Name Theory: Bad Names Ruin Books

Character names matter.


At least, they matter to name geeks like me.

Now when I read book descriptions the names help me make the decision of whether I should read the book or not, of whether the names will work or whether they will distract me.

A friend of mine suggested Book Bub to me, and I’ve been getting daily e-mails with recommendations of free downloadable books. As I read through the book’s descriptions, and their reviews, trying to think if I would enjoy the book enough to let it take up space on my iPhone, one of the things I look at are the character names.

Sometimes the names help. Sometimes the names are so good I want to read about that character. This doesn’t happen very often.

Sometimes the names are a definite hindrance. Sometimes I know the stupid and “out of character” names will only make a bad—or even a decent—book that much worse. This happens more often than I can believe. (I sometimes want to yell at the descriptions, “Seriously? That’s ridiculous! That’s the most unbelievable/krazy kre8ive/wrong for the time and or place name possible!”)

Sometimes the names as silly and wrong, but if the book is silly and just a “for fun” read it doesn’t matter so much. Sometimes the names remind me to not take the book too seriously (especially if it was FREE!).

Names do matter to me, and I’m sure they matter to a lot of readers—if only subconsciously.

For example, I am currently waiting for the third book in a trilogy I’m reading to come out. I love the series, which is a sort of dystopian young adult series with some excellent book covers. And I love, love, love the heroine’s name. But… the two love interests’ names are wah-wah. To say they disappoint me would be an understatement. It’s more like every time I read them I think yuck and I want to shake the writer and yell, “Why?”

I still can’t decide who the heroine of that series will end up with. I think it’s going to be the one with the stupider name, but I really hope it’s the one with the trite name (the one that’s been given to a dozen love interests before). I just can’t stand the one with the bad name, and I think it makes me think of him as an even bigger jerk than the writer intended to write him as. Maybe she doesn’t even think he’s a jerk at all, but I really do. That name has ruined everything good about that character for me.

So, please, if you plan to publish your novel, think carefully about your names. Give the hero/love interest a sexy or rugged or kind name, and leave the questionable names for side characters. The name you chose may just decide who your readers’ root for, and whether or not the potential reader will even pick up your book at all!


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