Posts Tagged ‘names’

Should you tell a friend if they have inspired one of your characters?

Yesterday I texted a friend of mine asking what her middle name was. She responded that she was sans middle name and asked why I wanted to know. “There’s a character in my book based on you and I was looking for inspiration.” The silence that followed, from my usually chatty and chirpy friend, got me thinking that perhaps I had committed a friendship faux pas.

Cassady & Kerouac: Jack immortalised Neal in 'On The Road'

Now, I can 110% understand the desire for privacy but this particular friend is one who blogs the most intimate details of her private life and (I think) would love to be famous. I thought I was offering to make her the Neal Cassady of our generation (ok ok, I’ll admit I’m no Kerouac, but you gotta let a girl dream).

So, what to do if you actually are basing a character on a friend or acquaintance? Is it just a matter of changing the name and some plausible deniability, or is there some writer’s etiquette that I’m not privy to?

Help please!


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Us writers must be power-hungry freaks, right? Here we are, night after night, scribbling away in notebooks, penning masterpieces (we hope), creating worlds on the page. We create characters out of thin air and ink, dictate the paths along which their lives wander, choose their lovers, their careers, and even their names. When we tire of them we may even terminate their inky existence with a flutter of fingers or a tap on the keys. The power is, well, total.

They say that with great power comes great responsibility. I’m struggling with my responsibility.

What to call you, what to call you, damn it!

Today I have been trying to name my key characters. It’s harder than you may suspect. You don’t want to give them anything too obvious, too ordinary, too out there, or too obtuse. I don’t want the other kids to tease them in the playground. I don’t want the readers to taunt them with cruel nicknames. I don’t want to call them Mary or Bill (sorry to the bazillions of Mary/Bills out there). I feel like an expectant mother… it feels like just maybe all the success (or failure) of the operation could just hinge on the perfect name.

I thought about naming them after favourite characters I’ve read, but Raskolnikov is perhaps just a little too Russian and Lolita carries such a connotation these days. Maybe I’ll save those gems for my real-life kids.

I thought about naming them after great historical heros but meh.

I tried to think about the connotations of names and tie them to the character traits of each player. It’s not that easy to do. Maybe I should look at a book of names and their meanings…

Does anyone have any good advice for naming characters?

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