Say What? Goofy Character Names

Miss Crankypants loves to read a good novel. Until she gets to the character’s names. The problem? Inevitably, the author chooses some fancy-schmancy title for the main character–one with at least five syllables, such as Miss Daisy-rumpus-dilly-umpus Aardvark Jones.Then, in the next sentence that mouthful is reduced to a simple monosyllabic nickname, like Gert or Chuck. Why do authors feel obligated to give us the character’s full legal name if they never use it?
And what’s up with giving characters monikers nobody can pronounce? Miss Cranky confesses that when she runs across these tongue-twisters, she mentally just says, Pzzwwllffblelrink.
As a species, novelists seem intent on creating the most unusual, gobstopping names they can think of. This trend has a notable exception: one of Miss CP’s cronies has a habit of naming all her characters one syllable names. She’s done this with so many characters, I think she’s down to SPIT or BIC or RUG. Now that makes sense!
Miss CP is of the persuasion that one should strive to name a character something memorable but pronounceable. Save the cutesy titles for the cats!
If you decide to hang GOETHE on your poor lead character, don’t come crying to Miss Crankypants when readers call you up to say, “I didn’t get why Gert was so sad.” This character was sad because nobody could pronounce her name!
You remember how humiliating it was, when in 3rd grade your teacher mispronounced your last name of BOEGER, and all your classmates still call you BOOGER at the class reunions. In her youth, Miss CP herself was the unfortunate recipient of a silly-sounding last name, a name which heaped shame upon her head until she swapped it for a better handle at marriage. Back then nobody had heard of a certain football coach at Oklahoma with the same last name, so Miss Cranky truly suffered at the hands of the bully of fourth grade Ricky Crapdecker.
Be kind to your characters, people! Let’s stop naming them impossible names. What’s wrong with a Billy or Kathy or a Suzie now and again?
You can totally see how poor Gert might hold a grudge and want to loosen a couple of teeth as payback. Miss Crankypants isn’t quite as violent, and like most writers, gets revenge by naming characters handles that she has a personal issue with. But if you know where Ricky Crapdecker lives, I’ve got a knuckle sandwich for the dude. Pzzwwllffblelrink!

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

4 comments on “Say What? Goofy Character Names

    • Miss Crankypants thinks you’re the best! She wishes she could find ol Ricky Crapdecker and give him what for. Hope you’ll stop by often, and tell your friends! Miss CP aka Linda

  1. Can’t sleep so I’m reading old blogs–kind of sad, eh?

    Anyway, must comment here that names are a fascinating topic. Sometimes real names are the unbelievable. As in Ima Hogg, wealthy heiress from the South. I think her father was a Senator–Senator Hogg. But if I tried to name a character that, I’d be drummed out of the writer’s union for ridiculous naming. Often life is more outrageous than fiction. Just saying.

    • I actually know someone, surname Case,who named her son Justin. Cruel! In my youth I also had heard that Ima had a sister: Yura. Not sure if it’s true, though. Write on! Miss CP aka Linda

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