Mistake 38: Picking the Wrong Character Names

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: Readers have to remember your characters’ names. Not just remember them, but be able to tell characters apart from each other. The reader shouldn’t trip over a name every time she reads it. For example, in your science-fiction novel, don’t give the alien antagonist a name consisting of fourteen consonants that could never be pronounced. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien
kept all the names relatively short and easy to pronounce, even though he had invented a fantasy world and fantasy creatures.

The solution:
As we’ve discussed, give names only to characters who are important to the story, and make sure each name you do use fits the character. If you have a “hard” character, then the name should be hard. Private investigators tend to have names that you bounce off of. A seductress would have a name that draws you in.

Try to avoid giving different characters names that start with the same letter unless you have a specific reason for doing so. It wasn’t by chance that Tolkien picked the names Sauron and Saruman. The latter, to his demise, was trying to emulate and become the former. But normally
alliteration is not a good thing. List out the letters of the alphabet, then put the names of your characters in place, with only one per letter.

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