CWM: #17 — Characters with similar names

A lot of writers—myself included—have characters with similar names. For one novel, I found about seven names that all started with the letter j. While we get these names right because we know the characters well, readers, who are learning them, might mix them up.

Changing character names is hard though. We spend a lot of time picking out these names and get attached to them. It can be difficult to let them go.

I had a Zadok and Zahi and a Minerva and Melinda. I didn’t want to change their names at first since I became partial to them. But it’s more about keeping the readers in mind. Will the readers have no reason to mix these characters up?

There are a couple of solutions I’ve found to this. One: change the character’s name completely. Or two: give the character a nickname.

Changing the character’s name is easier said than done. Name generators can help. It’s also good to write a list of names already in your novel. When picking new names, cross-check them with that list to make sure they don’t match another.

Nicknames work when characters have a name for a specific reason. For example, if they have similar names because they’re family or because of something related to the plot. Introduce their full name, but call them by a nickname for most of the story so that they can stand on their own.

For those who are curious, I changed Zahi’s name to Kasen and gave Melinda the nickname Mel.

This major change can be stressful, but it goes a long way for readers.

I hope this helps!

Want more?

#1 — Using multiple adjectives
#2 — Vagueness for tension
#3 — Repeating words for emphasis
#4 — Common misused words
#5 — Misusing hyphens

#6 — Unnecessary details
#7 — Not developing characters
#8 — The words feel and felt
#9 — Overusing character names
#10 — Adding too many details with commas

#11 — Different types of dashes
#12 — Not using plain language
#13 — Dialogue tags vs action beats
#14 — Misusing commas
#15 — No sentence variation

#16 — Misplaced modifiers
#18 — When to start new paragraphs

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