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Character Names Derived From Real Life Friends

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Laurence, Feb 12, 2015.

  1. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

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    What do you guys think of using the names of real life friends for characters? Are any of you guilty?

    Are there any well known authors that openly do this?

    I live in England so some of my friends have quite fitting surnames like Blaxill and Devine.
     
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  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I've not copied names from people I know. My thinking is that in a way it would subconsciously make me connect the character with the real-world person and that may not be what I'm going for.

    I have, however, copied character traits and personalities from real-life friends and applied them to characters in my story.
     
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  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I've used place names... there are a slew of villages not far from me that all sound like characters in a Victorian melodrama... and that is where they ended up... there was even a carpet bag left at a railway station...
    I wouldn't use names of friends or acquaintances for similar reasons to Scrtnsse and I'd add - what happens if you fall out with them? Or they hate "their" character...
     
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  4. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    Seems pretty iffy to me. The potential problems would likely outweigh the minimal benefits derived. Why not just start with the names, but tweek them into something original?

    I'm not certain, but I think this sort of thing is not recommended by the generic writing 'guidelines'. And yet, every case is different.
     
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  5. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    I gave one of my characters a friend's last name...Klotzbach. How could I pass up such a unique name?

    Generally, though, I avoid naming characters after people I know. If you're not careful, you can slip into lazy characterization, or even offend the person you named the character after if the character is a jerk/a villain/sarcastic/what-have-you.
     
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  6. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

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    All good points, thanks guys. I think if I did do it, I would only place the names on characters I have already created and written about as part of my lore, rather than the main plot line.

    I think my friends would love it if I made them in to dick characters!
     
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  7. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    I made the character with my friend's last name a sarcastic jerk, and she loved it. But she's just that kind of person...
     
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  8. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    I have many character names based on people. That's the toughest part about novels: coming up with so many names. It is a fun thing, though, when you realize some character has stepped over the line from passing to minor enough to be worth a name.
     
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  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Though this might be fun, it can get you into trouble. Let's say you name a character after a friend and that character is a despicable sod. Let's say your story gets picked up and published. If you're friend didn't agree to let you use their name, they might get pissed and sue your ass.

    There's a famous case in comics that's similar to this situation. Comic writer and artist Todd McFarlane is a tremendous hockey fan. In his comic, Spawn, he used a professional hockey player's name, Tony Twist, for a mobster character. He got sued and had a $15 million dollar verdict slapped against him for profiting off Tony Twist's likeness. After further legal battles they settled out of court for $5 million dollars.
     
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  10. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

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    Well I don't mind paying £5mil so long as it's not 15!
     
  11. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

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    I have used a few names of people I know, either their first name or last but never both. I do so when I specifically want the character to have some of the same characteristics of the real person. I do this sparingly and am more likely to name a place after someone. I want to feel free to harm or even kill a character without feeling guilty and having to explain to my friends why they needed to die.
     
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  12. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I've done that a couple of times, once unintentionally. A pair of minor characters in Winter's Queen are named after an old friend of mine whom I've unfortunately lost touch with. The characters are a pair of twin brothers; one twin got my friend's first name, the other got his middle name, and they share his last name. The unintentional example is in a different story, when I gave a character (who is used with permission from a close friend of mine) a name that's the same as one of the friend's IRL nicknames. XD We both had a laugh over that.
     
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  13. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

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    I collect interesting names that I come into contact with, but usually I just use a babyname list from the culture I'm making use of in the story.

    On the other hand, sometimes my friends or acquaintances say, "Hey! Can I be in your book?" At those times, my rule is: yes, but the character named after you will die. :)
     
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  14. Velka

    Velka Sage

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    I generally do the same. I try to avoid using names of people I'm close to. I find their personality haunts the name and it doesn't match the character I'm writing.

    That being said, I did name one character I killed off in a gruesome way after a horrible co-worker. Very cathartic!
     
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  15. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

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    If you're starting a character from scratch then being inspired by the personality of someone you know well seems like a great way to make a relatable character.

    That being said, I'm a hobby writer and would be perfectly happy if my book appealed to no one but me.
     
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  16. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    While you are writing the draft do what works for you in creating the story. If you sell the manuscript just tell your publisher what you have done and let their legal department decide for you.

    If you are going to indy publish the manuscript with the names of real people there are real legal risks if you don't have pretty explicit consent to the use in writing.
     
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  17. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    I mean, Ban and Orc Knight and the rest of us often put each-other in stories.
     
  18. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Minstrel

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    On that topic, in one story I've used a character name for a girl I know precisely because I wanted her personality to be the model of that character. Funny enough, I scrapped her in a later draft because there were functionally three protagonists with no center.
     
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  19. Alexander Knight

    Alexander Knight Scribe

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    I had a writer friend of my use my first name and the last name of a mutual friend of ours to name one of her characters. I found it to be an honor (since the characters wasn't a bad guy).
     
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  20. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

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    I'm really bad at creating "NPC" characters, I can't think of anything about them besides what they do (the barkeep, the fellow soldier etc). Sometimes that's totally fine, but other times they do need some sort of name/info/personality, so I ask my friends if I could just use them/their fursonas/their characters.
     
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