It’s fun to make up alien sounding names, but can you make them pronounceable? A name like Fator is easy to figure out. Not Feignonae. Avoid putting two vowels together—and avoid names like Avignemonsorkei—that’s right, long, unfamiliar names (you could use the name one time, and for the rest of the book, have the character go by his nickname of Avi). It can be played up for humor.
“What’s your name, alien?”
“Okay. When I say Avi, you come running.”
You don’t want to stop readers in their tracks while reading your story. Having them trip over a name is unforgivable—and readers may not forgive you and go to another author. Oh—the same goes for making up alien names for animal and plant life.
Try not to name more than one character with the same starting letter. Don’t have an Eloise, Ella, and Ellen. A good way to keep track while writing your novel is to make an alphabetical list of your character names as you create them and keep it handy.
I created a template composed of the alphabet A – Z. When I assign a character name, I list it under its alphabet letter and never pick a name starting with that letter for the rest of the book.
Care in Naming
Don’t give characters unusual spellings of first names. It promotes reader confusion.
Example: Jhoney, Kathyrne, Sandhi, etc.
Be careful of two things: 1) using the names of celebrities of any rank, and 2) using the names of ordinary people you know. In either case, you could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit.
Don’t give someone a name so unfamiliar that it’s difficult to pronounce. In particular, watch out for ie and ei combinations. With the vast amount of immigrant names having entered the English language, no one knows for sure how to pronounce them—and there’s no consistency. If you’re unsure about your chosen name, reveal it to several people and see how many of them hesitate or get stumped. You don’t want your readers to do either, because they’ll be jerked out of your story.
Using a character’s name too many times is distracting. You can substitute he/she/her/him in narrative. The characters shouldn’t be continually calling each other by name. If they do, it won’t appear as natural dialogue.