Sometimes, a character will come up to me, tap me on the shoulder, and introduce himself. I know what sort of person he is right off and whether he’s meant to be a minor character or a major one. I have to dig a bit to find out his flaws, but we’re on friendly enough terms that I get to know all good things about him.
Including his name.
It’s a beautiful phenomena when a character comes pre-named.
I don’t have to ask people for help figuring out a name (I’ve driven a couple of people quite crazy with this). The name is perfect for the character and I can move on to other details of the person.
I don’t like to name characters after people I know well unless it is very subtle. It’s somewhat embarrassing to know that the namesake person will read the story and possibly will assume the character is named after them. Oh, I think it’s cool at first, but then I am scared of what that person may think about having their name borrowed for a character who may be presented truthfully, but not flatteringly, or not accurately at all.
That, and I might very well start a family war if I start naming characters after my siblings.
But there’s a problem. While there are thousands upon thousands of names in the world (and, as a fantasy author, I can make up names, occasionally), I know a lot of people. Some names may have to be shared.
Back to what I said earlier, I had a character come up to me earlier and introduce himself with the name of one of my good friends. I had already been planning to subtly insert my friend’s name into the story as a reference or walk-on character, but this character gave me his name and pretty much told me that he was more than a walk-on.
I looked through the list of beautiful Irish names I had just compiled and learned how to pronounce. I tried some of those names with him. But no.
He wanted the name he called himself.
I know that’s really Eddie Redmayne, but author instinct tells me that’s my new character. The one stealing a friend’s name. The one who is most definitely more than a walk-on in the story I’m test-driving. I don’t know his purpose or his flaws or very much about him at all, but I know his name.
Author instinct is difficult to describe to people who aren’t authors and possibly still difficult to even describe to people to are authors. The Muse? Voices? Inspiration? It’s… you just know when something is right about the story and what’s a good idea and exactly who that character is.
So, here’s a question for you, readers: do I rebel against author instinct and name this character something different or do I allow him the name he wants?