Jan 24 2012 8:32am

Say My Name: More Reading Dealbreakers

Lothaire, Derek, Wrath, Rochester, Rourke, Edward, Acheron—we’ve covered the names topic in-depth in What’s in a Name?: The Importance of Names in Romance Novels and Unusual Names Strike Out in Online Dating, but since the reading experience is such a unique and individual one, it bears asking:

Are there names you absolutely will not tolerate in your romantic fiction?

Maybe the hero has the same name as your baby brother, or the first guy who broke your heart, or your dad. Maybe it’s just a name that bothers you, for some reason, or is too silly to bear (see: some of the Black Dagger Brotherhood guys).

Are names ever a dealbreaker for your reading experience?

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
I'll start the convo, since it was finishing a book yesterday that inspired these thoughts: Not romance, but I am so tired in fantasy fiction of names that
a) begin with K
b) have an apostrophe in the middle.

Each time I read the the name, I roll my eyes. Not what you want to be doing when reading. Not sure it's a dealbreaker, but I'm thinking it speaks of a certain lack of originality on the author's part.
Lege Artis
2. Lege Artis
Ok, I had a problem like that with the Dead, Undead or Something in Between (first book in Rhiannon's Law Series by J.A. Saare). Here we have a bad-ass vampire, main heroine's love interest and she named him Disco. Yup, Disco. It sounded so ridiculous to me, so I didn't finish that one.
And what's up with that name Eugenia in Dark Swan series? It irked me to no end. But that was the least problem I had with that series.
My favorite character of the BDB bunch, John Matthew, has a nice, innocent, H-less name. I have to say that all that names and language that Ward created are kind of silly, but I'm a fan so that wasn't dealbreaker for me. Although, I have to say that No'One made me roll my eyes...
Great blog, Megan!
Lege Artis
3. Isabel C.
On principle: no apostrophes or jaw-breaking consonants. Also no "creative" spellings of actual words or mythical names. These are dealbreakers for the heroine, too; if I wanted Rayvin Darqueness or Angele Emeraulde, I would go to fanfiction.net, where you don't *even* have to pay a dime for a dozen.

Personal: Nothing in my immediate family, which is sometimes quite unfortunate: there's the third novel in a trilogy that I'd really like to read, but the hero is named the same thing my dad is, and...agh, can't go there. Exes come and go--generally I know I'm over a boy when I can read about a hero with a similar name and not cringe.
Megan Frampton
4. MFrampton
@Lege Artis: It takes a really compelling author to pull off a name like John Matthew...I think some authors deliberately choose an off name to prove something, but it doesn't always work.

And one more gripe, which I think I've gotten over, is that my son's name is an unusual one, and used relatively frequently in historicals, particularly Welsh ones. Took me awhile.
Lege Artis
5. KateNagy
I would have a hard time reading a romance -- most especially a steamy one -- in which the hero shares my father's name. Fortunately, my dad's name was Harry, which you don't see all that often in romances.

Blatantly anachronistic or obviously made-up names in historicals are also a huge turn-off for me. Her name is Kayleigh? And it's 1790? No. Ditto for khreativ spelling (Diccan and Rhaechael and Cloee: No and no and no.)

As for the BDB, I think those names both help and hurt. On one hand, Ward ably uses the boys' names a powerful world-building tool. On the other, I will never be able to take totally seriously the psychic pain of anyone who allows himself to be addressed as "Zsadist," and I quite literally came thisclose to peeing myself laughing when I learned that Tohrment's hard-assed father was named "Hharm." So there's that.
Kate Klebanski
6. kklebanski
I just finished a book where the heroes name was Dare (and it wasn't a nickname). I kept on thinking, what kind of a mother names her baby son Dare? I actually loved the book, but a lot of those type names make me go hmm. If I actually THINK it's an odd or unlikely name, it's a little bit of a deal breaker.
Lege Artis
7. Jen11
Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series has Jaime and Jeremy...as a couple...and those are my sister and brother's names, respectively. Creeps me out a bit. And I liked in BDB how she used the name John Matthew, as my first-born son is John Michael. I love the traditional names.
Lege Artis
8. Isabel C.
I kept on thinking, what kind of a mother names her baby son Dare?

There's the potential for some...unfortunate backstory, there. ;)
Lege Artis
9. TElmgren
Well, considering that I'm married to a man named Thor (yes that's his real name, he's Swedish) I'd say that I'm pretty open minded about names. But I think that if the author is talented enough, they can make almost any name work. I'm thinking of Lisa Kleypas and Harry from Tempt me at Twilight. I mean who names a romance novel hero Harry?! Amiright!?
Lege Artis
10. Lafka
Funny, I was precisely wondering if others were sometimes bothered by characters' names in romance novels!

I just read an aticle presenting a book from Suzanne Brockmann, and one thing leading to another I read the synopsis of one of her other books, where the main character is called Izzy. And then I got confused because the synopsis said that Izzy doesn't get along with his partner until he meets his partner's sister. Nevermind the story, my point is that "Izzy" made me immediately think of a woman, so I had some difficulty getting that it was actually a man's name in this particular book. (I don't know about you people, perhaps it's because I'm french, but Izzy definitely sounds feminine to my ears).

And then I remembered how many times I rolled my eyes while reading Lisa Valdez' books. Each book is titled after the heroine's first name, so we have in order... Passion, Patience and, yes, yes, Primrose. Gosh. It reminded me of all the P's in Charmed, lol!

I actually don't mind a little bit of originality when it comes to characters' names, but come on, let's stay serious here. If you give your character a name which is either ridiculous, unpronounceable, or which simply doesn't fit with the gender of the character or the time when the romance is set, well, let's face it, your character starts with some serious handicap in terms of getting the reader's affection.

It really bothers me when the character's name simply doesn't fit. For example, I read a book where the characters were named Lina and Quinn, which would be OK if the story didn't take place in 1815.

And I don't even mention fantasy romance novels, where the names are just ridiculous sometimes. Ahahaha, I'll still remember just how much I laughed when I read for the first time (and snorted in derision and exasperation when I read it again) the name Bella gave to her baby in Twilight. Renesmee? Seriously? My god, poor poor baby! I nearly gave up reading the book at that moment (and given what followed, should have, but that's an entirely different matter!).

Another problem is when one of the character is of non-english origin. I can only give the example of french characters here, because it is what strikes me the most, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one to react to that. For example, in a contemporary romance, calling the hero Jean-Pierre or the heroine Mireille... Uh, no, definitely no. Those are no sexy names AT ALL! Those are turn-off names, you simply can't consider if your character is under 60 years-old and has just a hint of sex appeal.

So yes, sometimes characters' names can be a dealbreaker when it comes to reading romance. If I can't help rolling my eyes, or worse laughing out loud, when reading a character's name, especially if he/she is the main character, well it simply kills the mood.
Natasha Carty
11. WickedLilPixie
Anything that starts with an X, Z, or Q that looks like an alien planet will drive me insane. Same goes with ' " or characters % *. HATE.
Lege Artis
12. BrooklynShoeBabe
I will not read any book where the heroine or hero has the same name as my daughters, my brother, my husband, my mom, dad, my aunt, my uncles or my grandma. Although my real name is one of those "isha" ghetto names, I don't like to read them in my romance novels. Hell, any names with apostrophes, umlauts, or any symbol signfying a foreign or non-traditional pronounciation.
Freedom Ryan
13. fryan
I really only have a hard time when a name relates to someone I know and don't like. For instance I won't say the name but I had a friend that had done some really bad things to both myself and others. Last year one of my favorite authors wrote a book with her heroine named the same. Caused me a lot of issues. Names I would have no idea how to pronouce also trip me up! Worst is when you find out the whole time you read it you associated what you thought was the pronunciation to find out you were really wrong (IE- Sevenwaters Trilogy). I also read a book recently where the heroine's nickname was my maiden name, ugh! Worst were the flashbacks I had while reading to my single years and most weren't good:)
Lege Artis
14. TElmgren
Hmmm Lafka makes a good point. I don't like modern names in historicals either. I am much more forgiving of names in contemporary books because, let's face it, names run the gammut these days. There are people named after dear Aunt Bessie sharing offices with people named Savannah after their Mom's hometown, sitting next to someone named Rane because their parents wanted to honor their Swedish heritage, and someone else named Velveeta because... well who knows why the heck someone would name their child Velveeta but we have two employees at my company with that name. My point is that in my opinion anything goes with names in modern times and the lines are blurred, but in the not so recent past, your name said a lot more about you and your heritage than it does now so I don't want to read about an English dutchess with a Russian name.
Lege Artis
15. lady trudy
Dare is most likely a family name. For example, Virginia Dare was the first child born in America of English parents. That family was part of the lost colony of Roanoke. So I do not think it's that strange. I am not that hung up on character names, but.... I don't like the hero's name to sound more like the villian's name. Roger, for instance
Marian DeVol
16. ladyengineer
Anachronistic names in historicals (i.e. modern names in 18th or 19th century romances) are a bit jarring and cause me to snap back to 21st century - not a good thing. Other than that, nothing much bothers me.

@kklebanski and @Isabel C. - Dare as a guy's name wouldn't bother me in either historical or modern context. It is a fairly common last name, and many people use last names as first names. It is done frequently here in the South (USA).

In my own family, Corner, DeVol, Stanley, Dean, Lindsay, Prichard, Brown, and Shaw are family names which have also been used as first or middle names. In addition, we tend to reuse first names quite a bit, usually skipping a generation or so.
Lege Artis
17. EC Spurlock
Family names don't squick me so much because most of the names in my family are so common it's easy for me to dissociate from them. My sons' names show up a lot in novels but I haven't had any issue with that (in fact, the first time that happened the character with my son's name was a kidnapped child, which made me empathize that much more with the mom trying to get him back.)

But anachronistic names in a historical or phonetically-spelled names in a paranormal can make it an automatic DNF for me; to me it indicates a lack of research in the one and a lack of creativity in the other, which I feel is bound to reflect in the rest of the book.

That being said I'm currently reading a historical set in the 1880s with a heroine named Arianne, and while I wince a little whenever I see the name, the writing is good enough to hold my attention and get me past it, so there is that. (Of course, if she had been a cowgirl with that name instead of European royalty it probably would have been out the window no matter how good it was.)

@TElmgren -- VELVEETA? SERIOUSLY?? Those moms need help for their mac'n'cheese fetish FAST.
Lege Artis
18. J_L
I tend to be pretty forgiving name-wise, probably because I don't read many historicals. However, I agree with earlier commenters that No'one is just too absurd.

Funny, I'm about to have my first kid and trolling the babyname lists and such, and the name Dare is not as uncommon as you think in real life. **Shudder**

Even though I grew up in a Francophone neighbourhood, and have many French-named friends and can see beyond the stereotypes, I have trouble with some French names. I think it has more to do with Laurell K. Hamilton writing the worst French-names character ever (in my opinion, sorry to offend those who disagree) and so many other authors rip off his personality when they have French characters. I don't think I would have problems with French names if the characters were more diverse and interestign.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
19. tnh
What kind of mother would name her son "Dare"?

1. In the 17th Century, a pious one. "Dare" would have been short for an entire phrase or pious slogan like Dare-To-Do-Right. As one young lady of the period was said to have answered when asked for her baptismal name, "Through-Much-Tribulation-We-Enter-The-Kingdom-Of-Heaven, but for short they call me Tribby."

An early member of the politically powerful Fish family was named Preserved-By-The-Grace-Of-God. I can vouch for this; I fell over laughing when I saw that his portrait at the New-York Historical Society was labeled "Preserved Fish."

Everybody's favorite example of this naming convention is the Barebone family. In the late 17th century, one of them, Praise-God Barebone, was a Member of Parliament. He had brothers and sons named Fear-God Barebone, Jesus-Christ-Came-Into-The-World-To-Save Barebone, and If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone, which last understandably changed his name to Nicholas.

You can find more of these names here, here, here, and here.

2. A mother who was proud to be related to the Dare family. Southern families with long genealogies are prone to this one.

3. A Utah Mormon. They fearlessly give their kids bad slush names. You won't believe me until you see for yourself, so go look at the examples collected on the Utah Baby Namer site.

"Dare" is as nothing in a state which already has boys named Auto, Bedlam, Brik, Bus, Chip-wa, Cist, Clord, Corx, D'Loaf, deRalph, Dorwayne, Dude, Dull, Dwodger, Elvoid, Estrus, Floy, Garf, Gloyd, Jar, Leviathan, LeVoid, Mink, Noah-Lot, Orange, Rifle, Shag, Sham, Snell, Soda, Spoon, Sterile, Tat, Thermos, Tide, Verv, and Zippie, not to mention Antrim Zeezrom, Ara-Om, Azer Baloo, Fallis Lonn, Golden P., Iron Rod, Knight Train, NaLa'DeLuhRay, Vernal Independence, and Zaragrunudgeyon.

The girls' names are weirder.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
20. tnh
What names are dealbreakers for me? Ones that are anachronistic, etymologically wrong, or otherwise inappropriate.

What's worse are names that remind me of the character names swapped by literary young ladies who hang out at Yahoo Answers. They're always wanting names that "sum up who the character is", or are different and exotic.

Names like that are distracting and faintly ridiculous, and human beings who are given them in real life tend to adopt nicknames. In a work of fiction they break my concentration every time they're mentioned. I don't see the name of a person in the story; I see an author striving for effect.
21. ChelseaMueller
I'll throw my "ugh" in on the names with needless apostrophes, etc. Mostly, if I have to spend several seconds trying to figure out pronunciation in my head, I'm not thrilled.
Megan Frampton
22. MFrampton
I gotta say--Velveeta? And there are TWO of them?

Although not the worst I've heard--my friend works for Baltimore city health dept., and she had a client named Menageatrois. Yup.

@tnh, I was always wondering about those Mormon names--I've met a few, and they've usually had bizarre names. Thanks for explaining!
Lege Artis
23. RS
My great great etc grandfather was given two family names. His first name was Savage -yes really. But he went by his middle name - Pitt.
Lege Artis
24. TElmgren
Hahaha! Yep! There really are two people who work for our company named Velveeta and unless they forged their drivers licenses it's their real name too. I have to run reports for our HR department, so I get to see all of names of our employees. As a shameless name collector, it's a small form of entertainment because most of our locations are in small, rural, southern towns, and I see some doozies. The first time I came upon THAT gem, I about passed out from joy. You can imagine how I reacted when I saw it again!! I'm told that they're cousins. LOL!!
25. wsl0612
My father's real name is Leo, his nickname is Jack. It doesn't bother me to read "either" of his names in romance novels because I think of him as "Dad" :-)
Lege Artis
26. Nicole the weaver
DO NOT get me started on names in the South. I met an Obi Wayne. Yeah, like Star Wars. I had to ask him if he still loved his parents. And I have heard of a woman named Chlymidia. Gender-bending names irk me seriously. When I first moved down here to Alabama, I met a female Tristan. This was my first clue that naming of children down here leaves a lot to be desired.
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