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Rhyming character names

edited August 2013 in - Writing Problems
I once read some advice about not having two characters with names beginning with the same letter, to avoid reader confusion. Do you think that having rhyming character names might also confuse the reader? I'm working on a story with four main characters and two of them are called Aimee and Jamie, and I'm wondering whether I should change one of those names.


  • As a reader, I would find the similarity of Aimee and Jamie too distracting. Unless they are twins and their parents wanted to be twee, I think I would change one of them.

  • I would change them in my mind to A and J - I often change names if they trip me up too much.
  • They look too similar on the page too. You might just get away with it if you spelt it AMY ?? But, overall, I think it better to change one of the names completely.
  • I'd usually avoid having character names that rhyme, although I did find it achieved the effect I wanted in one story, where I wanted two supporting characters - a couple of "office girls" - to seem almost indistinguishable. I named them Pam and Sam. It got published at The View From Here, so it can't have been too much of an obstacle.

    Ultimately, people in real life do have rhyming names (I'm Dan and I have a friend named Fran, for instance. My girlfriend knows a married couple called Wayne and Elaine!), but in prose they'll draw attention to themselves and readers may wonder why you chose to name your characters like that. Unless you're sure those names are definitely right for the characters, you might be better off changing one of them.
  • If you are wondering already then you know they need changing.
  • Yes! Change them before Aimee and Jamie concont a cockamamie scheme to eat gamey meat :D
  • There's some info on Red's blog that might be of use.


  • I certainly would avoid using names that rhyme, but one thing I have done is to have two characters who feature prominently together in a story whose names begin with the same letter, such as the married couple in the story I am still working on, whose names are Maxwell and Marigold.
  • [quote=danfango]I'd usually avoid having character names that rhyme, although I did find it achieved the effect I wanted in one story, where I wanted two supporting characters - a couple of "office girls" - to seem almost indistinguishable.[/quote]

    I think this sums up my thoughts on it. If there's a good reason, as in Danfango's case, go ahead. Otherwise avoid the rhyming.
  • But it's real life isn't it? My OH works with Amy, Jamie and Lainey. When I was at school, one teacher complained that we had too many 'Darrens, Karens and Sharons'.
    I know of one youth football team that has five Dannys. (prompting a chant from the sidelines of "You're just a team full of Dannys"). Don't get hung up on names, write the story.
  • [quote=doodle]But it's real life isn't it?[/quote]

    So is "erm, erm, ooh, ahh, what? erm *mumble*" in conversations but that would make for a bad book :P
  • Indeed - and if you were actually hearing a conversation you would be able to distinguish between voices without being told.
    Fiction is different in oh so many ways!
  • This is fiction; ordinary life rules don't apply. Why, of all the names there are, did you choose rhyming ones? You have to have had a reason, otherwise it's just pointless self indulgence. I once read a few short stories by a man who frequently used rhyming names, and it was really annoying and detracted from the substance of the stories.
    If you have put them in as a running joke, well and good: otherwise the humour of it wears thin very rapidly, and becomes a turn off.
  • Yes, I agree with most of what's been said. Fiction is a creation and should be shaped by the author in such a way that it does not jar on the reader's unconscious mind. By making the names sound so similar, at some point you may inadvertently draw the reader out of the story as they stop to acknowledge the rhyme. That will inevitably affect continuity and satisfaction.

    Could you not just make Jamie 'James'? It's a little different.
  • [quote=Tiny Nell]Could you not just make Jamie 'James'? [/quote]

    That could make an interesting twist if Jamie is a female :P
  • Jane, then (you're so picky, BR!).
  • Yes, picky, b_r!
  • [quote=doodle]But it's real life isn't it?[/quote]
    It is indeed, yes. In the 1990s when I worked for the railways, some of us were sitting in the train crew messroom one day when a lady representative from an insurance company came to the depot - by prior arrangement - to possibly sell insurance to the drivers, guards, and other employees. When she had set up her paperwork and leaflets on policies on one of the tables, she began by asking the five of us who were already sitting in the room - three drivers and two guards - what our names were. The thing is, she thought we were pulling her leg when we told her that all five of us were called John. It was the truth. At that time, there were seven 'John's among the drivers and guards, and five of us were in that room all at once.
  • In my year at secondary school we had five Julie's, and two Carol's. :)
  • [quote=Mrs Bear]Why, of all the names there are, did you choose rhyming ones? [/quote]

    It was accidental, and only when I started writing the story did I really take notice of the rhyming. Anyway, Aimee has since changed her name by authorial fiat to Sara.
  • In my class of 25 in high school there were 4 Michaels.
  • I was the only Stanley in all threes schools that I attended. My birthday is in September so I was oldest in my class and the smallest.
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