I Might Have Borrowed Your Name

There are only so many letter combinations that make up a name. Sure, celebrity parents would tell you otherwise, but just you wait, future playgrounds will be rife with confusion over which Apple, Moxie Crimefighter, or Ford Prefect belongs to whom. What I'm trying to say is, unless you have a very unusual name, you probably share it with more people than you realize. Some of those people may be fictional.
I am one of the legions of Christina McMullens out there and, if Google is to be believed, they are all far and away more successful than me. And yes, one of them is not only fictional, but the main character in a murder mystery series!
And this is the reason that every book you read carries a handy disclaimer at the beginning. Not every action hero can have a name like Jack Gunslinger, Basher  McPunchmaster, or Carlos Danger*. Sometimes the hero is Joe Anderson or Bob McPherson. Those disclaimers are there so that Gordon Jones, the guy who steals your lunch out of the fridge at work, can't sue you for creating Gordon Jones, puppy kicker and general jerkwad villain in your story.
Actually, that's totally not true. Gordon has a pretty solid case, which is why even with that disclaimer, we really don't want our characters to be recognizable as anyone we know. This includes names.
I don't know how many times I've started naming a character, only to realize that the name I thought I created was a coworker I had talked to earlier in the day. So we mash letters together and come up with a perfectly plausible human name that isn't someone we know. And what we get is the name of an accountant in Peoria or a dentist in Burlingame** who we have never met, will never meet, and may never know we used their name unless they obsessively Google themselves. It just happens.
True story: I've written a crap load of characters and have had to pull a crap load of names out of thin air as I wrote them into stories. I may have already mentioned that Andre was originally named Jason before I met my husband, Jason. But since actually publishing my books, I've spoken to a total of three people with the same names as characters I've created. In the next book, I'm creating a crap load more characters, one might share your name. It's not intentional, I don't even know you. But if I do use your name, or if I already have, I totally want to know, because that would be cool.

*Sorry, still funny, I couldn't resist. Danger!
**I had to mention Burlingame because despite having actually been there recently, my husband refuses to believe that's not a made up place. I don't really know why.

Comments

  1. Burlingame? Why not? I mean, we have Peewaukee in Wisconsin and Pookeepsie in Pennsylvania.

    Nobody has my name. NOBODY! Well, me.

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  2. I knew a girl with your name once. Sadly, she died young, but she was a great kid and you would have found her worthy of sharing your name.
    I love the Wisconsin names. Waukesha is fun to say.

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