1. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Sharing the same last name

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Space_Goose, Mar 9, 2012.

    Hello,

    I don't really have any friends who write but I do have some that read and I have been letting a few of them read over the first chapters in my current project just go get feed back. Usually, they get a few paragraphs into Chapter 1 and start laughing and its always because of the same reason. My main character has the same last name as me. Now I did not do this intentionally, it just kind of worked out that way. We do not share first names or middle names, just surnames and I have a decently common surname. According to a statistics page I found on the internet, My surname is the 14th most common in the US and nearly the same in the Uk. Still my friends all think it is very funny that I gave my main character the same last name as my self. So I wanted to get your opinions on the matter. Would you have a problem reading a Stephen King book is the main character's name was Johnny King? Or, do you think I should change it? I would love to get your opinions.
     
  2. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    Personally, I don't think I would care all to much (especially if the last name is generic).

    Not to say I wouldn't notice, and I might scoff a little when I see it, but it's not like it would effect my reading experience in any way.
     
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  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I don't think it's a big deal. Especially not if your name is common, and especially if the last name is the only way that you and your MC are blatantly alike.
     
  4. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    I'd only mind if your name wasn't common, for instance: If my actual surname was Schofield and I decided to give my main character the same last name, I think it would just be too obvious as to what I was doing. I know a guy who wrote a really long Star Wars fanfic and gave his main character (a Jedi Knight) the exact same name as himself... first and last. His first name was sort of generic (it's not a name you'd imagine would be in Star Wars though), and his last name was very unique. I sighed when I saw that, I'm all for wanting to be part of your story but that's just a bit too much.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    of course you did, since you're the one who assigned that name to your character... there are so many other surnames available that there's no good reason for using your own...

    i'm sure many readers [including myself] would find it a bit of author arrogance/conceit and think less of you for doing so... so why do it?
     
  6. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    I would venture to say not necessarily. Characters take on a life of their own, and they make choices that the author must either accept, or refuse to accept. Refusing to accept means changing who the character is, and violates proper characterization simply at the whims of the author. For example, in one story I have, two of my characters chose to date. One girl had her characterization, and one guy had his, and it turned out that the logical thing to do was to let these two date. Their stories simply bring them together, and it was no choice of mine.

    Of course, it's a little different from a name, because names aren't chosen. I'm willing to believe it's necessary to characterization to have a certain name. Particularly if it's a common name. After all, if I don't know the author, I might not even notice. And if it's something like Stephen King writing about Johnny King, I don't mind. King's fairly common.
     
  7. jg22
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    jg22 Member

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    If your surname is Smith and your novel is set in 900BC then no, I would not use the surname. ;)
     
  8. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I think I agree with mama - if I see a book by Fred White and the main character is called Johnny White, I'm gonna think one of two things:

    1) The MC is a thinly veiled self insertion character
    2) The MC is a thinly veiled (or not veiled at all) relative of the author's

    Would either of these things bother me if they were actually true? I guess it would depend on how good the story was, but in general I would be thinking the author a little crass and unsubtle for not attempting to hide the inspiration for their character. If it was neither of the above, then I'd think them rather amateur, as they obviously couldn't even be bothered to give their main character an original name.
     
  9. KuroOokami
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    KuroOokami Banned

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    The first story I wrote [fictional] when I was 16, I really don't count it from the way I write now, I gave my main character my middle name and my last name [which is actually a very rare last name].

    It was obvious certainly but I found it gave me something to relate to while I was writing the story itself. Afterwards though when I was rereading it, due to the rareness of my last name, it was like nope better change it.... so I did a crtl + H as a means of replacing a given word took my last name changed the character's last name to something more common [Bates].

    But you find, or at least I find, if you can give the character something to relate to you as you are writing - particularly as a beginner - it makes the writing itself much easier.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest I don't care that much about the author - if the story was good.

    I agree that characters sometimes name themselves and I do have one with my surname, however I use a pen name (you could always change your own name instead, sometimes that is easier).
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Characters do take on a life of their own, but the writer still decides what to call them. It's foolish to pretend otherwise. I agree with those who say it isn't a big deal if you have a common name, but given the infinite variety of surnames out there, I see no upside. In any event, please don't pretend you couldn't help it.
     
  12. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I think after a while characters become so established that people tend to think they were just dropped into their heads fully developed, already with a backstory, family history, birth certificate... they forget that they are creations that we once sat and thought up.

    I honestly can't see my MC as being called anything else now - I can't even remember where their name came from, maybe I just heard it somewhere and liked it. Either way it's not my name so I'm not worried, lol
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some of mine pop up with a name and say hello my name is - others I deliberatly name, and others it is just the first name that popped into my head.

    However I find my characters are quickly either entrenched with their name or they insist on a new one until I get it right.
     
  14. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Totally agree. Sometimes I struggle with a character's name and then suddenly the name just comes when I'm writing and it feels right. It's true, we have the right to choose these names but sometimes the story we're writing becomes a whole world of its own, residing in our heads and forcing us to go one direction rather than the other.

    I'd say don't name your character the same name as yours (first, middle or last). Even if your names are too common, it'd strip the characters of their uniqueness for you and the reader alike.
     
  15. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    When I first started brainstorming for my story, a first name just popped into my head for the main character. It is a common first name yet in my reading experiences, I don't think I have come across a significant character with the same first name...not that I can remember anyway. But I liked the name and really felt like it fit the main character like a glove. The problem them became finding a surname for he character. By this time, i had already started writing Chapter 1 and I had come to spot where it was necessary for the reader to know the main characters first and last names. I did a good search for US surnames (since my main character is American). I literally went down the list plugging the first name in with the surnames. After awhile, I found a combination that I liked...but the surname was also my surname. The point is that it was not my intention when I started writing to name a character after my self, a member of my family, or even a friend. I noticed it of course and I made the decision to go with it; thinking at the time that it wouldn't be a big deal.

    But some of you feel fairly strongly that I should change his name. Others don't feel quit so strongly but admit that you would probably scoff if you were reading work and noticed the Author had the same last name as his main character. So as much has the character is in my head right now screaming "No, No, No, Nooooo!", I think that I am probably going to have to change it in order for the work to be taken seriously.

    Like one person said, I could use a pen name. Well I have a long way to go before I can even start thinking about a Pen name. I have one on the back burner should the need arise but I have to worry about getting published first.

    Thanks for the insights.
     
  16. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    The name must be changed. Not the character's, of course - that would be absurd. Your name. (To avoid the bureaucratic upheaval I suggest you go with the compromise of using a pen name.)

    Serious business. You gave him a name. Your awareness of the name has shaped the character and shaped the interactions he has had with other characters. This is not mere conjecture. This is science, baby. Science never lies. People's behaviours are affected by the names they bear. Simple. Change the name and you will damage your novel.
     
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  17. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    You can change the name, but change it after the book is written. If you disrupt the writing flow now by worrying about the name it will affect the novel. Write it as is for now, and then after think of what name to change it to. It takes little effort to do that after. Plus, you may have another name pop up while writing it that will make it work. If you cannot think of any other name, then do not fret. It is a name, but the characters qualities are what matters most.
     
  18. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    BUNKUM! Editors and publishers change aspects like this ALL THE TIME. Only unpublished authors can afford to be so precious about their creations.
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd change it, for sure. My rule to avoid writing a Mary Sue is never name a character after myself, not name, surname, middle name, nickname on the internet, pseudonym, nothing. New name, one we don't share.
    This is not because of the readers, but because of me, by naming a character the same way as myself makes me too protective and harms character development, imho.

    To think that the characters somehow "control" us or "chose for themselves" or whatever is in my opinion naive. Everything we ever write comes from our conscious mind. It might give a voice to some more suppressed desires, fears, interests, but it's always us, we are writing the characters, everything they do is our doing, without us they do not exist.

    It's ok to free associate when writing and planning, but believing that we have no control over certain things a character does, in my opinion, means that the writer doesn't yet have reliable skill or control over their writing. True skill comes with taking responsibility for all the decisions we make as writers, from the most banal to the biggest ones. If we don't, we can pretend to blame our mistakes on the characters ("they made me do it", "I had no power over their decisions" etc), which can make us feel better about our own inadequacies, but in the long run, it won't help us grow as writers, imho.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that... in spades!
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well all authors do have the option to self publish or not let the change happen and remain unpublished ;)

    With some characters yes I would rather leave them as is and Kindle them.

    I've had editors suggest I make some of my gay characters more straight and that ain't happening, it's important to me. Another has suggested my fantasy should be medieval like everyone else's instead of modern times -- again it isn't worth the change as I'd have to completely change the characters and stories. There are aspects of my creations that I fully intend to retain a precious attitude towards.
     
  22. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't care what you call the character. Write under a penname if you're concerned. If people actually care that both the author and the character share a same last name, then they are just looking for reasons to nitpick. Maybe if the name is so uncommon, you might have a harder time justifying it. But if it's a common surname, who cares?
     
  23. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd find it amusing and it would definitely give me some sort of impression of what you think of yourself and why you chose to write about this character/this story. I wouldn't take the character too seriously; I couldn't help but smirk everytime the character Makimura was mentioned in Murakami's Dance, Dance, Dance - and that's an anagram rather than directly using the same name.
     
  24. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    It's not something that would bother me. With that said, when I find out the protagonist and author share the same last name, I might go, "Oh". This takes me out of the experience for a moment, so it's worth thinking about.
     
  25. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Of course, that's your choice. But to me, self pubbed is only different from unpublished in one way; now people can actually see for themselves just how unpublishable your novel is ;) (that was said with tongue in cheek, mostly...)

    Well, that's a bit different. Changing a name is one thing, changing massive aspects of your character's personality or changing entire themes or settings is a little more than just doing a search and replace on one word... If you have to make such huge changes, I'd say you're probably with the wrong publisher. There are most likely others who would publish the genre or sub-genre you write.
     

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