When reading I hardly ever stop to think about the protagonists’ names as they’re usually common names like George, Bill or Peter. But in fantasy novels, writers seem to go all out when coming up with names and they tend to go for the more obscure and exotic. Sometimes they go as far as supplying the reader with an appendix (or even entire dictionaries) on how to pronounce the names .
The question is how far authors can go before it puts off readers. Neither names nor expressions should interrupt the flow of reading a story yet referring to a list does exactly this, likewise names that consists of tong-twisting letter combinations. Somewhere along the way a line has to be drawn to what is acceptable and what isn’t. But writers shouldn’t be too preoccupied about what the reader might find jarring either.
See Appendix Something
Personally, I’m not in favour of having appendices to look up names or words. But fantasy novels tend to have them. I therefore decided that I’d try not to come up with names that can mystify the readers up to a point that a how-to-pronounce list is needed. I’ve kept that up for some time, but right now I find myself writing a story wherein I might just need to include a pronunciation list.
‘Ee-joib?’ Or ‘Eev’?
The story is set in a Celtic world and the protagonist speaks both Irish and English. First I thought it’d be nice to incorporate some Irish sentences in the story. But including the Irish sentences got too complicated, considering there are several ways of saying hello and goodbye – not to mention that there’s hardly anything about the language that’s recognizable to the English reader.
I realised I’m more or less familiar with the basic rules of pronouncing Irish, but the majority of English readers just aren’t. So I’ve had to let that idea go. Instead I’ve settled for using Irish names, the most uncommon one being Aoibh which is pronounced like the English equivalent Eve.
The problem is that once I’ve decided on a name, the chances of me changing it are slim. So I need to find a way of dealing with more peculiar names. Either I’ll have to include a list, ignore the problem completely or come up with a crafty way of intertwining an explanation into the story. Right now I’m opting for the last two options.
Other ideas are most welcome and I’d also love to hear how others deal with these kinds of struggles.