“Katherine needs to be stopped.”

Esther Inglis-Arkell on overused character names in fiction:

Katherine, or one of its derivatives, is what you call your main female character when you realize you can’t call her Main Female Character. It has turned, hydra-like, from a name into a multi-headed monster, with Kate, Kay, Kathleen, Caitlin, Cathy, or Cat as its alternatives. I’ve had it pointed out to me that Meg Ryan has played a Katherine-ish name six different times – once she played three Katherines in a row. I’d have to argue that few actresses will have no Katherines on their resume, especially if they play the main character. It’s ubiquitous, and therefore meaningless.

My real first name is Kate, and it is rather refreshing to hear that someone else (especially someone with as refreshingly uncommon a name as Esther) has noticed how often it’s used as a generic everywoman name. If it’s not the main character, it’s the main character’s wife or romantic interest. I mean, I know it’s a common name – one of my best friends is also named Kate, which leads most of our mutual friends to call me Melydia just to differentiate us. (Which is fine by me; I’ve been using that as my primary netname since about 1993.) Still, it’s a touch troubling to find one’s own name to have become a sign of generic, lazy name-choosing. Pick something else, kids. Please.

P.S. – Male names starting with J should be reduced as well. Once I tried reading a book where the first five characters I met were named Johnny, Jack, Jackie, Jerry, and Jimmy. No, I’m not making that up. I had a terrible time keeping track of them.

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