1. MrWisp
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    MrWisp Member

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    Not-so-unique Character Name

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MrWisp, Mar 11, 2013.

    This is a silly issue, but I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced it. I spend a very long time (probably too long) developing names that I feel truly fit with my characters. Well, I finally had all of my names set for a novel that I've been working on for years, and lo and behold, I see that the main character in a new television series shares the name with one of my main characters. I know that it would be presumptuous of me to assume that this is a problem, since I have yet to be published, but still...ever happen to anyone else? And was your immediate reaction the same as mine? ("Great...now I have to start the naming process again...) Anyone out there share my pain?
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you spend too much time thinking of names - just write your book!

    "Find and Replace" in Word is great - names will come and go and you can change every name in your completed manuscript in a couple of clicks just seconds before you send it away.
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think anyone would get anywhere if they were forever after something as arbitrary as names - tonnes of books share character names. My villain is Shadow Walker and there's a user on this forum called that. One of the magical substances in my novel is ezreth and I came across a thread on here where another author has a monster called Ezreth (identical spelling too). It happens. If the name you have fits your character, as you say it does, then who cares? Keep it.

    Unless of course the TV series is super famous and the character who shares your character's name is also super famous and super unique, like Gandalf or Voldemort or something - in which case I do feel your pain because there's no way you could keep yours if this is the case.
     
  4. MrWisp
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    MrWisp Member

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    Ha. Yeah, you're right. My book, though fantasy, is very much set in the "real world," and in the real world, people have the same name. I guess I should think of it this way: if I'd just finish my book (so close!), I wouldn't have to worry about this. :)
     
  5. Sanjuricus
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    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    Just had a similar experience. The setting of my novel is called Hollow World. Just been looking at up coming novels from one of my favourite writers only to find one of his novels is called Hollow World. I breathed a sigh of relief as I read on and found that it related to how the MC felt about his life...rather than a literally hollow world!!!
     
  6. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    How many people do you know named Stephenie, or Elizabeth or Ryan? I bet its alot. it is for my. Why, then, should a book contain names that no one is familiar with, that aren't shared with any other fictional character? I'm sure there are dozens of fictional character's named Harry (Potter and Dresden, for example), and who knows how many Potters. In fact, I know a few Potters in real life. Are there a lot of Voldemorts? No. But there is nothing wrong with another Harry or Ryan or whatever. Even more obscure names, like Natika, are likely to show in several places.

    What I'm saying is, unless the name is super rare/unique, use it. There is nothing wrong with two fictional characters sharing a first or last name or something. Character names don't have to be super unique. In fact, it sort of makes things seem a bit...Unrealistic, even in a fantasy setting.
     
  7. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    Honestly, I went through a baby book for names, haha.
     
  8. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    If you're absolutely determined to have a meaningful name of some kind I would suggest going and searching for things on Google/Bing/Yahoo/etc. like "Names that mean _______." Another option would be to use behindthename.com, where you can go be the origins of the name, the sex of the name, or even go to a list of "Name Themes" were you can see lists that all mean similar things.
     
  9. Lokasenna
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    Lokasenna Member

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    I've taken all the names in my novel from medieval scandinavian literature - and usually that's because the character I'm referencing has had an impact on the creation of my character. I think it adds another level of meaning to them. So, one of my antagonists is named Katla - a good, solid witch's name from Icelandic saga literature; the fact that Katla is still a fairly common name in scandinavian countries doesn't really bother me. Heck, my main character's name might sound nice and exotic to an English speaking audience, but it is basically the Icelandic equivalent of Kevin Smith.
     
  10. slamdunk
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    slamdunk Member

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    I think maybe you are overthinking the names, I have never seen myself put away a book because "this name is a name I heard before". There would be so many good books that I couldn't read if all names had to be original all the time.
     
  11. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    The main character in my novel is called Layla Phillips and I thought I'd google the name to see how many Layla Phillips' are out there. 100's - but I am still going to keep the name. Just keep the names you have picked.

    A riddle springs to mind: What's yours but anyone can use it and you can't stop them?

    answer: your name.

    I think it was Cognito who said that names weren't copy righted unless they were trade marks, of course (Harry Potter is trademarked to J K Rowling for instance)
     
  12. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Unless they lay claim to the name I see no problem with this (I also lack legal education so take this with a grain of salt)
     
  13. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Harry Potter is trademarked only as the title, not as the name. And the trademark is quite limited seeing as Harry Potter is the name of many actually existing people.
    What you need to be careful about is not to use trademarked material that from the context in which they are used point to the original trademark owner.
    An example mentioned in another thread in this forum is the franchise ALIEN. They have trademarked the CONCEPT of alien, which means a movie/novel etc named ALIEN that has a plot similar to that of the original franchise. If you want to title your novel Alien and it is about illegal immigrants or foreigners or something different from man-eating space creatures that spring out of people's chests, then you are in the clear. However if your novel is about alien species fighting with humans or among themselves and you want to name it alien, you might have legal issues.

    All in all, use whatever name you want. You can name your white wizard Gandalf and possibly get away with it legally, but the main backlash would come from the readers. If you want to use a widely known name that points to a famous character, use it on a character completely different from the original.
     
  14. Lokasenna
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    Lokasenna Member

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    Though, of course, Tolkien stole the name (along with all the dwarf names in The Hobbit) from the Old Norse poem Völuspá, so in a sense he wasn't being original either. The name literally means 'elf of the wand/staff', so it is at least fitting, but still...
     
  15. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    I know it wasn't original to Tolkien and as such anyone would have a hard time suing, but the problem lies in the fact that 1) there was no copyright law in the time period Völuspá was composed and 2)The character was never widely recognizable. Since copyright for Tolkien's works is still active, i would refrain from coming close to infringement.
     
  16. Lokasenna
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    Lokasenna Member

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    Actually, I suspect those Old Norse poets would be pleased that their material was being adapted and used over 800 years later; they had no concept of intellectual ownership, and poetry was freely taken, and highly adaptable. I think Tolkien's use of Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon literary motifs are subtle and creative, rather than derivative. Gandalf may basically be Odin tempered with a thin veil of humanity, but he is still a great character in his own right.
     
  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is there something wrong with having the same name as someone else? I would hazard a guess and say you are not the only person with your name. I have a fairly unique name and yet there are two or three people in the world, both male and female with the same name that I know of! Just because you saw a character in a tv program with the same name does not necessarily exclude that name as an appropriate moniker for your character. So, as erebh so eloquently stated, "just write your book". Then, if, at the end of the process, you decide you want to change the character's name, do it. But don't get bogged down in name-calling at this stage of the game.
     

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