1. vcarson
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    vcarson Member

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    Using real surnames in fiction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by vcarson, Aug 22, 2014.

    Hi. In the project I'm currently working on, there is a minor character who had a very well known real surname. His name is Peter Astor II, of the historically powerful Astor family. He is a minor character and is shown in a neutral way. He has a relatively positive character. I think that having this character connects my piece of fiction to the real world. The time period is 1906 and it is set in a realistic US. Is this ok? Or am I doing something wrong? I don't know the rules or laws about things like this. Are you guys against using a real name in fiction? Or is it a good idea? Thanks for any feedback.
     
  2. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    It's commonplace to use real surnames. You're right: it can confer realism to your work (especially if you take nationality and so forth into consideration). I do it all the time.

    You might find this thread relevant: http://www.writingforums.org/threads/searching-your-characters-names-in-google.134118/

    I suppose the main legal caution would relate to libel, if your character is too similar to someone real who bears the same name (especially if it's not a common name). Afraid I'm no buff on specific legalities, but I've always found this amusing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_penis_rule . Possibly because my sense of humour never developed past adolescence.

    Apologies if I've made any ignorant transgressions in posting links.
     
  3. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As long as the character is fictional and never existed in the real world there should not be a problem. In The Five Greatest Warriors the author (Matthew Reilly) has created a character who is related to the House of Windsor (the UK Royal Family) and holds the title of princess. This character is quite important for the general plot, and not a minor character. So if Peter Astor II has never really existed (at least during the years 1800-200) I can't see there to be a problem if you use that name for a minor character. Though maybe someone else around here, someone more knowledgeable knows more. ;)
     
  4. vcarson
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    vcarson Member

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    No apology needed. My sense of humor hasn't hit puberty yet either. I still laugh at "that's what she said jokes". Thanks for the reply
     
  5. vcarson
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    vcarson Member

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    Thanks for the helpful post
     
  6. Anthonydavid11
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    Anthonydavid11 Member

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    It sounds fine to me. Could definitely help on setting the story in that time. My only note is that to give a character a surname, they should usually be important and have a major role. You are naming a historical figure and there is no way around it. You're good. But I have read some books that gave surnames to characters who were only in a scene or two and I think the characters could have even been nameless, much less given two names. The usual rule to make them a major character, but in your case, go for it.
     

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