How Picky Are You?

I couldn't help but take part in YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday because I love to hear the opinions of writers and readers.

Just how picky are you with characters names and appearances? If the lead has a name you don't like or an appearance that doesn't appeal to you, will you put the book back down?

Appearance doesn't bother me, although I always hope there will be a red-headed character (who isn't weak/a bully/unimportant/killed instantly) because literature lacks them (but you better believe I'll make up for that!).  I'm terrible with names and although I'm trying to get less snobby (I ADMIT IT! I'M A NAME SNOB!), I still won't read a book if the character's name sounds dull.


  1. Names don't bother me much, and if an appearance feels off from what I imagine, I have no problem imagining it however I like. I've often found that books have the power to change how I feel about a name - for instance, I used to think the name Edward was super old-fashioned, but because of Edward Cullen, every time I hear the name I see R. Patz instead of an old man in my mind.

  2. I'm back-and-forth about names. Sometimes I pick up a book and I go "ugh, that name" and I can't bring myself to read it. But, other times I don't care at all. It's a mood thing, I guess! The one thing regarding names that I don't like on a consistent basis is when the character's name "fits" with who they are in the story. For example, the television show 'Lost' was terrible (in so many ways, but yeah, for names). [I suppose I need to say LOST SPOILERS AHEAD!] Jack Shephard kept track of everyone and tended to everyone on the island, John Locke was the philosopher of the bunch, Juliet sacrificed herself in a tragic way for her guy, Daniel Faraday was a brilliant scientist, and in the end it was Christian Shephard who brought them all to heaven... and so on. I don't particularly like that. But really, names aren't a make-or-break thing for me on the whole.

    In terms of appearance, I don't care. I think everyone is a bit partial to characters that look like them in some way, but character appearance doesn't affect my willingness, or lack thereof, to read a book! :)

  3. Abby: I like to redress characters in my head :P "No, they should wear JEANS DAMMIT! JEAAAAAAANS!"

    I think of this guy when I hear the name Edward. ^_^ Also, my grandfather was called Edward, so I have a fondness for the name.

    Thanks for stopping by! ^_^

    Laura: TV has worn the name Jack out for me, although we know which Jack I love the best XD

  4. I hate Clarissa Fray - but I endured City of Bones - probably because Jace made up for it. :)

    I can ignore that stuff - just sell me with voice and characters - I'm hooked for the long haul.

  5. Names don't bother me unless they're really hard to read (when I was younger, I HATED the name Crookshanks in HP because I couldn't figure out how to pronounce it in my head) and I haven't met name like that yet that actually made me stop reading a book.

    As for appearances, I very rarely notice them. Ninety percent of the time when I finish a book, I have my own idea what all the characters looked like and it's usually not even close to what they actually are.

  6. Names and appearances don't bother me. It's the story itself that holds sway.

  7. Ha! I have actually been noticing a preponderance of red-heads in YA lately, and all heroines (Clary in C. Clare's Mortal Instruments series, Sydelle in A. Bracken's Brightly Woven, Amy in B. Revis' Across the Universe…).

    But! Pickiness. I like a realistic climate of names – I don't mind some weird ones here and there, but they can't all be weird. I also really like doubles, when more than one person has the same name, because that is much more honest – I am one of two Alexises in a group of four-five friends, and had three close friends named Sarah and two named Mike growing up. Then the onus is on the writer to characterize them with more than just a name, and I think that makes the story stronger.

    Great question!

  8. I've found names especially can annoy me, particularly when they're really outlandish and ridiculous, so that I find myself rolling my eyes every time I read them. But appearances don't bother me too much, unless I find a YA character who's the 'Bella Swan' prototype: thin, small, black haired and ridiculously pale.

  9. Appearance rarely bothers me. Sometimes, though, I find myself changing names without realizing I'm doing it. For example, until the third Harry Potter movie, I would have sworn until the end of time that it was "Sirus Black." Likewise, there is a name in The Mirror of Her Dreams (a book I've read about 14 times)that, up until a few years ago, I would have sworn was "Jouse" and not "Joyse."

  10. I am a name snob, in books and in real life, but that usually means I just roll my eyes in practice-- it won't keep me from reading the book.

  11. Ok yes I am a name snob but I read Hunger games and hated his name the whole time Peeta Bread - Peeta M. the bakers son???? Lol. Now, by the same token I love old old old names that are not used anymore - thus my son named Greylyn - brother to the Fisher King and built the city of Ker-Ys where still you can hear the bells of the cathedrals toll benieth tha waves. There are 23 old english and french spellings for the name - Gradlon being the most used and he was Garlon in the romances but very obscure.

    If its done well I don't mind a made up name - but I have to say - If I can't say it - I don't want to read it. Other than that I am good with Horace Hammerfart if he's done well

  12. Super obvious names (angels named Grace, Faith, Gabriel, etc) or "trying too hard" names (Ravenwater Sunflower SpeshulSnowflake) make me suspect everything else in the book will be equally forced. But I'll still give it a shot, bad names won't make me put a book down entirely.

  13. I'm not bothered by names or appearances because I understand that's how the writer wanted it to be. Doesn't mean I like them all, but I wouldn't dismiss a book over them.

  14. it doesn't really bother me while reading. Sometimes I roll my eyes if I see a really trendy name or I get a little confused when the name doesn't (in my mind) match the personality.

    as for apearance? I pay very little attention and sometimes my mental picture of a character is not even close to what the author intended.

  15. Thanks for stopping by everyone :D

    Alison Miller: Oooh, Jace. Good name! I also agree that a good voice should sell every character, and this is why I'm trying to overcome my snobbery :)

    Horserider: I find if I think I'm reading something wrong, I read it my way and don't worry about it. I have a post buried in here about how I couldn't pronounce a character's name in a book I read years ago and called him "Skybin". Worked for me!

    Alicia Gregoire: Yours is an approach I should try to mirror :)

    AKG: The more redheads the better! We are underappreciated! Weird names that are weird for the sake of it can be frustrating because if you spend too much time working out how to read them, they get in the way of the narrative.

    Milena March: Sometimes weird names can be used extremely well, but it takes a really talented author to pull them off. As for appearence "types", I suppose people are following a winning formula that's working right now.

    Kathleen: I do the same thing, especially when it's a really unusual spelling I can't work out.

    KO: The Insect Collector: I wish I could roll my eyes and read anyway, but my snobbery means I'll put the book back down. I must try to overcome my snobbery!

    HowLynnTime: Old-fashioned names that you don't hear too often are great to use because they're unusual but not outrageously so.

    Kate Hart: SpeshulSnowflake made me laugh so hard I think I woke people up ^^; And yeah, names like that make me cock an eyebrow and go "hmmmmm" too.

    brandimziegler: Again, yours is an approach I need to mirror. I'd never not read a book because of a character's appearence, but I need to learn to let go of names.

    Sarah Nicolas: Yeah, trendy names or names that seem to be in every other book bother me. I feel there are a lot of names out there, why not try something different?


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