Unique names – memorable or annoying?

Let me first say that I don’t want to come off as a hypocrite – many of my characters have strange unique names, however, I do strive mostly for balance in my fictional naming conventions.  At the moment, I think the appropriateness level of dynamic names is directly proportional to the genre.

For example, in a Regency romance novel, I would expect the male lead to be no less than a Duke or Lord.  Additionally, his name would be something hyper-masculine – and I wouldn’t blink an eye.  Seriously, his first name could be ‘Danger’ and I would think, ‘Yeah, he does seem like a danger.’  In the past, I’ve not run across any stand out name of the protagonist of these novels, mostly because they are set in a very specific time period and it wouldn’t be the place to see some non-Anglo name.  Ladies like, Caroline, Elizabeth, Danielle all seem in character for the setting.

In the book I’m reading currently (which I will be doing a review of at a later date, as it relates to one of my topics of interest), I keep getting tripped by their names.  Literally, every character has something unusual.  Farris, Devon, Beelah, Emerson, Theron.  Okay, Emerson’s not that bad, but the rest…  I’ve been reading YA for a long time, and unless this is some dystopian future, characters are allowed to have normal names (even if there is some paranormal element ).

And then I realized, really, I am not any better.  And probably, this author loves her strangely named characters as much as I love mine.

Case in point?

Rigby Sullivan, upcoming protagonist of book I’m going to release in the next two weeks (twin brother’s name?  Jude.  Yes, I went there).

Ned “North” Buchanan, love interest.

Additionally, the Fates project is a bit out of control: Ayah (this name has a lot of meaning, so I’m not changing it), Zephyr and Giovanni Voltaggio, Alasdair Worthington, Jude St. Clare, Dr. Ignacio Jimenez to name a few.  I guess what I’m struggling with here is, I don’t want my future readers to be turned off in the same way I am currently.  At the moment, I don’t feel very connected to the characters I’m reading about.  That could be as a result of the writing, but also in a ‘seriously, every time I see that name I cringe a little’ way.

And clearly, resorting to crazy names isn’t necessary to success.  There are some great (fictional) names out there which, in all reality, are pretty basic:  Harry Potter, Robert Langdon…even Katniss Everdeen has a bit of a ‘normal’ ring to it.

What say you?  What names have you come across that you have liked or hated?  How did it impact your enjoyment of the novel?

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