Writers and Readers Thoughts Appreciated with Name Dilemma

work_in_progress_imagelargeI have a work in progress, a possible name dilemma, and would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

There are two sisters and I am going with two POVs, alternating chapters, or at least giving a fleuron space between changes. It is working out well except for some name confusion.

As a tribute to my mother and my aunt, I wanted to keep the names Claudette and Carol, even though this is fiction.

The story is about two young women, sisters, in the late fifties-early sixties who have manic-depression. Their personalities are vastly different.

Carol, whose name means “Song of Joy” is happy as a lark outwardly, an extrovert, but suffers depressive episodes that she is very good at hiding. She enters a room, opens a window and smells autumn in scents of cider and cinnamon. She is somewhat weak and fragile.

Claudette, the feminine form of Claude, means “Lame”, and she is sad and introverted. She is also a take charge sort of pragmatic person.  She is strong and comes across as stoic, unemotional and more stable, yet she is the sister who gets sent to an asylum after a manic (and sexual) episode which results in a serious argument with her mother. She enters the same room and notices the dust on the furniture, the paint curling on the plaster walls.

Herein lays the dilemma. They both share the last name of Barber. They share the same initials, C.B. They are the Barber sisters. Phonetically, Carol and Claudette are close. I would like to keep the names, both as tribute and because they are time period appropriate names for the era.

I have been reading articles about names and have seen where authors and readers have trouble with this.

A couple of times, I have slipped up in my going to another point of view, name-wise, and I am concerned that readers might do that. Have trouble keeping them separated in their mind, because they are sisters with phonetically similar names. Particularly, going back and forth between POVs. I don’t want for this to be difficult for readers.

I don’t think it is bad as say, Richard Ray and Robert Ray, because the initials of first and last names are different. They are not C.C. and C.C. That will also change when they marry.

So, are their names something I need to rethink, or will these work?

P.S. If I have failed to offer someone a proper thank you or response on Twitter, please forgive me. I have not quite figured out the etiquette and actions on that platform. Thank you to all followers who continue to tolerate me while I learn.

39 thoughts on “Writers and Readers Thoughts Appreciated with Name Dilemma

  1. The names are visually different enough that you shouldn’t have a problem. If it was Carol and Caren, it’d be a challenge. The only difficulty will be the initials and Ms. Barber, but you can find a way around that. Either don’t use them or have it clear who is being talked to.

  2. It’s hard to say for sure when reading a synopsis and not the actual piece, but I think they’re different enough (although for me, personally, I try not to have characters with the same beginning letter of a name unless it’s a family choice–i.e. all the children are named with a K or whatever). If they were Carol and Catherine, I think that would be a real problem since they would both be C-a. I feel Claudette is a unique enough name that you can get by with both.

    Will you be making any mention of perhaps why the parents chose to name them both C names? Addressing something readers might see as a “problem” usually answers their questions and makes things less distracting.

    • I had not thought about that! Carol being rather common and Claudette being more unique might help.

      Carol’s real first name was Ethel, but she hated it. I might could work that in.

      • Yes, if it were Carol and Claire I would definitely suggest you change one of them. Claudette’s not an easy name to forget, either!

        I think that would be great–if you separate them strongly early on as different personalities (despite their commonality) it will also help clarify.

  3. I like the names: Carol and Claudette. I don’t think that there would be any problem in distinguishing between the two characters name-wise at least. The rest depends on their personality traits.
    I hope you are doing good. 🙂

    • Doing well Anmol. I don’t know why I slipped up with the names in my writing, but when I went back and read I was like, wait a minute, that should have been Carol not Claudette…could have been I was just tired, Happened a couple of times. Hoping you are well 🙂 Thanks for ringing in 🙂

  4. I think your names will work. I have been reading Red Clay and I think your writing style is such that people will NOT be confused. The story sounds very interesting. I’ll need to read it when I comes out.

  5. It’s good that you’re thinking about this. I have had this happen that similar names show up together, and that’s in nonfiction. Readers have commented that it’s a problem for them. Two names that begin with C, even though they are dissimilar could be confusing to fast readers. Here’s a weird suggestion from someone with a compound name. Could you make Carol into a compound name that begins with another syllable? 🙂 Like Mary Carol.

    • Compound names were also common in that time period. It is something to think about. Carol being a short C name and Claudette being a long C name with the double tts, they are visually quite different. Maybe if I can separate them in my own mind better I can quit making mistakes. I am a bit glad I did, because it cues me into something I might have to look closely at when editing. Thanks for the thoughts 🙂

  6. I think it lends an authenticity to it. Families often name children with the same letter names. To be contrary simply for the sake of variety often feels more out of place than what comes naturally to you. I agree with Charles that the names are dissimilar enough to avoid confusion.

  7. I think Carol and Claudette are different enough so as not to be confusing. If it was Carol and Carrie or Carol and Corey, that would be different, but with Claudette having an accented second syllable and Carol a first, it’s less likely to be confusing. In my opinion. 🙂

  8. It’s true in some families — they all have the same first letter to the name, and it’s confusing. In a book, since you haven’t known the characters for years, it might be even more confusing. They also have the same number of syllables. Maybe if one name were short and the other long… May and Claudette perhaps. Or Kay and Claudette.

    • As Carrie pointed out the accent in Carol is on the first syllable where the accent on Claudette is on the second, so that might be an aid.

      Carol is common and Claudette is more unique. I am feeling a little better about it now myself. The fact that these people, at least in name, have been associated in my mind for years is part of what I think confuses me as a writer, where the reader won’t have that problem. They are also very different visually.

      If I can just keep them straight writing them! 🙂

  9. I had this problem in my first manuscript, where I called two of the characters Lucas and Lucy. I didn’t even notice it, but my proof-readers said it was a bit confusing, so I had to change those. But I don’t think Carol and Claudette would be so bad, they are quite different 🙂

    • Thanks! I can see Lucas and Lucy for three reason, accent is on first syllable in both two syllable names starting Lu.

      I am feeling like the visual length of Claudette and differences in spelling with difference of accent on two syllables might save me.

      I am really looking for reasons to salvage the names as I have a sentimental attachment to them. Again, Thank you.

  10. I don’t think Carol and Claudette are so similar that it would cause confusion. Carol and Caron/Karen or Carol and Carla would be confusing because they look and sound similar. As others have pointed out though, often siblings have names that begin with the same letter. (I know a family in which the mother, father, and all three kids have names beginning with the letter “J.”)

    • I have seen families do that as well. I just did not want them so close that they cause difficulty with the readers. I think the difficulty I had was in associating them too much in my own head.

  11. I have a Martha and Margaret–but luckily I still have time to change it. I also have a girl named Thankful after one of my relatives who came to the US in the 1630’s. I had to be careful at first to make sure it was clear that Thankful was a person and not a weird mistake! haha. I like your idea of Miss C.

    • Your dilemma is sort of like mine. Although, Margaret is longer with three syllables, it might still work. The Mar-Mar is the only real compromise. Visually, as a reader I don’t think I would get the two confused, but some may.

      I like Thankful. It reminds me of the Thursday First series by Jasper Fforde. Being about time travel and having Thursday as a name was confusing to me in some places….but that was sci-fi and alternate world stuff…which was a little confusing to me anyway. I did not like that book series.

    • I had two Martha’s in my last book. One was a Eula Mae’s sister, Martha, and another was a church lady by the name of Martha whom they called Sister Martha. I did not even think about how confusing it might be to readers. They both played small parts…but could be confusing just the same.

      • Sometimes you can’t avoid it. In my last book, Jerome Bonaparte called his wife Betsy by the pet name Elisa. (Both Betsy and Elisa were short for Elizabeth.) And one of Betsy’s best friend’s was named Eliza, who had a daughter named Eliza. Plus Betsy had a cousin Elizabeth, and Jerome had a sister named Elisa. These were historical people, so I couldn’t change any of the names. So whenever I thought it might be confusing, I made sure to add in a little bit of identifying information.

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