Sunday, October 3, 2010

GUEST POST: What's In A Name? by Ruth J. Hartman

Character names are extremely important. We all know that. But sometimes coming up with just the right one can give a writer a migraine. And you have to be careful to avoid certain scenarios, too.

Here are some of the don’ts I’ve discovered along the way:

Don’t spell the character’s name in such a way that the reader will stumble over it every time he or she reads it. Take my name for instance. Ruth. Not Ruuth or Rooth. That’s a silly example, I know, but you get the point.

Don’t assign two characters with names that are too similar. I’ve read a few books with that going on, and I found myself re-reading paragraphs over two and three times just to make sure I had the right person doing the right thing. Tessa and Teresa. They’re both pretty names, but too close in spelling and pronunciation. Just pick one.

Don’t pick an old-fashioned name for a light and fluffy book. That is, unless that’s part of your book’s humor. Again take my name. I like it, my family and friends like it. But strangers often form an image of someone from a name even before they’ve met them. When I started my dental hygiene training at the dental school in Indianapolis, we were all assigned a Big Sis from the class ahead of us. When it was my turn, my Big Sis called out my name. And when she did so, she was frowning. Why was she frowning? She’d never even met me before. After I introduced myself, she let out a relieved sigh. Apparently, she’d pictured me as 65 instead of 19 because of my name. She’d had visions of having to deal with someone her grandmother’s age, and she wasn’t quite sure we would hit it off.

Don’t pick a light and fluffy name for a serious character. My heroine’s name is Trixie. Light and Fluffy. But then, so is my book. “Pillow Talk” is fun, quirky and humorous. So the name Trixie just seemed to fit my image of a klutzy tooth fairy. Somehow, though, I’m not sure a Trixie could pull off a dark, serious historical romance. “It was a dark and stormy night. Trixie…” Nope. Sorry. Just doesn’t fit.

And I try not to pick names of someone I know. If I like the person, they might be offended if they read my book and the character was too different from them. And if I don’t like the person attached to the name I’ve chosen, well…enough said, it wouldn’t be pretty. Because every time I read the name, or say it or type it, that person’s face jumps into my head. I’ve got enough going on up there, and I don’t need more confusion. 

So remember these words of advice: Always look both ways before crossing the road, don’t run with scissors, and choose your names carefully!

Author's bio: 

Ruth started out life as a dental hygienist but morphed into a romance writer. She has fun working the dental industry into her romances. While Pillow Talk features a dental hygienist/tooth fairy, her next romance Flossophy of Grace also follows the love life of a dental hygienist. Who knew the dental world was so romantic?

Ruth’s first book was My Life in Chains, a memoir about her struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Ruth, her husband and two very spoiled cats live in rural Indiana where Ruth dreams up new and exciting romances. And flosses regularly. Really!

Ruth will be visiting the blog tomorrow! We've also got a review of her book, Pillow Talk, an exclusive excerpt and an awesome giveaway! So, do drop by!


dor said...

That's a lot of things to think about. I would get a migraine too. Very interesting post. Thanks.

dorcontest at gmail dot com

Ruth J. Hartman said...

Thanks, Dor :)

Pam S (pams00) said...

thanks for the elightening post! I know a wrong name can totally throw off things!

Ruth J. Hartman said...

Thanks, Pam. You're right!

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