Character Names – Don’t Confuse Your Readers

Confusing readers with character names that are too similar to each other might make a reader stop reading your book. Here’s why…

Photo from Pixabay

This morning over coffee I was reading a book. A mystery. The story line is strong. The characters are interesting.

As I was about a quarter of the way in and the unforgivable happened. I got confused and had to re-read a section. I got past that, so yes I forgave the author because a liked the story.

In the next scene, the same issue happened.

In one scene, a sheriff and his young deputy are questioning an older woman and her young nurse. The nurse’s name is Maggie. The deputy’s name is Molly. Two young women. Two names starting with M. Halfway through the scene one of them put their hand on the older woman’s shoulder. I thought, “Why would the deputy be so personal?” I had to go back and check which character had touched the woman.

In the next scene, the older sheriff and the deputy interview a older man. A man who was previously a sheriff. Two older men with the same career. Here we have Wilson and Wyatt. Again I had to check who was speaking.

This was frustrating. A little bit of editing would have fixed this problem.

Now I have to decide if I’ll invest more time in the book or give up. It’s shame, because it’s a good story.

If the author had used Fictionary, here’s what he/she would have seen. I used my WIP in Fictionary and added the character names for illustration. The screenshot below lists the characters in each scene.

You can see Maggie and Mollie one after another and in the next scene Wilson and Wyatt. Seeing your characters listed in connection to a scene will help you eliminate the confusion of having names within your story that are too similar to one another.

Hopefully this helps you edit your work in progress and make it a better experience for your readers. I’d love to hear how you deal with this issue.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

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6 thoughts on “Character Names – Don’t Confuse Your Readers

  1. I always have problems with names–especially with series–trying to keep everyone in order … far too many Herberts and Huberts. Maybe this is the fix for me – or switch continents: that would be quite a coup 😉📚

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