider it - names aren't important. But now? My characters have personalities that I identify with the name. I can't change them now - it would be way too weird and confusing. Although I have gone through an instance where I didn't write in a story for a long time, never wrote the MC's name down (go 1st person) and ended up forgetting what I had named my character. That was a pain.

    I follow most of these rules, though I do give weird spellings. I do, however, manage to incorporate pronunciation in a way that is not bizarre. I violate 6 every once in a while. I'll be having one of those "quick, need a name!" and end up using one of somebody in the room. This one has come back to bite me, however. I named a character after a close friend of mine, and the character's personality is very different from that of my friends. It gets confusing - I would suggest avoiding it, especially with major characters.

    BQ: Not a huge fan of Damien. And I don't like really strange names that don't grow on you. Other then that, no.

  • Karen
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Caitlyn Brooke- Power over emotions. Gifted with persuasion. This makes her a little untrustworthy... Fairies 1. Layla Garter- kind of a dark fairy. Flowers wither at her touch. She is constantly grumpy because she can't learn the standard Fairy magic, but she learns to use her own dark talents to her best ability. 2. Zayn Torch- Contrary to his name, he has no fire ability. The weather changes with his mood. He is also a gifted warrior. 3. Astrid Bloom- Sort of a psychic, she finds messages in the stars. Great tracker. 4. Chay River- He charms animals 5. Shaylee Snow- Haunting voice. She can charm people with song. She is airy and mysterious. Fairy Academy: Wildwood College Warriors 1. Ajax Gideon- Uses two twin katanas strapped to his back. He relies on agility rather than strength. He is quiet and talks only when he has to. He is hiding a mysterious past. 2. Marcella (Marcy) Baker- She has an outgoing personality and is quite beautiful. No one suspects that she is lethal in combat and has several throwing knives equipped on her person. 3. Kaden Kemp- No one questions the brute force of the hammer he has. He has been trained all his life and knows nothing else. Kaden gets joy out of battle, but he is well trusted. 4. Lark Cooper- An archer. She is slight, like a bird. Lark can climb trees and has stealth skills. 5. Ryu Kaida- Fighting with a broadsword, he is like a dragon. Take away his armor and weapons, he is a bit of a coward. Ryu never wanted to be a warrior. Warrior Academy: Gladiator Institution

  • Hazel
    Lv 6
    8 years ago

    Defend it definitely. Once I have a character name, I just can't change it. That would be as hard as trying to change my own name. Even if it was a name I later decided I didn't much care for, I still think I wouldn't be able to change it. It would just feel so wrong. Unless, it's a side character who isn't mentioned much to being with, in that case, sure I'll change it.

    Sometimes I use unusual names and other times I don't. It depends on my character and their background. It also depends on what sort of names I happen to be infatuated with. I'm so obsessed with names. I have like lists of my favorite names, and normally when I go to name a character, I just look through names I really love and chose one.

    I agree wholeheartedly with that list. I'm so guilty of number nine though. I have a Lance, Liam, and Leah, all in the same story! I plan to change Lance, but Liam and Leah absolutely can't be changed, it just wouldn't work. With one being the protagonist and other antagonist, I imagine they won't be confused.

    BQ: I have to agree with number one. Damien is so overused it's ridiculous. I like to see a variety in names.

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  • Anonymous
    8 years ago

    I wouldn't change the names of my characters.

    Agree with all of the rules.

    Pet peeves in naming? Here are a few:

    TOO unique of a name. I mean some things are fine, but there is no way someone (on Earth) is going to be named Avania Kyteek Rosarial (<----real name from RF story). That's even a stretch for fantasy.

    When people name people based on personality. You think the parents going to know if the kid's gonna be a sl*t? Or a goody-two-shoes? NO!!!

    When people stick to only the basics. Rachel. Bob. Tyler. Rebecca. Seriously? At least give them a freaking nickname.

    BQ: Damon/Damien/Damen or anything of the sort. Taylor is also somewhat common.

  • Amy
    Lv 4
    8 years ago

    I wouldn't change my characters' names -- or I'd put up a fight.

    Once I name a character, I can't imagine that character with any other name. Even if I just named him something ordinary like John -- I would fight hard against changing his name to something else, like Dan, because I wouldn't be able to stop calling him John, and it wouldn't feel right to me to call him something else.

    The main character in my fantasy novel I'm creating is called 'Scorpio'. It's a weird name, I know -- but his name has history to it. I won't explain it all, but in the end, his grandmother ended up changing his name to Scorpio, because that's his zodiac sign.


    BQ: I'm tired of seeing the "normal" names spelled weird. I've seen "Ashaleigh" in a book once -- it was supposed to sound like Ashley, but the author had to try to make it unique. I hate it when authors do that.

    I'm also tired of seeing the name Jacob, Chase and Lauren. I see those names a lot in books nowadays.


    Thanks for those posting those tips, by the way. I agree with all of them (even though my main character's name, Scorpio, might be really weird).

  • 8 years ago

    For the most part, I agree with those 10 don't. I've actually been following them for as long as I've been writing, not knowing this list even exists. So really, the list was kind of common sense.... at least for me, it was.

    If they asked me to change my character's name, I'd feel extremely hurt. I've bonded with that name. It's almost a part of me, of course I would defend it!!! There's only one other name I'd change it to, and I really, really, really, don't want to change it to the other name. Her original name is just fine the way it is. It's the only name that fits her. I don't even remember how I came up with it. I decided on the name three years ago. It's stuck with me since.

  • 8 years ago

    It really irritates me when people dont use #2. Like having a Kyle in 1700s England or something like that. Bugs me to the point that it ruins the whole story.

  • 8 years ago

    Depends. I would fight to a point. If multiple publisher have refused publishing for the simple fact of a name, I'd change it.

    Ps. I like unique names as well.

    Answer mine please:;_ylt=AhgQo...

  • 8 years ago

    i would defend my characters name - there's a reason why the name is popular.

    the name Gabriel is not just used in angel/ fallen angel books, i know of some where its used for a lycanthrope. (a bad one at that).

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