The Organised Author

Names, People. Names!

When people ask me what advice I’d like to give to aspiring writers, I never know what to say because I don’t feel in the position to give any advice. But I’m a rabid reader. Books are my addiction, and I can’t remember a single day in my life where I wasn’t reading a book. So there are things that as a reader pull me off a story.
Lately, I’ve noticed I’m becoming less patient with books’ openings. I hope it’s due to the fact that I read lots of books and not because I’m growing old, lol.  Books that start with long descriptions, or with a battle I know nothing about, or with a character waking up don’t hold my attention for long. Sorry.
But a new pet peeve has been added to the list: weird, super difficult names. This particular pet peeve happens with epic fantasy books mostly. Too many weird names in the first paragraph confuse me.
An example (completely made up, but close to a book I read recently)
Pdor son of Kmerk was riding his ammurak along the plain of the Antukka Land. He paused and sent a quick prayer to Barmurk, hoping the god of the light would show him the way.
Barmuk, who had saved the seven Nemtraps . . .
By the end of this paragraph I was like Whaaat? I have trouble remembering my co-workers’ names, and they are easy, short, very common names like Dave and Pete. I can’t possibly remember or keep track of complicated fantasy names, at least I can’t. I’m sure there are people who don’t have any problem remembering several names introduced in the first twelve lines of a novel.
The story wasn’t bad once the main conflict was clear. In fact, it was well written and interesting. So I took a notepad and wrote down every name I met with a quick explanation of who was what to keep following the story, but I don’t believe many readers would do that.
Some writers would object “But Tolkien’s books have many weird names.”
Yes and no.
The weird names aren’t dumped in the first chapter. We start slowly with the Hobbits, and they have pretty easy names (Sam, Merry, and Pippin aren’t difficult to grasp). Also, Tolkien’s names have always a meaning that usually refers to the character’s main strength. For Tolkien, the name came first, then came the character’s story because his characters’ names are a story in themselves. For examples, the name Thorin comes from old Norse and means ‘Darer’ which is perfect for a bold character like Thorin Oakenshield.
Tolkien created 4 different languages and studied ancient Briton and Finnish. His names aren’t the same thing of names got from a fantasy name generator or by combining the last thing you’ve eaten with your dog’s name (yep, I’ve seen this done by fantasy authors, and it’s actually funny).
Bottom line, please when you write a story, think about readers like me and use simple names. Thanks! 😋