1. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    My character names?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by rktho, Apr 5, 2017.

    I've received criticism on multiple occasions that my character names are hard to pronounce and distinguish. I was wondering if someone could record themselves reading this list out loud so I know how exactly people trip up on them?

    Zarakharn
    Daktarash
    Kharda
    Sartigar
    Ginzaekh
    Gazi
    Zash
    Fiandarsh
    Khriza
    Davard
    Nat
    Zahn
    Rastira
    Khazardi
    Tegar
    Vizigar
    Zakana
    Narta
    Zakar
    Assirratan
    Har
    Kaesi
    Rissa
    Shanara
    Digdit
    Giddit
    Edeneshar
    Drezard
    Shrakhaan
    Kighand
    Garzvash
    Stakar
    Dana
    Snegar
    Snadda
    Snik
    Kaeda

    This is just a sample of character names from the primary language spoken by my characters in my books.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    The problem isn't necessarily in the names. It's that they cannot always be told apart because the same consonants and syllables are repeated in a different order. And because they do not roll of the tongue like Tom, Dick, Harry, Jane, Doris, and Marsha each has to be pronounced a piece at a time and leaves nothing for us to remember. Not saying you should change the names to Tom, Dick, et al, but the last thing you want is to have readers burning valuable attention span on pronunciations. You don't get much patience to play with unfortunately.
     
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  3. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    When I add fantasy-esque names, I shorten them to within an inch of thier lifes.

    I have a demon called Merihem, she's called Mir, almost all the time.

    I did once try to read some of your stuff in workshop and I was thrown off by the names. I agree with Homer, there are too many similar syllable setups.

    Some of the names I feel I would need to google for correct pronunciation, but I had to google Carlisle when my goofy ass read twilight so that could just be me.

    Overall, the shorter names are easier to get a read on.
     
  4. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    I don't want to shorten everyone's names to one syllable though. My friends don't call me Kim. I don't call the president Don. I've got a few characters whose names are shortened like that, like Dav for Davard, Zash for Zashar, and less frequently, Rass for Rastira, Gaze for Gazi and Ginz for Ginzaekh. (Nat actually short for anything.) But nobody would call the emperor Zar, and he'd never use a nickname for anyone else. And nobody calls literally everyone they know with a name with more than one syllable by a nickname. That's just not realistic. So... what do I do?
    Also, who can't pronounce Merihem? It's MARE-i-hem, isn't it? Did I get it right?
     
  5. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    I'm afraid I must second Apolly's comment. It's actually occurred for me several times with your posts in various threads and workshops.

    Can you see how similar a lot of these names are?

    I once got really frustrated with myself when I kept forgetting quite a number of names of the students studying with the company I worked for. I have always been quite good with names, and couldn't understand why I was struggling. Eventually I realised: a good majority of the students were Sudanese, Nigerian and Somali. All of their names were beautiful African concoctions that resembled nothing like the Western names I've always prided myself on remembering. I had no context or gauge by which to measure these names and so I would forget one almost as quickly as I learned the next. I eventually mastered the names, but then when asked to put names to faces, I was again back at square one (the Cross-Race Effect is fascinating). The moral of the story is that when one doesn't have contextual exposure to something that is notably different to what one knows, there are no (or few) mental signposts to guide and establish consistent connections made within the brain to develop a reliable memory for that thing.

    I understand that you've gone to a lot of trouble to create this cast of authentic and unique characters. And I understand that you've assigned each their name for a reason. And I don't want to discourage you or dishearten you with this feedback. Perhaps there is a way to retain the uniqueness and individuality of your characters whilst still streamlining some of the names for the sake of the reader? We'd be much more immersed in the story and writing if we weren't trying so hard to keep track of who is who.

    So if this is just a sample, your cast list must be very long indeed. Maybe a way to do it would be to categorise the names according to numbers of appearances or level of importance in the story, and then simplify or elaborate accordingly. For example, a minor character who appears on stage once or twice and then dies in battle doesn't need - shouldn't have - an elaborate name that I have to read four times to master. If you have a minor character who only appears once because he's just the travelling merchant and plays no greater role than selling that symbolic brass bowl to the MC's brother, he doesn't need an amazing name. If he even needs a name at all. Call him Ari and move on. Just like he has moved on, already; to his next sale, his next journey, from which he will never return because he doesn't play any larger part in your plot. The bowl is more important than Ari. Give the bowl a fucking awesome name!

    Seriously. I know how much work goes into creating a culture and language with consistent names and symbology. I started writing a fantasy novel once and creating the names was my favourite part about the whole process. But these names in particular look quite superlative to me. Like you've just thrown letters together that don't really serve a higher purpose than forcing the words to look 'more fantasy'. May I suggest alternatives, with a mind to how easily the eye processes the letter combinations and how smoothly they roll off the tongue? Perhaps something like: 'Asiratan', 'Shakrah', 'Kihan', 'Ginzahk', 'Findarsh/Findar', and 'Edeshar'/Edenshar'.

    Again, I really don't want to be discouraging. There is nothing inherently wrong with your names. Some of them could just use a little tidying up. :)
     
  6. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    Longer names are fine, in my opinion. Don't feel that to make them easier you have to shorten them. You could. Or you could just ensure that whilst staying a bit longer, they are set up with logical vowel/consonant combinations that are easy for the brain to process. Lots of 'kh' and 'ae' and double consonant combos will fatigue the reader. 'Galadriel' is nine letters long, and Tolkien never shortened it. He never needed to because it's a beautiful name that perfectly understands the realms of the English language, with simple and easy combinations that the brain processes quickly. However the combinations remain unique, to give it that fantasy feel.
     
  7. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    tolkien characters.png

    Something that stands out to me in this image is how different all of these names are. A lot of your names are very similar, as Homer pointed out.

    Don't be afraid of simple combinations. They look great. Arwen is a beautiful name. No doubles or combos or repetitious sounds.

    Challenge yourself to shake up the length and structure of each name to create very different words. This will improve the readability and memorability.
     
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  8. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    You don't have to, a few of the names are just very similar. It's not unlike having three or more characters named variations of Catelyn. I'm going to have trouble telling Katelin, Caitlin and Kaitlyn apart. it also puts more strain on you, as the author, to ensure everyone knows which character enters the scene.



    It is pronounced that way, yup.the main reason I did that is because people (Like myself) Tend to glaze over names or words they don't recognize. I do it a lot, (Like Carlisle in twilight, I pronounced it car-lis-lee, or I just said 'Derp' in my head when his name was mentioned. I couldn't get a hold on it.)

    This sums it up well.

    I can see that you've put a butt ton of effort into these names, and they are all unique and gorgeous, but I find myself mentally tripping all over them.
     
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  9. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Dune is about drug dealing space fascists, who go to war with drug using space nobles, on a desert planet where people have to drink their own pee from shoe bags to survive, and massive, skyscraper sized worms create spacecraft fuel by eating millions of sandfish, and pooping in the sand. The main character is specially bred space noble/super-computer/space-nun who can see the future.

    His name is Paul.
     
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Honestly? Change them. Sorry for being blunt, but they're not memorable or fun to say. You see those names @ChaseTheSun just posted? Those are all (mostly) memorable and fun to say. This is one of those occasions where you need to subjugate your desires as writer for the sake of readability. You could write the most beautiful and profound novel ever and your readers will never notice because they'll be tripping over all those z's, k's, and n's. Trust me one this one. You're shooting yourself in the foot for no reason. :):):):)
     
  11. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    It seems to me that @rktho has put a lot of time, effort and heart into his plot and character creation. The point of this thread isn't to tell him all of his names should be ordinary and easy. The point is to identify ways to streamline the names he already has. I don't know about rktho and obviously can't speak for him, but if this were my thread, I think I'd find your comment disheartening because it suggests that names don't need to be or shouldn't be interesting. We should respect the heart that he has put into his names. He is attached to them, and for good reason; he is an artist and all of us artists get attached to our creations. :)
     
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  12. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Didn't mean to come across too hard. I've read his stuff and critiqued it, and it's good :D Plus, I'm a big Dragonriders of Pern fan, so I'm actually reading his art for pleasure.

    You shouldn't have ordinary, easy names because people say to. I've critiqued some his stuff, and one of his chapters, three of these names are used really close to each other, and they all work fine. But, in another example, there's a chapter where two characters who's names both start with Z, and have about the same syllables. They have long conversations, and at times it gets a little cumbersome to follow who's speaking.

    Don't change everything because we say so, but readability is important. If this helps, try and picture all those characters up there in a room, and trying to write the conversation between them all.
     
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  13. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Well, Assirratan is supposed to sound made-up to the characters, as
    it's an anagram of
    Nat Arrissa.
    Shakrah doesn't sound regal enough to me. It's the name of Zarakharn's benevolent successor. Though he is only mentioned briefly...
    Kihan, for some reason, doesn't speak "dragon" to me. But Kigan might work...
    Ginzaekh I don't feel the need to change. Ginzahk sounds too harsh to me, which would be great for another dragon but doesn't feel right for my protagonist. And I don't know how similar it is to Gazi beyond the letter G at the beginning, since Gazi is much shorter.
    Findarsh/Findar doesn't sound evil enough to me. Don't know why. Maybe they just have a more elfin feel. I realize it's a one-letter difference from Fiandarsh, but somehow, that i and a together work wonders...
    Edeneshar I could change. He's a minor character. But then his name wouldn't be an anagram of Ed Sheeran. Ah, well, seems a small price to pay.

    I do vary the length of my names as best I can. The names come naturally to me, so they're not all four syllables long. Example: Davard, or as he is more frequently known, Dav, who's Ginzaekh's cousin. His dad's name is Nat. Ginzaekh's two best friends are named Zash and Gazi-- both four-letter names, nice and short. Then there's Digdit-- six letters, two syllables. Rastira-- seven letters, three syllables. Kighand* is actually two syllables (unbelievable, I realize now, but count the vowels.) *I see where people might trip on that one. He's known by a different name anyway next time he appears, so I could change it to Kigan as suggested...
    I dunno. To me, Nat, Dav, Zash and Gazi are simple names, then comes Digdit that's a bit longer, then Zarakharn and Daktarash, then Shrakhaan and Kighand are at the top. (Higher than that is a city name, Skhrahaankar, which I just know I'm gonna have to change, aren't I. Makes Shrakhaan look pretty simple, doesn't it?)

    I think it would be helpful for me to shorten the minor characters' names. Names like Edeneshar and Kighand and (sigh) Shrakhaan. All my generic names like Zahn, Rissa, and Kaesi seem short and easily pronounceable though, so I can use those for minor characters though, right? Those are like the equivalents of John, Smith, and Brewer in my world. (For the last two, that's actually what they translate to. There's stories behind those.) For my generic names, I use two or three separate instances to emphasize genericness. (Occasionally, I'll have a main character, ONE main character, mind, have one of those names. Usually they'll have them as surnames, though. (Surnames are interesting; there's a prefix system to differentiate them. Ar- is the most common as it denotes a family name. Example: the protagonist is named Ginzaekh Arrissa. (His grandfather's name is Rissa Arrissa, kind of like Jean Valjean.) Since all surnames start with an A+letter prefix, they won't be too hard to distinguish from first names.
     
  14. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Oh, did I mention I changed it? Zaktarash's name starts with a D now. I figure that should end all similarity between the two names. Daktarash and Zarakharn don't look so alike when one of them doesn't start with Z. It's in my most recent revision. @Dr.Meow gave some excellent criticism on it. (Based on his reception, my chapter's going to need a lot of work. But that's exactly what I want critiques for. Although chances are I will defend about three quarters or more of all your points until I find a way to keep them or realize I really do need to change them.)
     
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  15. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    I love this haha. Clever.
     
  16. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    And actually, even though the name similarity was unintentional at first, I ended up giving him an obsessive police officer out for his blood as an antagonist... That's in the third chapter, actually. The chapter pretty much takes you through that whole arc in a series of dream sequences. It's quite dramatic.
    Caution: needs heavy editing. At least if chapter one is any indication... :)
    All my chapters can be found in my writing log. https://www.writingforums.org/threads/rkthos-progress-journal-swordfist.151560/#post-1545093
     
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  17. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    I don't wanna do spoilers but I think there could have been a bit more drama in Rissa's wife's untimely demise.

    Though you said that it needs editing so I'm sure you already know that :)
     
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  18. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    It was a dream. Dreams tend to be fuzzy on the details. Plus, since it was just a dream, it's not like it actually happened... right?

    But I'd be perfectly happy to make it more dramatic.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2017
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  19. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Personally, I don't have any problems with them individually. They're not phonetically difficult (I mean, one of my folks has a 'zs' sound in his name, and I wouldn't know how to pronounce that unless I'd come across it in researching crap, so I can't say much). But all together, they do get samey. I'm a speed reader and especially with long, unfamiliar words/names, I'll tend to only pay attention to the beginning and end of them - you know those things where all the letters in each word of a sentence are scrambled except the first and last? - so similar things are going to get mixed up. I wouldn't have any problem reading and understanding it, but I would never be able to actually remember how a character's name is said to talk about them.

    They're far from poorly designed and they give a good sense of consistency within the world. Honestly, I've followed a few of your threads and just sort of glazed over the names because I know it's just not my thing - big fantasy names aren't my jam - but I know that it is some peoples' thing. I think they're probably the people you should listen to.
     
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  20. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    I wonder, if they weren't in a list like this and just appeared as they did in the book, would you be able to tell the difference or would you just get the names confused anyway from remembering the previous names?
     
  21. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    FYI guys, these are only names in one language. I have some others. Here are a few, separated by language:

    Phyandarst-- Fiandarsh's name in his own language, which is dead
    Knizor-- same for Khriza
    Alkandar
    Rishta-- see note about Phyandarst; translates to Rissa
    Dazvru
    Sithicis
    Azarion

    Koroon
    Morono
    Borom

    Mudglubar
    Acbaradus
    Ardak
    Droka

    Drasniligroft (it comes from a Slavic-sounding language, so naturally it would be hard to pronounce. Try reading it in a Russian accent for fun. Dras-NIL-i-groft.)

    Shiju (this is actually the name of a mountain)

    These names and the other non-Modern Dragonese should give you a little break from the names resembling the ones previously listed...
     
  22. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    That's definitely a consideration. Zarakharn and Shrakhaan are totally names I would get garbled together, but if they never interacted or were involved in totally different things? I probably wouldn't be thinking of them in the same way. If they're distinct enough personality-wise, that helps too - I'm going to think of them as "[static noise] who's a dick] and "[static noise] who's a cool dude". There is a definite difference between encountering the names organically and just seeing them listed all alongside each other.

    I have a running joke where I have multiple characters named 'K_r_n' - Karen, Koren, Kuren, Kerin. (I don't think this is a real joke, it just makes me laugh.) But none of them ever interact (many of them aren't even from the same projects, to be fair) and none are that similar personality-wise, so I don't worry about people getting them confused. I also have three different characters named Alex, because I really like that name. None of them ever interact, so I don't stress.
     
  23. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    This one is my favorite for readability and memorability.

    I read this as Mud Glue Bar. I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing it right but it's still memorable just for that.
     
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  24. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    I do this all the time. Or I'll come up with new names for characters who I cant pronounce.

    'Screw it, he's Bill.'
     
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  25. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Oh, totally. Difficult names aren't going to put me off so much as I'm going to go "Well, instead of Dwaxagalakitticutin, his name is now Dwax". Even if the writer doesn't give out nicknames, I'm going to. Too many names that shorten to the same / similar thing is going to be a problem then.
     
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