Nothing turns me off to a story quicker than a stupid character name. Is that fair? Probably not. But if your main character sounds like a stripper, no amount of glitter is going to convince me your story is going to accomplish much.
I’m also one of those special kind of people who, if I can’t pronounce the name, my mind just kind of makes something up and I skim over it.
It’s been confirmed by many of my personal friends, except Jim but he is British so for the sake of this post he doesn’t count, if it weren’t for the movie: no one had any idea how to pronounce Hermione. At this moment my spell check is giving me the angry red underline. Hermione isn’t a word. Heh, muggle spell check.
And this would be “the dragon chick.” As I was reading Game of Thrones (I’m a terrible reader who doesn’t bother remembering what the actual book titles are and refers to all of them as “Game of Thrones”) my husband was reading them at the same time and would ask me “What part are you at?” And I would respond with “Well, the dragon chick…” Eventually he sat me down and explained “It’s Dan-air-ease Tar-gary-en”
We settled on Dany.
And speaking of Game of Thrones…
Catelyn Stark. CATE IS NOT PRONOUNCED “CAT.” Gate is not pronounce “gat” and hate is not pronounce “hat.” But someone out there wants to watch the world burn and it pisses me off so hard. Her name is CATElyn Stark. This is my rant.
But when it comes to naming characters in my writing I am not one to make up names. There is a time (future) and a place (fantasy) where making up names seem to be acceptable. Otherwise I stick with the familiar. What time period is your piece? What location? Look at popular names during that time period and depending on location, look at the demographic. Dutch, Polish, German? Talsma, Szcezpanski, Fahrvergnugen? I often refer back to my school years and think of familiar names which is where I came up with the main characters of my manuscript, Whitney and Evan. Their last names, Vanderveen and Murphy were from the almighty Google.
I would only warn that it would not be wise to name characters after real people and model them in a similar fashion. Your old high school friend named Kelly with blond hair and a little heavy set who was caught banging her boyfriend during her lunch hour in his car might find it curious if she were to read a story you wrote about an old high school friend named Kelly with blond hair and a little heavy set getting caught banging her boyfriend in a minivan at a movie theater parking lot.
You get my point.
Unless you are writing a biography – and if that’s your thing, I’m not exactly sure why you’ve made it this far in this post – and unless you are pulling a Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort maneuver, don’t over think names. It’s easy to obsess over but really, it’s the story you should worry about telling well. Or just skip the name in general. “Who is your character?” “I don’t know. He is a doctor of sorts, just not that kind of doctor. I plan on just calling him ‘The Doctor.'”
As always, the ladies…