Book character names– You just gotta love them. Even the ones you´re not sure how to pronounce.
As avid readers we´re often confronted with characters who have standard names. Whether they´re gender-specific names or gender-neutral… a reader has a good chance at pronouncing a book character´s name correctly. I mean, it´s hard to verbally butcher Dylan, Michael, Daniel, Gabriel, Cole or Samantha, Jessica, and Mathilda.
But then we discover a book that has characters who don´t have standard names. That´s when things can become tricky for a reader.
I´ll admit that I belong to those people who have problems pronouncing unique names, especially when reading fantasy. Usually, I just go along with whatever pronunciation I come up with and continue reading. My mental pronunciation of a character´s name is final no matter how often others try to correct me. I can´t help it. It´s like I´ve set my version of a name in stone.
Let the mental name pronunciation games begin ( and end )!
Fantasy authors love to give their characters that extra something. That particular sprinkle of special to make him/her/it stand out from all the others. They could be bold and fierce, beautiful, and deadly… They could kill demons and stare into Medusa´s eyes without turning to stone. That someone can´t be named Jimmy or Candy ( apologies to all the Jimmys and Candys IRL. Y´all are awesome in your own right ). The deadly warrior has to have a name that lives up to their reputation. They need a name that´s unique. So, what some authors will do is either take an existing name and tinker with that or they´ll play around with the alphabet- Creating names 50% of the reading population can´t pronounce.
From what I´ve seen, many of these difficult names often have the letters Y and H in them. Not to forget the hyphens, tildes, a slashed O, and sometimes an umlaut. For anyone who isn´t familiar with these letters or special characters ( for lack of a better term ), any name would be hard to pronounce correctly. It´s a challenge.
But do not fear! Not all authors leave their readers clueless. Some authors have pity with their readers. Some books have a pronunciation guide. Personally, I find this semi helpful. Most books include this little addition in the last few pages. Meaning: when the story has already been read. This means a reader who was unsure about a name spent 2-7 days mentally pronouncing a name wrong. The books that have a pronunciation guide in the first few pages are more helpful.
Unique Names Aren´t Tied To One Genre Only
Unfortunately, the fantasy genre isn´t the only genre that has difficult to pronounce names. We see this happen in romance, YA, historical, etc. Names can sometimes match the setting of a story. If a story takes place in Norway then I do kind of expect to see typical Norwegian or Norse names. For me, there´s no greater challenge than trying to pronounce a Gaelic or Norse name, especially when authors pick the most difficult name known in the history of names. The tongue twisters. The names even the natives can´t pronounce correctly. These names often leave me with no other choice than to come up with another name for the character.
Yes, I´ve occasionally given characters that had difficult to pronounce names other names. I´ve done this mostly because I was fed up with the guessing game.
Feyre, the main character from Sarah J. Maas´s A Court Of Thorns And Roses quickly became Fey. Just Fey. Feyre could be pronounced Fire-re or Fairie, right? The correct pronunciation, though, is Fay-ruh.
Laoghaire, a character from Diana Gabaldon´s Outlander, became Longhair. How was I supposed to know the correct pronunciation is Leery? Laoghaire looks more like Longhair than anything else. I´ve been calling that character Longhair ever since ( and funnily enough, no one has corrected me ).
It´s understandable why many authors decide on odd/unique/special/ancient/made-up names for their characters. These names aren´t easy to forget. They leave a lasting impression. Of course, this leaves me with a whole lot of questions for authors. Questions that´ll most likely stay unanswered. But that´s okay. I don´t really need to know why some names exist. I also don´t need to know if authors expect their readers to come up with the correct pronunciation from the get-go. Still, I wonder….
So, what´s the best way to go about this issue? I have no clue. I´ll stick with doing what I´ve always done.
What about you? Can you relate? Do you occasionally have problems pronouncing book character names? Which name has been the most difficult to pronounce? Let me know in the comments below. I´d love to chat. ❤
Thank you for reading my blog post. I totally appreciate it.