Character Naming Crisis at 40,000 Words

August 16, 2011

Forty thousand words into my latest manuscript I had a revelation. My hero shares the same name as my husband’s friend and colleague. I flinched. I wrote on. I screeched to a halt at the first sex scene.

No. I couldn’t go on. I had to change my hero’s name.

How I got to the forty-thousand-word mark without making the connection, I’ll never know. And now that I’ve made the connection, I’m struggling with the new name I’ve given my hero. It doesn’t quite fit.

Naming characters is a part of the writing process that I normally don’t think much about. The names appear around the time the characters are introduced to me. Occasionally I’ll think about a character having the same name as a character in a book I’ve read, but I always brush it off with a, “There are lots of Michaels in the world. What’s one more?”

It’s not so easy when one of the Michaels (not really the name) is a Michael you know pretty darn well. As a writer who sees the story in her head before she describes the action in words, when a character is connected with a real person, I see the person. For forty thousand words the hero in my head was the character I created, and then bam! I made the association with a real live person, and the picture in my head is ALL WRONG.

So I renamed the character, and the picture in my head isn’t exactly all wrong, it’s just fuzzy. Hero doesn’t quite look like Hero anymore. He’s morphing into this new man. Help!

Anyone experience something similar? How do you name your characters and avoid association with real people? Do you think I’m being a big baby? Should I stick with the original name and suck it up through the next forty thousand words? I’d love some advice.


6 Responses to “Character Naming Crisis at 40,000 Words”

  1. Joanne Robinson Says:

    OMG .. just happened to me … Called my latest hero Sebastian (regency erotica) then son and his wife had our grandson, who I told was to be Noah! Nope Sebastian. Luckily only about 5k in … (Whew) so.. I thought and re read and checked my storyline … Hmm He sounds like a Benjamin.. Shoot nope Daughters B.F. is a Ben *sigh*. Several trials later he became Ashley known as Ash .. and yes it does suit him.

    But heaven knows how many names are barred to me because they are either friends, family or someone you don’t like. Often a name is associated with someone who had a negative impact years ago. For instance at primary school a kid called Billy used to pinch me, so William is a no no. Similarly Dean, Wayne, Graeme and Kevin.
    LIkewise, Jocelyn, (i wanted her name) Deirdre (too good at Ballet) and Francesca ( can’t remember why, but def a no no).

    So the more I write, the harder it gets.. but it means i AM writing so hey ho!

    • I’m afraid now that it happened once I’m going to overanalyze all my characters’ names from now on. Like you, I have associations that aren’t favorable and names I’ll never use, like my kids’ names.

      Lauren Dane wrote a M/M romance with the heroes named the same names as my sons. I about lost my lunch on that discovery. Just a bit too much as far as association goes. 🙂


  2. taristhread Says:

    Elley, can you just change the spelling of the name?? Sometimes that works for me. Most of the people in my house have names with unusual spellings…including me! Don’t know if that will work for you.

    Joanne- maybe change your Sebastian to Noah??? JK, but it seems like a fair trade. It really does get hard to pick names sometimes.

    I don’t always change them….I figure I know dozens of Tom, Dick and Harry’s, so none of them should think it’s them…although back to Sebastian….don’t know any of them!!

    Good Luck with the names ladies…I feel for you!

    • I wish it were as easy as changing the spelling, but his name was a simple three-letter name. And I’m not found of the formal name. *sigh* I’ve either got to use it and get over it, or I’ve got to change it and move on.

      Too much drama!


  3. Joanne Robinson Says:

    lol Elly.. no both names would be a bit mind boggling. although a favorite crime series, the main character kids had some name as two of mine… and it was set not that far from where we lived. Luckily the books were written before we moved into the area , so not too much worrying done!

    Could you cope with the fact he knew you had used his name? could he?

    • If the story was chaste, then yes, I could cope with him knowing, but under the circumstances, I think I’d be setting myself up for a lot of teasing.

      I’ve been writing for a couple hours, and the new name is growing on me. I think i’ll finish the ms with the new name and then make up my mind in revisions. 🙂

      Thanks, Joanne!

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