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Anyone else have trouble keeping the names straight when reading a story?

BearBear

Troubadour
Especially with unusual names (like a story with all Japanese names, I sometimes can't even tell gender.)

I get lost...
 

pmmg

Vala
I attempt to get the names right but if they are too hard they just blend. I start to read them as ‘that character who name starts with s’ and ‘that one with a t’.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
And this is the reason I keep the names of the major characters in my stories on the short and simple side.
 

pmmg

Vala
I read a 2 part story once where the MC went from a very europeanized setting where the names where Thomas and Roderick, to a nomadic desert one where the names were all so hard to sound out, I just gave up. I ended up not finishing it cause all the characters were too hard to sort out. One characters names Aghazemaer'reia' and another names Agtheosa'sare'e was just too confusing. I actually very much liked it up till then.
 

Finchbearer

Minstrel
Especially with unusual names (like a story with all Japanese names, I sometimes can't even tell gender.)

I get lost...
I’ve read quite a lot of Japanese fiction, and it sometimes takes me the first few chapters to understand who everyone is and their ‘genders’, because I’m not Japanese and not familiar with all the common names, but after that initial start I’m good to go.

Same with any fiction that is in another language or culture really.

As far as fantasy goes, again it depends on the book, but mostly fine with names when they echo ‘Eurocentric norms’.

When writing, I’m European, so even if I’m making a name up, it probably makes sense to another European, Australasian or North American reader.

Is that what you mean?
 

pmmg

Vala
I think a lot of Japanese stuff is androgynous on purpose. I think much of it prefers some blending of gender. Least the anime anyway. Near as i can tell, with the Japanese, its best to pronounce all the vowels.
 
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Nighty_Knight

Troubadour
No real issue with keeping track of names. I have a harder time if the character is a minor character that hasn't been mentioned in a while and just gets named dropped again out of the blue.
 

Curatia

Scribe
I attempt to get the names right but if they are too hard they just blend. I start to read them as ‘that character who name starts with s’ and ‘that one with a t’.
I am guilty of this particularly when reading a book that tries very hard to make the names sound "fantasy enough." I am dyslexic and try as I might to keep the character named what the author intended, eventually I end up mixing them up with sight words and poor Tylendel forever becomes Tylenol in my mind. I don't mean disrespect by it, but it happens often enough that we tend to keep names either on the shorter end or with a nickname.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
No real issue with keeping track of names. I have a harder time if the character is a minor character that hasn't been mentioned in a while and just gets named dropped again out of the bl
That's easy enough to avoid, and it's also a common clarity issue even with established authors because we can remember them clearly. It's in our brains, so we assume, wrongly, that it's also in the readers' brains. You just do something like, She looked up and there was Carol from Accounting. It had been a while.

The trick, really, is both triggering the reader's memory with just a taste of exposition so as to avoid an "As you know, Bob" moment, and to make even the minor characters memorable. We've got a fairly minor character from our first book who's going to get more stage time in our fifth. Chuck the Security Guard. He will be remembered. lol
 
That's easy enough to avoid, and it's also a common clarity issue even with established authors because we can remember them clearly. It's in our brains, so we assume, wrongly, that it's also in the readers' brains.
Actually, my own brain has plenty of trouble remembering all my characters. Just finished the first draft of book 3 in a series, and I lost track of most of the side characters. Especially those who only showed up a few times in 1 book. I'll remember I had the character. But what the name was or specific details will be lost. I even found out I need to take notes on things like how a character smells to another character. I had a couple who had been separated for a few chapters. And when they get back together, the POV character smells the other one. It's nice to keep that sort of thing consistent, but it's a pain for my brain...
You just do something like, She looked up and there was Carol from Accounting. It had been a while.
As for how to make your reader remember, this is a great way to do it. Another way, which works really well and can be subtle, is to give your characters all 1 or 2 defining physical traits which you use over and over again. Harry Potter does this a lot. A character is always mentioned not just by name, but also by wearing pink, or having a scar, or looking like an owl or whatever.
 

Pinkwizaard

Dreamer
Oh yes, terribly so. Whenever I read Manga, Manhua or Manwha I will almost always forget their names unless they are somewhat common names or easier to remember. Of course this also extends to Western media. The character's names are easier to remember if they are named John rather than Björn, Gunnar, Gunborg, etc. It tends to be a big problem for me when reading, especially whenever I put the story down and pick it up the next day or week.
 

Pinkwizaard

Dreamer
Actually, my own brain has plenty of trouble remembering all my characters. Just finished the first draft of book 3 in a series, and I lost track of most of the side characters. Especially those who only showed up a few times in 1 book. I'll remember I had the character. But what the name was or specific details will be lost. I even found out I need to take notes on things like how a character smells to another character. I had a couple who had been separated for a few chapters. And when they get back together, the POV character smells the other one. It's nice to keep that sort of thing consistent, but it's a pain for my brain...

As for how to make your reader remember, this is a great way to do it. Another way, which works really well and can be subtle, is to give your characters all 1 or 2 defining physical traits which you use over and over again. Harry Potter does this a lot. A character is always mentioned not just by name, but also by wearing pink, or having a scar, or looking like an owl or whatever.
This is honestly a great way of writing. To give traits to a character that are very well defining makes them more memorable. Just like how I am the Pink Wizard rather than just a wizard will make you have an easier time remembering said character. Colors, physical traits (big ears, big feet) or even racial traits (Dwarf, Elf, Human - Think Lord of the Rings, If you mention the elf in context, most will instantly think of Legolas, despite there being many other elves. That is because he keeps being called elf by Gimli, such as with his famous quote "Never thought I'd die fighting side by side with an elf")
 
It's definitely like that, but it can be a lot more subtle than race or prominent physical trait. Think Dumbledore's half moon glasses. It doesn't need to be big. But if you pay attention to it you'll see that a lot of writers give one simple thing like this to each character which helps describe the character, but also fixes it in the reader's brain.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Actually, my own brain has plenty of trouble remembering all my characters. Just finished the first draft of book 3 in a series, and I lost track of most of the side characters. Especially those who only showed up a few times in 1 book. I'll remember I had the character. But what the name was or specific details will be lost. I even found out I need to take notes on things like how a character smells to another character. I had a couple who had been separated for a few chapters. And when they get back together, the POV character smells the other one. It's nice to keep that sort of thing consistent, but it's a pain for my brain...

As for how to make your reader remember, this is a great way to do it. Another way, which works really well and can be subtle, is to give your characters all 1 or 2 defining physical traits which you use over and over again. Harry Potter does this a lot. A character is always mentioned not just by name, but also by wearing pink, or having a scar, or looking like an owl or whatever.
Do you have a series bible, yet? I'm exactly the same way. If I spend too much time away, my brain turns into a sieve and suddenly I have no idea what these people look like, or their names. Music can help stimulate my memory, but really it's terrible, so we use OneNote to organize the whole thing. It can be shared with the rest of my team, it saves instantly, and that way we can make notes and changes in real time.

The file is utterly massive, but this is a glimpse of what it looks like. We can link to articles, pictures, graphs, we keep book outlines in here, character names and details, all of our research... the program is incredibly versatile.

2022-11-29.png
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Oh...boy...

My 'bible' is centered on old AD&D material I made up twenty-odd years ago, with enough updates since then to get by. Most recent addition, just a couple months ago, was a 'spell list' for the magic system, about half of it cribbed from old AD&D notes. I did have to make genealogy/name list for a couple of the more prominent noble clans, because past affects present, but apart from that, it's sparse.

For the novels themselves, I'll put together a list of the prominent characters along with one or two very short sentences describing their appearance and role. Apart from that, outlines that tend towards the short and cryptic, which are mostly lists of scenes, again with short descriptions.
 
I never had trouble with names. I pronounce or mutter them in my head any old way I like and keep rolling. Or, I cut the name to a nickname. I did that with some Russian novel or other... the name escapes me.

A funny thing with names... One well-known author was giving pointers and started saying some names were "too fantasy," but the names were, well, WAY easier than some people's names I know in the real world. I'm sure there is a point of name insanity, like Gersvoresh-kûmjotu-kî, a dragon most folks call The Great Kî in my world. But in general, meh.
 
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