Mistake 38: Picking the Wrong Character Names

Author:
Publish date:

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.

Image placeholder title

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.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 17

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a waiting poem.

GettyImages-119430542

Your Story #112

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Self-Published Ebook Awards

Announcing the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards! Discover the titles that placed in the categories of contemporary fiction, fantasy, memoir, mystery, and more.

Greg Russo: On Writing a Film Based on a Video Game

Greg Russo: On Writing a Screenplay Based on a Video Game

Professional screenwriter Greg Russo discusses the joy and challenge of converting a popular video games series into a screenplay and the balance of enticing a new audience while honoring a franchise's fans.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 16

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a city poem.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character fall under the influence of something or someone.

WD-PersonalEssay-2020-WinnerGraphic

Suspended: Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to J.E. Stamper, grand prize winner of the Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's his winning essay, "Suspended."

Planting Clues: Red Herrings That Fool but Don't Frustrate Your Readers

Planting Clues: Red Herrings That Fool but Don't Frustrate Your Readers

Want to know how to keep your readers engaged and entertained with your mystery novel? Let these six tips from thriller author Kris Calvin guide you!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 15

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a blank story poem.