When are character names too unusual?

caution tape over doorI seem to like the most unusual names for my characters. In an earlier novel I was working on I had a female protagonist named Hero. In Driftwood Island, I had Alley, as in the small side street. Along with her friends Cherry and Champaign. Even in Monster in the Basement, which out of all my books has the most average names,  I still had Archer Lee Grant Garfield Haversham the third. Though, he just went by Archer.

I’m not really sure why I like odd names for my characters. Maybe because I personally have such an average, forgettable name?

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Like a tiny island lost at sea, is the character name way out there?

Whatever the reason, I often go tiptoeing along the borderline of “too weird to work” for my character names. And in the book I’m working on now, I have a character that is hanging on a cliff’s edge by a fingernail. At any moment, ready to drop into the “Just too weird to be believable” category.

He’s the co-protagonist and love interest, a snobby vampire librarian, and his full name is Saint Crispin Saint Paul Saint James. Of course, typing all that out throughout the manuscript would be a royal pain so he’s Crispin St. James for short.

I don’t know why, but part of me really likes the name. There’s something old fashioned, and formal about it. I can imagine that name popping up in a Shakespearian play. And another plus about it is I can’t think of a single other book character that has a name like Crispin. Original names stick out a bit, don’t they?

Then there is the question of, how much weird is too weird? To me a name like Saint Crispin Saint Paul Saint James isn’t that unusual, but to others, it might be way out there. It’s always a difficult balance between expressing your own artistic tastes and writing something readers would like. My rule of thumb is: Name them whatever the heck I want, and then let the Beta readers comment if they think the name is too distracting.

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Character names make things colorful!

How do you know when you’re being too artistic with your character naming? Have there ever been unusual names that you just loved but couldn’t use? Please share them in the comments area below.

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4 thoughts on “When are character names too unusual?

  1. I too, usually prefer to go with unusual character names. For me, the more important the character, the stranger the name. Whenever I find a name I like, I note it down, so I end up with a large list of names I choose from when the time comes to create a new character. I want names that the reader will remember, and anything too common may be forgettable.
    On a side note, I really like the names Cherry and Champaign, especially the latter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you like interesting names for characters. I really liked the names Cherry and Champaign too. They ended up being really fun characters to write. I also keep a list of names and I add to it whenever I find another good name. Just the other day while riding the bus I met a little girl named Oiya. I thought her name was so charming, I wrote it down. But I don’t have any character at the moment that the name would fit, maybe you could use it? I want the name to have a good home.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amanda, I love your character names! They sound like poetry, with rhythm and alliteration. And just think about writers like Dickens. Who can forget Uriah Heep, Magwitch, or Mr. Gradgrind. Also soap operas have long used names like “Blaze” and “Rush.” Some traditional Native American name are evocative, e.g. Wilma Mankiller. I say, keep it up. You obviously have a talent for doing this. I think it’s one of your strengths and I’d hate to see you give it up.
    Lida

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I really do like having fun with my character names. And you’re right, classics, soap operas, and Native American names can be really memorable too. So, though my character names might be a little odd, at least I’m not the only one that likes them that way.

      Like

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