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Thursday, January 12, 2012


A couple of weeks ago there was an interesting discussion on one of my writer loops about doing a Google search before finalizing a pen name. The topic came up because a self-published author is using the name of a multi-published with New York author and another small press author was using a name that was nearly identical to another author's romance pseudonym.

The subject than turned to Googling character names. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don't.

I pretty much have zero leeway on the first names, especially of my hero and heroine. It doesn't matter to them if I don't like the name or not, they tell me who they are and that's that. I've learned to deal with this, and in all honesty, I like it. The one time I was left to choose a name was torturous. Sometimes I still complain about not being the driver's seat, but as soon as I remember how miserable I was when I did have control, I shut up and say never mind.

Surnames, though, I do have some say in. Not always and sometimes not much, but the characters are rarely intractable on this score. And when the last names come too easily, I tend to Google. Sometimes it turns out there is a real person with that name. There was one time my hero's name was identical to someone who was arrested for a high profile crime. I can't help but think that I'd heard that man's name on the news at some point, and when my hero gave me his first name, my subconscious dredged out the felon's name. Needless to say, the hero had his surname changed.

Sometimes the name is completely set and I can't change it no matter what Google turns up. Like Mika Noguchi from Through a Crimson Veil. In the book, Mika makes a joke when Conor searches her name and discovers that Mika Noguchi is an Asian woman's wrestling champ. Why does she do this? Because there really is a Mika Noguchi who's a woman wrestler. This actually led to a running joke through the story.

Checking out a character's name isn't a bad thing, but I doubt there's any name out there that no one in the world has unless it's something totally made-up and bizarre, and even then, who knows? Where does the line get drawn? No, I wouldn't let a character named Brad Pitt loose in a book, but Mika Noguchi? I thought that was okay since there can't be that many of my readers who follow Asian woman's wrestling. In the end, I think it has to come down to a writer's best judgment.