Jaye Wells

A Raven by any other name would smell as sweet

I have a mini-rant. An agent posted on her blog that the names “Raven” and “Kate” are overused in manuscripts she’s seeing. Full disclosure before the rant commences: My protag is named Raven. Granted, it’s a name she adopted for effect–her real name is Gabriella. I also submitted to this agent and got a very nice rejection letter. I have no beef with her.

Anyway, when I read that I got a little annoyed. I imagined all thse wannabe writers frantically doing a search/replace in their manuscripts. As if changing a name alone is enough to take their novels from the reject pile into the offer for representation pile.

We all read blogs by agents to try to get some insight into what goes on in the inner sanctums of agencies. But let’s be real here. Bad writing is bad writing. Naming your character perfectly makes no difference. Sure, the agent in question is in high demand and her poor eyes must kill her at the end of the day after reading countless pieces of drivel. She has every right to mention things that annoy her in her own blog.

What annoys me is my fellow writers who think that they can find one elusive piece of magic that will get them through the backdoor to a contract. You know what that magic is? Good writing!

Sure, luck plays a role. Sure, sometimes an agent will see the 40th manuscript that week with a heroine named Kate, get dry heaves, and immediatley reject without reading the pages. But I contend that if the story is good enough the name won’t matter.

People, do not change something so trivial in your manuscript until you have an offer in hand. While one agent might hate the name Raven, another might understand that your use of the name is an ironic statement or is symbolic of an internal conflict within the character.

Now, go forth. Write the best damned book you can. And if you want to name the heroine Kate and the hero Raven, then do it, I say.

Just make sure you know how to locate the find/replace button. Cause while it’s dumb to change the names based on the blog entry of an agent you aren’t working with, it’s even dumber to lose an agent or editor because you’re too proud to rename your characters.
Post addendum:

Here is a link to my favorite name resource. The variety and depth of this site amazes me. Originally I guess it was a site for people looking for pet names. A lot of unusal entries. Names by Chinaroad.

8 Thoughts on “A Raven by any other name would smell as sweet

  1. kathie on March 15, 2006 at 7:17 pm said:

    Hi Jaye,
    I hear you…it must be frustrating to be rejected and see remnants of it on a website…I just saw the post you’re talking about. I don’t know. I agree with you. But here lies the crapshoot part. These bizarre funky turn-offs, we can never predict. Keep sending it out. You’re going to make the right connection. I can feel it.

  2. Jaye Wells on March 15, 2006 at 9:05 pm said:


    Luckily the submission I sent her was not the Raven one. She seems like a great agent so this was ot a dig at her in any way.

    Also, I sent out three more submissions today. So thanks for the good energy.


  3. Erik Ivan James on March 16, 2006 at 7:21 am said:

    This is a good subject in many ways. For example it brought to my mind something I hadn’t realized about my own writing. That is:

    I may start with a specific character’s name but likely change the name as his/her personality develops during the writing. In fact, I may change a name several times before I settle on the one that to me fits best.

  4. Jaye Wells on March 16, 2006 at 8:15 am said:


    Excellent point. I have done that too. I edited the original post with a link to my absolute favorite name resource on the web. Check it out.


  5. Dana Y. T. Lin on March 16, 2006 at 12:24 pm said:

    As for fantasy, names I use are heavily researched before I start writing.

    Names are very important to my characters – there’s a reason they are named certain names. If, by chance, any of my characters are named Kate or Raven, I won’t change them unless I’m changing the entire story.

  6. Erik Ivan James on March 16, 2006 at 1:41 pm said:


    The name site is excellent. Thanks for the link to it.

  7. Mignon on March 16, 2006 at 4:32 pm said:

    I admit to naming my characters after people I have known that have a strong non-physical resemblence. I think it should be hard to change a characters name, especially a protag, after you’ve come to know them so well. I think if you’re able to easily go the find/replace route, your character may not be fleshed out enough. What do you think?

  8. Jaye Wells on March 16, 2006 at 4:51 pm said:


    If an agent or editor hated the name I would first ask them why. Obviously I chose the name for a reason and would need a compelling reason to change it. But I think changing the name is different than changing the essence of the character.

    If an editor called and said “Can you make her not be a vampire? Or instead of Italian can she be an Inuit?” I would have a big problem. And no, I have nothing against Inuits, it’s just not who this character is.

    But if they gave me a good reason for dropping Raven, although I am hard pressed to think of what that would be, then I could probably come up with something else that worked.

    Look at it this way. I changed my last name when I got married. Did that change who I am? No, the act of getting married changed me, not the name.

    I am just saying that the name shouldn’t be a deal breaker. And if it is, there better be a damned good reason why.


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