Monday, February 13, 2012

Annoying Names in Novels

When authors try to be clever it annoys me to no end.

I would rather my readers spend their time immersed in my stories than looking for hidden meaning in the names or locations, so I was floored when one of my readers pointed out one time that the name Sevren (a villain who first appears in The Pawn) is Nerves spelled backward.

Man, I hadn’t noticed that, and I never would have used the name if I had.

Why? Because when readers see that, they’ll naturally start looking for more of the same and that would get in the way of their engagement with the story.

I’ve seen authors use Angela to represent—guess what?—an angelic, good character, my, how unobtrusive that is. Or Diablo as the name for a character who . . .  well, you get it.

Yes, I know, Natasha spelled backward is “Ah, Satan” and could be your devil worshipping character, but please don’t fall into that trap.

Yes, you could use the name “Marie Annette” for a character who’s being used as a puppet.  The name looks okay on the page, but say it aloud and you’ll notice that it sounds the same as “marionette.” As soon as readers notice this, what do you think they’ll naturally do?

Yes, of course, they’ll start analyzing every name, every location, to see what you, the clever author, are using them to represent. And when that happens readers are no longer in the story itself, but looking at it from the outside in and you’ve shot yourself in the foot. 

Why do this to yourself? 

Just use normal names. 

Don’t let anything get in the way of the story.