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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