What’s the big deal about character naming? Confusing readers with character names that are too similar to each other might make a reader stop reading your book. Here’s why…
Imagine one morning over coffee, you’re reading a book. A mystery. The storyline is strong. The characters are interesting.
You’re about a quarter of the way in and the unforgivable happens. You get confused and have to re-read a section. You read on, so yes you forgave the author because you like the story.
In the next scene, the same issue happened.
This reading experience happened to me. I love to read, so I’m always sad when something is wrong with a story. In this case it was character naming.
In one scene, a sheriff and his young deputy are questioning an older woman and her young nurse. The nurse’s name is Maggie. The deputy’s name is Molly. Two young women. Two names starting with M. Halfway through the scene one of the characters put her hand on the older woman’s shoulder. I thought, “Why would the deputy be so personal?” I had to go back and check which character had touched the woman.
In the next scene, the older sheriff and the deputy interview an older man. A man who was previously a sheriff. Two older men with the same career. Here we have Wilson and Wyatt. Again I had to check who was speaking.
This was frustrating. A little bit of editing would have fixed this problem.
Now I have to decide if I’ll invest more time in the book or give up. It’s shame because it’s a good story.
If the author had used Fictionary, here’s what he/she would have seen. I used my WIP in Fictionary and added the character names for illustration. The screenshot below lists the characters in each scene.
You can see Maggie and Mollie one after another and in the next scene Wilson and Wyatt. Seeing your characters listed in connection to a scene will help you eliminate the confusion of having names within your story that are too similar to one another.
Hopefully, this tip helps you edit your work in progress and make it a better experience for your readers. I’d love to hear how you deal with the character naming issue.