Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Her name is what???

Closing in on the last of my rewrites and then to put this thing through the meat grinder for overused and unnecessary words. In the meantime, I've been thinking ahead to the next book (see what downtime can do for a body?).

Epitaph will be the first in a new series, and I've already started interviewing people for background information on the second. The anticipation that goes with starting a new book is always exciting, the possibilities, the letting go of my imagination to carry me into new places, but I have to rein it in until I finish the current project. However, I do have a question for you, my readers.

I've created two families that will carry the series forward. One of them is Irish-American, but they bring their names from the old country. Most of those names are fairly standard fare, Kevin, Kathleen, Mary. But I've always had a fondness for the name Siobhan (since Ryan's Hope debuted lo, those many years ago - pronounced shev-AHN). But because it's spelled oddly, there are people who don't know how to pronounce it when they read it. So then I thought about Sinead (pronounced shin-AID). You know, like Sinead O'Connor? But same problem. As a reader, do names like these make you stumble? Do you need a phonetic tip to help you out, like having some random person try to make fun of her by calling her Chevy (along with an explanation)?

When the Harry Potter books first came out, my kids didn't want to read them because the characters had such odd names. I gave them tips for getting past that hurdle, and then they enjoyed the stories, but it can stop a reader dead in their tracks. I remember reading a book when I was a kid with a character named Phoebe. Read the whole book before I figured out how to pronounce it, and yet some people know the names and don't struggle at all. Then there was Laoghaire from Outlander. Even with phonetics, I couldn't figure out how to pronounce that until I saw the series. How do you get that pronunciation from that spelling?

So what do you think? Are you familiar enough with the Irish names to know how to pronounce them? Or would they trip you up? Make you stop reading? (Do I need to find a more "normal" name for my character?


  1. I tend to be visual, so I see the name and don't really worry about how to pronounce it. Of course, now that I've been dealing with getting my books into audio, I do need to make sure I know how everything is pronounced -- not just character names, but places, any foreign words, unusual words, words that people routinely mispronounce (mischievous threw one of the narrators auditioning to read the book).
    As for Laoghaire, I believe reading an interview with Diane Gabaldon where she said she picked the name off a map and had no clue how to pronounce it.

  2. Not being able to pronounce a name has never stopped me from reading a book.