Say it Like This – Fiction Character Names

Reading an article about a charity that helped families in Honduras with sustainable farming, I noted that the author devoted precious word count to provide the correct pronunciation of one of the men’s names. His name is Nortie pronounced – “Nor-ti-a” . That got me thinking. Considering that it was a printed article and not likely to be read aloud or in audio format, how important is it that as I read I say with my inner voice, “Nortia ”? Hmm, to be real, even after being educated in the correct sound of Nortie’s name, I still heard it exactly the way an American would say it. I think possibly the pronunciation was included to educate and to show respect to the individual. I’m good with that.

Names and spelling of names of fictional characters though are not bound by the reality of an actual person having the name exactly as its printed. Why then do some authors choose unusual spellings for names? Fantasy novels are especially guilty if this unnecessary complication for a reader and some even provide ‘proper pronunciation’. For a book like Watership Down, by Richard Adams (my childhood favorite) where a language with an extensive vocabulary is part of the novel and key to the world being understood as being in the context of a different species, this makes sense. But for ordinary novels, epic romances, mysteries, even space sci-fi, weird spellings for names and weird names at all for people or cities or countries, I think are distracting and are just the indulgence of the author. Of course, I shouldn’t judge too much, I’m talking about published authors of books that despite the annoying names, I keep reading. What do you think? Would you rather that Jasmine be Jasmine, instead of Jaehzmene?
Write on! Read on!

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