What a Mistake!

So, I made a big mistake. Huge, apparently when it comes to naming characters!

Face palm


I gave most of my characters in my romance trilogy names beginning with ‘J’. So what? You might be thinking, I love names that start with the letter ‘J’. You might even have a name that starts with ‘J’ – which is fabulous by the way! I love ‘J’ names too. The mistake is having too many main characters that have the same initial or sound to them. It makes the reader confused.

When I first heard this I thought – Bah! Readers aren’t stupid. I  in my infinte
amazing-ness would never be confused by something as simple as too many ‘J’ names. I’m keeping my ‘J’ names characters. So there! *sticks out tongue to the rule makers*

It turns out that yes, I was wrong. Shocking, I know. My first reader did get confused with all the ‘J’ names around the place. I had Jay, Jackson and Joey running amok and causing general havoc and the reader couldn’t keep them straight, especially since they share chapters.


No! No! No! No! No!

But I was so attached to these names I held off changing them, until I gave the manuscript out to my beta readers. Then I had to bite the bullet and rename these people who I knew inside out. Would they suit the new names? Would they like them? This was really very difficult for me to do. I was so attached to these names because I had made these characters, they are my babies.

It would be like your kid wanting to change their name at eighteen from Jackson to Hunter. You would always be slipping up and calling him Jackson when it’s not his name anymore. So I started on a project to rename them. I would like to say though, that if I had just thought more about character names before I wrote this book then I wouldn’t have had any trouble with this process!

I wanted names that still gave the same feel to the character as the names I had originally chosen. Jay got to keep his name because he is my favourite (Shhh! Don’t tell the others! Especially Andy!). Jackson became Hunter and Joey became Andy. Look, to be honest I’m still not happy about them, and every time I hear their names I think, ‘Oh yes, Joey.’ Not Andy, it just feels wrong, but I’ll have to get over it because it really is confusing having too many main characters with the first initial.

I didn’t even realise how important this was until I started looking deeper into it. I skip over names when reading a book, I don’t know if all of you do too? I read them the first time and then if I see a ‘K’ I assume it’s Katniss, for example. Or P is Peeta. What if Suzanne Collins had a Katniss, a Keeta and a Kale. Imagine how confusing this would have been. So even though I’ve changed the names I’m not entirely happy about it, but my beta readers loved it, so I’ll just let it go. In no way am I comparing myself to Captain Collins – as I like to call her – that’s almost blasphemous.


Just because I love it!


I’m much more careful now, and I didn’t realise how hard it was going to be to change the names of fictional characters. I suppose they’re not fictional to me, and that’s kind of the point.

Have you ever made a big mistake  and thought gosh why did I do that?! I am an idiot and I deserve to wallow in a creative pit of hell? That has rivers of the tears of struggling artists that came before me! Okay, maybe not, but you guys know what I mean!

Come on over and friend me on Facebook at Lisa Lancaster. 

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
Gif by Giphy
Gif by Giphy
Gif by Giphy


47 thoughts on “What a Mistake!

  1. Hi,
    You seem to have fallen into that huge hole of creativity and convention…and are busy digging your way …up to me here in the UK lol. I write prose as well as poetry, and you seem to have an edge on the proverbial alliteration skills.
    A friend of mine who is also relatively knew to blogging, would love this. Please check her link below, and maybe that might cure you of your ills. https://madasahatter572.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/fairies-alliteration-poetry-form/#respond
    I have no real advice except;
    Just jettison Joey, jaded Jackson and Jilt Jay…and I married one.
    Nice blog! Good luck with your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: What’s in a name? | Lisa Lancaster

  3. In a book I’m currently taking a break from, I decided to change one of the major character’s names because I had a Billy and a Bridie. I changed Bridie’s name to Mollie, and for months I was still calling her Bridie. It’s really hard! But eventually it gets easier. Now I can’t think of her as anything but Mollie. (Of course, once I finally got used to it, I realised that once again I had messed up again and she now shares her first initial with Miles, my protagonist. *eye roll* It’s not the reason I’m taking a break from that novel, but it didn’t help.) Thankfully, all the characters in my current novel have very different names!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh! I know your pain. It’s like I can only think of ‘J’ names when I want a name with any other initial. I had a suggestion from D. Wallace Peach on this post about making a spreadsheet and put down character names as I go. I think I might do that for my next novel. Because it’s got to be easier then what I’m doing now!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a really good idea! Back when I mainly used baby name books to name my characters, I would stop looking under a letter once I’d already found a name in it. But now I find most of my names online, and it’s harder to pay attention to that. So the spreadsheet is brilliant!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As a writer, I find I do this more often than I should. Don’t know why. It’s like, if I name my first male character Jason, then by God, the next one has to be John. But, as a reader, I get so annoyed when an author has character names that begin with the same initial. Messes me up entirely. Makes me have to go chapters earlier and check, wait, is Bryce the nice guy, or is it Bruce? Yes, we need to change those too-similar names. But that’s not a mistake. It’s just creativity that needs to be reined in a bit. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A good lesson there – thanks! We often learn the hard way to this helps out. In fact now I go further still, mixing up long and short names, foreign or Saxon origin etc to make them as distinctive as possible. Basically because I’ve noticed as a reader how lousy I am at keeping them separate in my mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: The First Saturday 7 – Space, Time, and Raspberries

  7. If you haven’t already, you should try reading ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Marquez. This will confirm your decision on a naming structure. There were about five generations of Jose this, and Jose that, and Aureliano Segundo, and Jose Aurelian, etc, etc. Most confusing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have to say, even though it was tough for you, I think you did the right thing. I always get confused when there are names with the same first letter. I don’t know what it is. Maybe like you mentioned, our eye just catches that first letter and runs with it. Hope you recover!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ROFL , I’m the same with the letter ‘E’. No idea why but for some strange reason my female characters have always started life with a name beginning with the letter ‘E’. I’m usually quite a way into the first draft before I realise what I’ve done.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes, naming fictional characters and then changing those names is difficult indeed. I have a ‘j’ name. I totes understand. We are pretty cool. Interesting. Weird. But not every single character can be in our level of weirdness, ya dig? Some people just have to be more normal. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s what makes a good (or great) story. Normal people make up the fabric of the world. The crazies just add some color.

    I hope that wasn’t too much. I’m I’m a ‘j’ mood.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m with you on the J’s. Two of my kids are Joe and Jude. I have a character called Bernice- and can’t bear to change her name… even though I’ve been advised to. I may change it in the revision. Ouch!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Katniss Keeta and Kale…haaa haaaa ha! Keeta. Seriously that cracked me up. I write fiction as well and I can’t fathom changing the name of a beloved character. Props to you for being open to making the switch.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I know! Changing a name is hard. I had a guy named Lachlan from a place called Loughran. I was making myself bonkers! Lachlan became Kearney. After a while, I got used to it and now the name sticks. Since that fiasco, I now create an alphabet and assign names as I go, only one name per letter. It’s easier to pick them that way in the beginning than to change them after we get attached to them. You will get used to them and you’ll be fine. And your readers will never know. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Awww! I think I’ve mentioned this before, but in case I haven’t, I love having a glimpse into a fictional author’s mind. I feel sad that you had to change their names after getting so attached, but as a reader who enjoys fiction the most, I do understand the reasoning. I’ve noticed in my reading that it can take me a few chapters to actually know the characters’ names, yet I somehow will know, “Oh, this is the girl who is responsible, that’s the girl who is irresponsible, and this girl is their new friend,” or whatever. But I can see how if they were named Jeryl, Jackie, and June, it’d be confusing to keep track of them.

    Anyway, I hope you learn to love the names with time!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Not strange at all. I’ve always known that a good author needs to be 100% invested in what they’re writing about, but I hadn’t thought before that this means feeling passionate about the characters as though they exist in the real world. But of course that is the case, because they need to feel real for your readers. That’ll only happen if you, the author, are emotional about them.

        You’re magnificent! Thanks for sharing your writing process with us. It’s fun for me, even though I wish you didn’t have to go through downs to get to the ups.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 😀 This made me think of you (and many of my friends)! May 21 is the second annual National Readathon Day in the States to benefit the American Library Association, and I found this on readathonday.com. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Enjoyed reading this, will be going to your facebook contact soon… i’d like to have a word relating to our blogs if you don’t mind. – Cezane

    Liked by 2 people

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