Pronouncing Character Names

Pronouncing unfamiliar characters names is always a challenge.  Part of the reason for this is that English is such a confusing language.  For example, you can make the “ah” sound with an “o” or an “a”.    After living in Italy for three years, I got into the habit of using their much simpler system. 

a: ah
e: ay
i:  ee as in need
o: oh
u: oo as in food

Last night, one of the ladies in my critique group had the challenge of figuring out how to pronounce my character’s names.  I typically pronounce Calyn like Calvin without the “V”.  My friend struggled with that.  She wanted to say Caylyn.  I told her to go ahead about halfway through.  After all, I figured that any future readers could make that choice.

But I became aware of another challenge.  I always pronounced the last name La-DURN-er with the accent on the second syllable.  My friend put the accent on the first syllable and it came out more like this: LA-dur-ner.  I actually liked it quite a bit.  Now I’ll have to decide.  I’ve never actually heard the name pronounced.  I’m probably the only writer in the world who got the last name for her main character off the bottom of a lovely set of hand-turned wooden coasters. 

Some writers offer help.  I especially liked the scene in the fourth Harry Potter where Hermione works with Victor on the proper way to pronounce her name.  Ms. Rowling found a creative way to cement the sound of Hermione’s name in her readers’ minds. Lois McMaster Bujold, on the other hand, has told readers to pronounce the names of people in her Vorkosigan series in any way that they like.

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