Monday, August 06, 2018


Are Your Characters’ Names Easy to Pronounce?

from Carol Browne

Here is a bit of good advice for fiction authors I wish someone had given to me when I first started writing: make it obvious how your characters’ names are pronounced.

There’s nothing more frustrating to a reader than having to follow a character throughout a book without knowing how to pronounce their name. These days, the popularity of audio books makes this an even more contentious issue—as I recently discovered.

Yes, I’m one of those writers guilty as charged. When I chose the name ‘Elgiva’ for the protagonist of my book The Exile of Elindel, I didn’t foresee the problems I would encounter down the line. I was an inexperienced young wordsmith who thought the meaning of the name—elf gift—sufficient justification for using it. I pronounced it in my mind precisely as it was written. Such a simple name, I thought. What could go wrong?

Many years later, I realise there are more ways to pronounce ‘Elgiva’ than I could have imagined; at least six! Which syllable should be stressed? Is it a hard ‘g’? It’s an Anglo-Saxon name and so it should be a soft ‘g’, although even that is open to question by some Anglo-Saxon scholars.

The issue of pronunciation might never have been addressed had it not been for the fact that I recently had to audition voice-over actors for the audio version of the book. The actors spoke the name in a completely different way from my own version so that it rhymed with ‘Godiva’. I consulted my fan base and ended up with two more ways to say the name, neither of which resembled mine or that of the voice-over actors.

It was decision time! I was forced to settle on the pronunciation I thought was the most accurate. Although it wasn’t the one I originally intended, it was closer to the Anglo-Saxon pronunciation with a soft ‘g’ and the stress on the first syllable.

Oddly enough, this makes the name sound even more elvish. But I have to keep reminding myself how to say it, after four decades of saying it my own way. The way I remember it is that the first syllable is the only stressed one and the ‘gi’ is pronounced as it is in ‘magical’. So Elgiva is magical. And, of course, she is!

How about curling up with my epic fantasy while you contemplate the possibility of elves and all the ways to say their names?

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Her non-fiction book is available at Dilliebooks.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. Thank you for hosting me on your wonderful blog, Sloane! xx

  2. Good advice, Carol! I also remember to make sure I don't have most of my character's names start with the same letter. Cheers and thanks!

  3. Great advice and I love your characters' names! Cheers!

  4. Great points and advice, Carol! Thanks for sharing and best wishes for much success with all your writing endeavors.

  5. Thanks, Sharon, Leigh and Kerry. Yes, Sharon, I've noticed I have a tendency to use the same letter. I wonder what makes us do that lol?

  6. Thanks for the advice Carol. I am sure I pronounce a lot of names from the novels I read incorrectly in my head. But usually remain blissfully ignorant until I come across a person with the same name in real life - or they make a film of the book.

  7. Always a problem when my reading vocab is much larger than my spoken one.
    Nice blog in Sloane usual. <s

  8. And those minor throw-away characters...the ones who carry the same name from unrelated book to unrelated book...time to check with those baby naming sites!

  9. I will continue to say Elgiva in my own way when reading your books Carol, but an interesting blog nevertheless!

    1. Thanks, Pat. I guess I'll probably say it my own way too!