Thursday, January 01, 2009

How Good Are You at Names?

I might be the world's worst person at remembering names. I can be introduced to someone and five minutes later I won't remember that person's name. Or, I can remember a name that day, but if I meet the person a week or two later, I won't remember the name. I've known people for years, but can't remember their names and am too embarrassed to ask them.

On the subject of names, if I'm looking over a book to decide if I'll read it, if I don't like the names in it, I'll put the book back down and skip reading it.

I actually had a few hours today to spend on my work in progress. You'd think I would have noticed it before, but for some reason three characters in the book all had the same name of Marilyn. Of course, they were spread out into different sections, even supposedly living in different states, but still I can't believe three. Two, but three, that is very name scatterbrained!

If a novel has people's names even beginning with the same letter, I get confused about who that person is in the book.

What about you? Do you have trouble with names? Have you caught yourself doing some kind of name slipup? Please share.


  1. When I was teaching, I had no trouble with names. After all, I had seating charts. *laugh*

    Outside the classroom, unless I really knew the person extremely well, I might recognize a face but the name -- nope.

    Imagine my chagrin when former students see me and want to visit. In my head I'm frantically trying to remember who in the world they are.

  2. I found out that I use the same handful of names in all my novels...
    (Thankfully, they get changed before the last draft.)

    I know a NYT Bestselling author who uses the same first name for all her heroines-then changes them in the final draft. So, I'm not alone. The difference is she does hers on purpose and I do mine because I can't remember all the character names from my previous books. LOL

  3. LOL, funny story! Try calling one client by another client's name. Now that's embarrassing! So no, I'm over the hill to the max and can't remember crap!

  4. Oops, forgot. I have an interesting story to tell. When my daughter went in for her first post natal visit or whatever it's called, I had to ask my husband what her name was. I knew it but the brain stops functioning after too many sleepless nights, I suppose.

  5. Dorothy,
    Are you sure that was the name you picked? Seems you could have been an easy target for the name switch if he didn't like it. (g)

    Morgan Mandel

  6. When I meet someone for the first time, I try to pay attention and fix the name in my brain by repeating it back to them. And I'll often promise that I will have to ask their name at least once more; people typically respond by saying they forget names too.

    As for names in my fiction, I try to begin each with a different letter and come up with distinctive-sounding names. A caveat: if you don't like a name you've used, don't just do a global search and replace. If you change Frank to Bob, for example, and you have the word "frankly" somewhere in your text, a global change would make it "Bobly." Embarrassing.

  7. Yes, that search and replace feature can be dangerous if not done with care.

    Morgan Mandel

  8. You were just thinking about me, that was the problem. heh heh!

    A famous author whose name escapes me at the moment (I'm exhausted after my company and playing a hilarious card game for 3 hours with kids, grandkids and great grands, said he makes a chart with all the names he's using in a book to make sure the names don't sound alike, start with the same word, or all have the same syllables.

    Oh thought of who it was, David Morrell.


  9. Not only do I blank on names, but my brain will persist on blanking out the same person's name over and over. After a while of it, they start giving you funny looks.

    As for character's names, I try to fit them to the character, but I do have a tendency to repeat the use of first letters a lot. I seem to be attached to the letters J and M.

  10. I'm with Robin. If I can't remember a name, then someone tells me, I won't remember it five minutes later, let alone the next time I see that person.

    Perhaps that's why I'm not fond of books with a gazillion characters or characters whose names sound alike or start with the same letter.

  11. I'm not good with names at all, so I don't usually use them. Haha. Faces and places, fine. I'm a very visual person. Ask me to remember a name? I likely won't.


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