I’ll admit it right off the bat. I’m one of those readers who gets confused with complicated character names. If an author presents too many people, too soon, with foreign sounding or “made-up” names or where both the first and last name have three or more syllables each, I get lost. I’m one of those readers who keeps turning the pages back and forth to figure out “who is whom” in a book. This is one of the reasons I still like paper books over electronic. It allows me quickly to flip pages and chapters back and forth, so that I can keep up.
I think as authors we try to be too cute, or ingenious, and forget there are people who need to follow what we’re writing. Maybe I’m too cautious, though. In my novels, I like easy names. In my books, I’ve used Mike, John, Steve and Josh. Sometimes I get a little “crazy” and use Patricia, Kira or Kelsey. But they’re still not too complicated. Some people have skeptically asked me how I choose my names and frankly, it’s not a very in-depth process for me. I think of a name and use it. Pretty simple.
The problem with simple is that sometimes I’ll give folks similar names and my editor, Denise Vitola, calls me on it. I have a Desmond and Dave in my recent WIP and she said, “You need to change their names.” I couldn’t understand why. She said “When a reader is dealing with a number of characters, names that begin with the same letter, or that sound similar, tend to be confusing. Keep them separated in the reader’s mind by giving them unique names.” Problem is, to me they sounded unique and different, but I bowed to her. Dave became Logan… (though poor Logan was in the chapters that were all the back story flashbacks in the book and got relegated to the cutting room floor in the edits)
I read a great article by Brian Klems from Writer’s Digest on The 7 Rules for Picking Character names for Fictional Characters. Of course, I found this after I wrote my books, but I’m going to save it and go back to it because I think it’s really helpful. Here’s the link if you’re interested. http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-7-rules-of-picking-names-for-fictional-characters
Time to reread the novel and get rid of some of those easy names… I always wanted to use the name Harry. Too easy? Nah….