Common writing mistakes #17

#17 — Characters with similar names

Lately, 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 getting attached to them. Sometimes, hours pass as we come up with names for our fictional worlds. 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!

DARE TO CONTINUE?
#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
#19 — STARTING SECTIONS WITH PRONOUNS
#20 — SMALL, REPEATING PHRASES

7 thoughts on “Common writing mistakes #17

  1. Wow, wow, wow, what a helpful post! I’m now gonna have to read the other 16 to ensure I’m upto date with these useful writing tips. I’m one of those persons who ‘really!’ confuse characters’ names. In fact, for one of my books, readers have been asking me why I used the names Okayo and his son Osayo, and Agola for a woman and her inlaw Ogola (a man). I’m thinking of changing but I find it hard since the novel is as long as 300pgs and these are the major and outstanding characters. Perhaps nicknames will do then. Thanks. In my next works, I’ll have to be more careful. 💖💖💖

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, it does help clarify the names given to characters. Also, apart from similar names, when the names are too difficult to mention it tend to reading difficult. So if writers could choose simple name for the character that would be great.

    Liked by 1 person

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