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The Naming of Names March 14, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in contest, e-books, education, fantasy, ideas, sci-fi, science fiction, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Names matter. In fiction, a lot more than in real life (or maybe not–I have some real stereotyped names in my head and react to them even before I know the person. For instance, anyone named Larry conjures up quite specific character traits for me.)

When reading, we all tend to use a visual shorthand. This speeds up our reading without taking away any of the texture or detail of the story. Part of this is reducing Walden and Walton to the same “Wal” sight picture. If you don’t want these characters confused in your reader’s mind, rename one of them. And, of course, if you do want them confused, leave them with that same beginning letter. You might find this useful in a murder mystery with several suspects. I often wonder if Tolkien had Sauron and Sarumen so named for a reason or if he just didn’t care if you confused them.

In sf and fantasy, names tend to get ponderous and, especially in fantasy, often ridiculous. But short names are more effective and memorable. Frodo. Conan. Tarzan. Parker. Even wehn the names stretch to infinity and beyond, the reader shortens them mentally to the first few letters and often to only the first letter.

So, pad length with long names if you must but consider how readers would actually view the name. Differentiation is more important than stunning innovation that won’t even fit into a tweet. And don’t try to write a story with all the characters’ names beginning with the same letter–unless it’s about clones.

Once more, let me tell you about the contest running until the 19th. Some fun entries are already in. Give me more!

Below is (to my thinking) a goofy photograph. Give it your best shot at coming up with a caption. Funny is preferred, but if you can think of something somber, go for it. Contest will run one week (until Mar 19) and the winner will receive a dead tree copy of “Jackson Lowry’s” western SONORA NOOSE.

So give it your best shot!

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