1. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thou Shalt Not Name Thy Characters "X"

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ToeKneeBlack, Apr 13, 2016.

    I write books, but I also work in a school. I won't say where it is or what it's called, but one of the pupils has asked me if I could name a character after them in one of my WIPs. No harm in that I thought, as there's no reference to the school, nor are there any personal details or photographs of the person in question.

    20 proof copies later and I'm told by my line manager to remove the name. I'm also told I can't use a similar sounding name. Note that I'm only using their first name. If I'd picked "John" or "Sarah", you could guarantee there would be at least 20 pupils with those names. Not to mention all the other character names in my previous works which violate this "rule".

    This leaves me with names from other countries or names which nobody uses any more.
    I'm not renaming my main character "Mildred" for anyone - not that I don't like the name, but it would be more suited to a story set in the 1930's than in the 2200's.

    Can my employer legally stop me from using a specific first name? I don't want to cause a problem at work, but I think this is an unreasonable request.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just to clarify: Is the proscription being demanded in work that is work-work, or in your personal work? If it's work-work, then yes, I think they can diffidently make demands given that they are technically the end client, but if it's your personal work I don't think they have leg to stand on.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    "line manager"?

    Are you writing fiction or some texts that are used in the school?

    How did the complainant know the name involved a student request?
     
  4. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm writing fiction set in the 23rd century. He calls himself my "line manager" but I don't know if that's an official term. My writing is done outside of my work hours, so it's not related to my wages in any way.

    One of my proof readers is a fellow member of staff and they told him about it. I don't know if they thought it was a threat to "data protection", but that's what my line manager calls it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is absolutely not a violation of data protection. It's absurd.

    But only you know what would happen if you refused. Would they drop it or would there be ramifications?
     
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  6. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I doubt they could fire me over it, but I don't want to incur anybody's paranoia.
    If it resulted in legal action, the news would be both a blessing and a curse, since it would be publicity both for the book and the child in question.

    I don't want to shine a spotlight on any particular pupil, as the damage that could do to their confidence isn't worth the possible royalties from any sales as a result. My understanding is their name in a book without a legal row or local news coverage would be a boost for their confidence.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I think it's a lovely gesture for a pupil with low confidence. It's a shame your "line manager" is being so ridiculous. :(
     
  8. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could release a different WIP under an alias with their name in there somewhere and just not tell anyone besides the person in question, but if anyone found out they'd doubt if they can trust me any more.

    Sometimes you've just got to jump through hoops. :(
     
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  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Has the manager really told you that you can't use any name that is used by any person associated with the school? Or just that you can't carry through with your plan to name a character after this specific student?

    They seem like different things. Yes, I realize that if you name a character "Mary", there's probably a "Mary" at school, but that Mary presumably never asked you to name a character after them. Since this student actually asked, I can see how it's different.
     
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  10. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just this specific name, but I fail to see how it would harm anyone regardless of whether somebody asked for it or not.

    Possibly with their first name and surname, but that combination would have to be quite rare. Even then, readers who don't know the pupil wouldn't know their age, appearance or location.

    It's just a first name. Granted there are hundreds of others I could choose from, but I fail to see my line manager's point.
     
  11. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does your manager know that your student asked you to do it?
     
  12. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    Lol. I've never heard of a rule like this. I don't get it. What's his problem? Did he at least justify his reason? Data protection? What does that have to do with using a requested name? He should look up what data protection means.
     
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  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    What legal claim do you think they could bring? If they were to fire you over this you might have a claim against the school.
     
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  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Reading your posts which leave a bit out, @ToeKneeBlack, you may be expanding the request beyond it's original meaning. This is what I gather that may be wrong but for what it's worth:

    Line manager hears from kids that character Judy (or whatever the name is) is really kid Judy from class and tells you to take the name out.

    You think that means don't use any of the kids' names.

    Change that one name, carry on and see what happens.
     
  15. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    He heard it from another member of staff, but there aren't that many pupils with this particular name enrolled at the school. It's not a common name, but it is one you could find in an alphabetized list.

    The thing is, anyone could claim I used a pupil's name if they find it in any of my stories, even if it was one I chose randomly from a list. Granted this is a worst case scenario.

    I'll back down on this one name, but if they read through the whole thing and find more names they don't like, I'm changing it back.

    The problem isn't the pupils making fun of each other for having their names in my books - they can find their names in books by other authors if they go through enough of them. In fact, I don't know what the problem is.
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why don't you just deny the student ever asked, and it was pure coincidence? What record is there that proves the student ever asked?

    Anyway yeah, probably not worth fighting this as I imagine it's probably a cameo or minor character anyway, right? I don't think your manager could demand this of you but it's not worth the ramifications you'll face at work. If this line manager is your superior, you're just asking for trouble as he can make life hell for you, I'm sure, even if he doesn't have a legal leg to stand on regarding this name thing.
     
  17. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    I feel as though it could be a little hairy if you're naming characters after students. For some reason it just pings my 'Stuff teachers shouldn't be doing' detector.
    I say this also as a teacher of kids.
     
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  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but in this case someone actually did ask you to use their name, and you agreed. I'm fairly puzzled as to why you're extending this to what someone could lie about. They actually asked, you actually said yes, and your manager is saying, well, no, you can't do that. I'm not clear on why you're making this bigger than that.
     
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  19. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I name fatally destined characters after my enemies.
     
  20. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree there is a difference between picking a name from a list and having one suggested, but I fail to see how it is dangerous for the person in question.
     
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  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, I don't think that it's the least bit dangerous either. But I don't think that that's the lack of danger is an obvious unarguable fact. If the pupils are minors, I can see that the school might feel that a decision to ignore the situation was outside their authority, and that they weren't interested in soliciting permission from the parents. Even if the pupils are adults, perhaps the school perceived some vague potential liability.

    I think that they saw the choice between (1) incurring some minor liability, or (2) going to some trouble to eliminate that liability by getting (or ordering you to get) written permission from an adult pupil or the parents of a minor pupil, or (3) ordering you to eliminate the whole issue, and they went with the third option.
     
  22. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I inquired about getting parental permission afterwards but the request was denied.

    The naming of the character after a real person would never be made public, so as far as the average reader would be concerned the name may as well have been chosen from a list.

    I guess the school is playing it safe, but if someone says I named another character after another pupil even when I hadn't, I could still be asked to change it anyway.
     
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  23. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    This is a difficult one. There have been numerous characters named after people in the past, but usually, those names will have been submitted be people as part of a competition, and the person submitting their name, is over 18 and therefore classed as an adult able to make these decisions.

    So anything that would mean a child is making those adult decisions, flags up the PC brigade.

    If the character and the child share more than just a name, (like age and general description) then it could be argued that you are writing a fictional story about the child, so unless you have a parent/guardian's approval to do this, you may have a problem. Also, were you planning on putting anything in the dedication/foreword that the character was named after this pupil? Again, parental consent would most likely be needed.

    If it's just a case of a name, and only a first name, then there really shouldn't be a problem. There could be numerous children (and even teachers) in the school with the same name, that's just coincidence.

    To be on the safe side, naming a character after anyone, is something I would stay away from, there's just no telling what the ramifications are going to be.

    Slightly off topic, but I also work in an education establishment, in a kitchen, and we've just had a memo to say that, among other things, we are not allowed to:
    1. put our place of work on any social network profile.
    2. discuss work related topics on any social network (even though we can't put on there where we work)
    3. befriend any person who uses our services.
    4. befriend any suppliers.
    5. discuss people we work with.
    6. make derogatory remarks about colleagues or service users.
    and that we must always be:
    1. mindful of anything we post online which may have comeback to our employers (again, even though we can't put on there where we work)
    2. using social networking on our own devices in our own time (I do agree with this one)

    I'm not sure our employees are legally entitled to place these restrictions upon us, but I for one, am not willing to find out what they will do if I break any of their rules.
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @cutecat22 they don't want things you say on social media to be associated with the workplace. They don't want an appearance of impropriety due to worked being friends with people at other entities in the supply chain. They don't want to be subject to claims of a hostile work environment as a result of things said about co-workers on social media outside of the work space. &c.
     
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  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @ToeKneeBlack yes the school is being overcautious. Many schools are in this area, worried about running afoul of FERPA, for one thing. In this case it would be hard to see how your use is a violation.
     

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