How Do You Feel About Character Names?

February 20, 2016 Discussions 12

You can tell a lot about a character, based on the name the author chose. I love seeing all the different names, but sometimes a character name will actually turn me off on the book. And of course, there are character names that make me want to read the book just because one of the characters has that name! Like, if there’s a character named Arianna, Belladonna, Sebastian, Aiden, Braedyn and others. I really love those names and don’t come across them much. So when I see a book that has a main character with one of those names, I have to pick it up and see if the rest of the book appeals.

I love when authors use more unusual names, or at least unusual to me. Like, I loved Hermione in Harry Potter. I’d never heard of that name before, but it looked pretty and was different, so it actually made it easy to remember. Vanyel from the Valdemar series is another one I loved at first sight.

But then there are some names that I didn’t really like. I’m not sure if they were too odd, or just some kind of intuition that I wouldn’t enjoy the character. Like Azra from Becoming Jinn, and Aza Ray from Magonia. I didn’t click with the character or the world in either of those books.

Unpronounceable names irk me. Sometimes they’re really pretty looking, and sometimes you love the world and the character so much! But not having any idea whatsoever how to pronounce the name drives me crazy. I find myself calling the character “girl” or “guy” in my head. Like Agnieszka from Uprooted. I really liked the book, but couldn’t for the life of me, come up with even a shortened nickname type of idea for her.

I also like older spellings of more common names. Like Nikolas instead of Nicholas. Jaysen instead of Jason, etc. I’m not entirely sure why, as some of the more modern spellings drive me up a wall sometimes. (Like Vyktorya instead of Victoria; Catheronn instead of Catherine or Katherine; Jessyka instead of Jessica…)


What names do you love seeing in books? Any that you hate on sight? How do you handle characters with unpronounceable names? Are there any names that make you want to read the book, JUST because that name is a character in it?

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12 Responses to “How Do You Feel About Character Names?”

  1. Laura

    I read a lot of fantasy, and I think especially in that genre names are so important. For one thing they have to be pronounceable, because I don’t like when I’m reading and have to keep skipping over their name in my head because I have no idea how it’s pronounced!
    I like unusual spellings of more ordinary names too, and I always loved the name Hermione in Harry Potter too, especially seen as so many of the other main characters (including those who were brought up by wizards as opposed to Muggles like she was) have such ordinary names eg. Harry, Ron, Fred, George etc.
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    • SilvaraWilde

      Yes! It was perfect that with so many more ordinary names, there were a few more unusual ones in the Harry Potter books. I’ve seen it the other way around too, and that always makes me giggle. Where a book will have all these neat unusual or made up names (though easy to pronounce), and then suddenly we’ll get a super common name like Tom or Jane thrown into the mix.

  2. Cait @ Paper Fury

    Ooh, I really don’t like names I can’t spell. Like Agnieszka. *winces* Like I get not being able to say them, I’m okay with that, but when I CAN’T EVEN SPeLL THE NAME…it makes reviewing very hard. And talking about the book. I honestly just go “and the girl from Uprooted”. xD Because her name is…nope. But thennnn, it is a cultural thing too, right? *sighs* I also hate Celaena Sardothien’s name. I never know how to spell Celaena (or Celeana?) So I’m actually not a fan of alternate spellings of normal names. xDXD

    OMGGG But I do so love when a name I used to hate because one I love because of an awesome character. :’) Like I never liked the name “Cole” until I read Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. <333 Now I will name my firstborn goldfish Cole because REASONS. :')
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    • SilvaraWilde

      *whispers* I had to google to find the spelling of her name…. *lol* And I totally get cultural names, but at least let us know how they’re pronounced, or give us something that’s easy to make a nickname out of. Having a character who’s name honestly just looks like a jumble of letters doesn’t make me want to read it as much as if the character had a name I could remember/pronounce.

      Firstborn goldfish?? I did not know you were a fish breeder! Or is that, a soon-to-be fish breeder? *ponders*

  3. Tiffany @ The Bookish Thought

    I really hate unpronounceable name! Like Celaena, for example. Everytime I read her name somewhere, I always call her ‘Cal’ in my head because I’m too lazy to read her name xD I like unique but pretty name too. Up until this point, I never know anyone name Hermione, but I really think it’s pretty 🙂 Anyway, great discussion! <3

    • SilvaraWilde

      Hermione is from Harry Potter, she’s still the only character or person I’ve ever read/met with that name. So super unique I guess? And yes! Celaena Got me at first too, but at least I can shorten it to ‘lena as something to call her in my head/while reading.

  4. Sara@LibraryHuntress

    Ha, yeah I ‘rename’ characters that have difficult names too, crazy hard names drive me nuts! I also don’t like super common names though. Seriously I think half the romance books I’ve read use the name ‘Luke’ for the male protagonist :p And along with that, I dislike dated names used in newly released books. Not wanting to offend anyone here, but when the main character of a contemporary romance is named something like Sally or Wanda, it just doesn’t sit right with me lol. I do like the older ‘classic’ names like Olivia, Penelope, Emma etc.
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    • SilvaraWilde

      I can totally understand that with romance books. I don’t tend to read many straight romances anymore, usually they’re fantasy or sci-fi, so I don’t have the ‘name doesn’t fit the era’ problem much. But I do remember when I used to read them in high school, it seemed like 90% of the main characters had the same or similar names. And it was obnoxious because I never could figure out if I’d read a book or not since plot isn’t always original in them either! (At least, back then it wasn’t?) Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Sara L.

    I think names can make or break a story world’s believability. Pronunciation can be an issue (though I honestly didn’t have a problem with Uprooted’s character names, even Agnieszka’s), but for me it’s more about consistency. I like it when a story world has separate “naming conventions” for the world’s different races or cultures. You always know a Dwarf from a Elf or a Hobbit in Middle Earth just by seeing their names, because Tolkien had different conventions that gave each race a unique tone or feel language-wise. But if a story world features characters whose name feel like they’ve been picked out of a hat, then the world feels less real to me.

    It’s a little different from what you were talking about above, but that’s my biggest feeling when it comes to character names in fantasy stories. 😉 Great topic, btw!
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    • SilvaraWilde

      I do love that about Tolkien’s world and races. But if I love a character or find the world interesting, I can easily ignore small inconsistencies. Like, I won’t even notice if the names seem ‘random’, it only really registers when it’s obvious there is some kind of system to the names.

      Or if it’s just something that totally doesn’t fit. Like a troll named Melissa. Or something so generic that I’m left wondering if the author tried at all. Disney naming a fox in one of the movies Vixen comes to mind… *laughs* Thanks for stopping by!

    • SilvaraWilde

      It also drives me crazy if I manage to come up with a pronunciation for a strange name, get used to saying it in my head, and then at the very end of the book, there’s a pronunciation guide for the character names. 90% of the time, I end up saying it a different way than the author intended, and by then of course it’s been cemented in my brain my way. *laughs*

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