Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What's in a name?

Thursday, I will be blogging at Deadly Vixens. The topic will be ex-boyfriends and how and where they can show up in your writing.

Today, I'm going to talk about a problem that often comes up for me...making sure I don't keep repeating the same names or the same first letter of character names. This one is tough for me. A couple of years ago, I wrote a few chapters of a medieval romance with paranormal elements. My heroine's name was Astrith. Her father's name was Alden. Her brother, who died several years before the story begins, is named Alaric. And each one is important to the story to some degree. But, talk about problematic for a reader. I contemplated changing Alaric to Eric, but I still couldn't figure out what to do with Astrith and Alden.

My novella, Secrets Uncovered, is an altered version of a story I wrote in high school. The theme is the same in the two stories, but the plot is different and Secrets Uncovered is three times longer. But, my subconscious mind had a definite idea of who the characters would be in these stories. In my high school story, the heroine's name was Elizabeth and nicknamed Eliza. The hero's name was Jared. The best friend's name was Margaret. In my current novella, the heroine's name is Elena (short for Eleanor) and the hero is Jamie and the best friend is named Melissa. Even the annoying secondary character has a similar name. I had a character named Constance in the first story and in Secrets, the other woman is named Cherise.

And, recently, I had an idea for a fantasy romance series set in a medieval world. The heroine's name is Eleyne/Eleyn. I wanted something like Helene, but I may use that name for an older story idea I had, so I looked up Medieval names and came up with Eleyne. But, doesn't that look and sound a lot similar to Elena?

I have this odd connection to heroines whose names start with an E or an A. I just can't seem to help myself. But, in order for my stories to be effective, I have to help the reader. Which means I can't keep overusing the same names!

Do you find you have favorite names or name sounds that pop up over and over? Did you ever read a book that you could have really enjoyed if it weren't for the fact that too many characters had similar names?


Ms Menozzi said...

I know your pain all-too-well, I'm afraid. I seem to be plagued with "D"s and "David"s, myself. LOL! To be fair, my first few stories were all about the same character, but still... The next epic tale I wrote featured a "Daniel", and my most recent piece, the one I'm shopping around, has a "Davide" as the romantic interest.

Sheesh! What is that all about?


I can't think of any stories that I didn't enjoy because of the names, but I'm sure it has happened a time or two.

I'm glad to know it isn't only me, though. ;)

Crystal Jordan said...

I have the same problem with character names! I've resorted to keeping a master list, so I don't have too many characters with the same letter in one book, and don't reuse the same name over and over in each book. Oy!

Vivienne Westlake said...

That master list sounds like a great idea, Crystal! I think I need one. There are so many story ideas in my head and I find I want to keep using some of the same names over and over.

Ms. Menozzi, you certainly are not alone! Maybe we can get a few of us together and trade names. I'll use some of your favorite names and you can try some of mine. Maybe between us we can get some variety?