Losing the Name Game

One of the universal criticisms of Stronghold is the over abundance of complex names. The point is well taken. Stronghold contains over thirty named characters and nearly all of their names fall into one of two categories: either they are an original amalgamation of Greek and Hebrew, or they are distinctly non-Anglo names drawn from various parts of the world. While my intentions in doing this and including the number of characters I did were valid from a storytelling perspective, my execution failed.

I am not going to take the blog to defend myself, as tempting as that is; however, I am going to use this as a teaching moment for all of us. Good ideas, even excellent ideas, are only as good as their execution. If we learned nothing else from the Star Wars prequel’s, let us at least take away that nugget of truth and wisdom.

The fact is, we writers have literally spent exponentially more hours with our work than any given reader will on their first read of it. Our characters we know and have come to love will be brand new to our audience. And while good writers are able to give those characters full lives and texture in a truncated space, most of us (yes, I am throwing myself right in this pool) leave something to be desired when it comes to creating well drawn and rounded individuals. We tend to be much more adept at presenting types with a few specific flares to suit our purposes. In and of itself, this is not bad, unless like me, you do it with over two dozen characters. That gets tedious quickly.

Therefore, please, fellow writers, heed my advice. Regardless of the scope of your story, be mindful of just how many characters you are asking your audience to remember. I know that your characters are your children. Trust me, I know it all too well. But people have a hard enough time keeping track of their own kids, let alone yours plus all of their friends, and their friends’ friends, and their enemies. And it takes a great deal of talent to provide them a reason to do so.

If it you do not pull off, an overabundance of uninteresting characters can really detract from your story, and no one wants that. Trust me, my readers told me so.