Naming Names

When I write, I have a bad habit of using the same names for my imaginary characters. For some unknown reason, I continually name my adult males “Henry,” my adult females “Sally,” and my young boys “Jimmy.” I don’t seem to have a particular name for young females; I’m not sure why.

Using different names is especially important if you’re a short story writer and compiling stories into books. After re-reading my most recently edited stories that I divided into two books, I discovered I had used names twice, sometimes three times. My editor had caught instances of identical names and questioned me. In one story, I even used Henry for both a human and a horse. In another two stories, both about elderly women and men, I had named the man Abner in both stories. “Are they the same Abners?” my editor asked. Um, no.

In another instance, just before one of my novellas went to press by a small publisher, I discovered I had used the name “Sally” for both the prostitute and the murdered lawyer. Another yikes! That editor, however, didn’t catch the error; thankfully, I did.

If short stories are published individually, names probably wouldn’t be a problem, but when stories are grouped together and a reader comes across identical names, one confusedly might wonder whether they are the same people and the stories are related.

As a result, I have now made it a strict practice to never ever use the same name twice. I have a handy dandy name generator site bookmarked so I can always find a different, suitable name.

And that’s my advice to you today!


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