Occasional thoughts about writing

Character Names

October 5, 2010

Tags: characters

Character names shouldn't be a burden to the writer or the reader. Some names -- Chastity, Faith, and Christian come to mind -- carry a great deal of baggage with them. It's hard not to be overly ironic or completely lacking in subtlety when you use them. I avoid them. I also try to help the reader as much as I can with my names. Short story writers need to pay special attention to names because they have so little time to distinguish one character from another. For that reason, I also avoid names that sound similar. I rarely use names with the same first letter in a story. A short story with both a Bruce and a Brian isn't helpful in creating characters that stand apart.


  1. October 11, 2010 4:09 PM EDT
    I once, a long long time ago, wrote a character whose name was Otto Forthenback. The whole story was like that, saying, "Get it? Get it?" with an elbow in the reader's (what reader?) ribs. Of all the ways to fail, a fatuous cleverness is among the least admirable. I am SO thankful nobody published that one!
    - Richard Hoffman
  2. October 11, 2010 10:56 PM EDT
    I love it! If I were to start on the ridiculous names I've given to characters when I started writing, we'd need another blog. --Ken
    - Ken Harvey