I recently put up a post about my Family Affair series, and I thought I should mention something that happened recently that might make writers stop and think when they’re coming up with character names.
Out of respect for the family, I will simply refer to the name being used as MFC. I used a character name for a minor character that I actually came up with by throwing together a few names from my lists that I’ve been compiling forever. I loved the name. I was very proud of it (have since changed it to Marie Wellington-Sinclair). But it was the name of an actual person, which I hadn’t known.
They say that you should, when coming up with a pen name, Google the pen name to make sure that it’s not the name of, like, a serial killer you’d never heard of or a convicted felon or something. Make sure that it doesn’t have bad press, or that it’s not the name of some actor or something like that. Perhaps it should also be said that this should be done when making character names.
It just so happens that this name I threw together was the name of a girl who had died tragically in an accident just a few months ago. Her sister found my story while Google searching the name and asked me if I would please change the name.
At first my thoughts were, “But I worked so hard on finding the right name, I didn’t do anything wrong, I didn’t even know the girl!” And so on, and so forth.
But then the thought crossed my mind that if something happened to someone I cared about and their name was being used by someone I didn’t know, someone who didn’t know them, even if it wasn’t intentional or malicious, I would want them to change the usage for me. I would like to think they would. So, since the name meant so much more to them than it ever could to me, I changed it.
So what I’m saying is, be careful when naming characters, especially if it’s for something that will find its way onto the internet (assume it will someday, even if you’re planning on print publishing). You don’t know what that name might mean to someone else.