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I'm trying to name a character, and I found one that fits him perfectly. It makes sense for the setting, it supports the theme and his character arc, and it supports his parents' characters (mainly the reasons why they agreed to name him that).

The problem is it's an alternative spelling to the masculine version of my own name. I hope to publish this one day using my real name, not a pseudonym, but I don't know if that's odd. I've tried searching other names, but either they don't fit as well as this one, or they're just other variations of the same name.

Am I overthinking, or should I bite the bullet and find a different name?

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    Why does the name fit and not another?
    – Ben
    Nov 15, 2023 at 6:39

4 Answers 4

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You're overthinking this. There's a difference between choosing a name because it's similar to yours, and choosing a name because it fits the character.

Example: on stackexchange my username is Wyvern123. Suppose that I'll be using this as my writing pseudonym. If I want to write about a protagonist whose name is Wyv, merely because that happens to be my pseudonym, then that would be a problem. There's no good reason save that it's my own name. However, if there were good reasons (it fits, there's some significance to it in the story, etc.), then the name Wyv would be fine.

Don't worry about your character's name if you have a good reason for it.

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Are your readers going to notice the similarity between your name and your character's name? Of course they will! Maybe not every single reader, but the majority will. If readers didn't notice and think about characteristics of character names we wouldn't have to think about naming them. Fictional names are significant and they shape the reading experience in many ways.

So what's the danger? Are readers going to make fun of it, as another answerer suggested? Probably not. The problem is that your readers are going to assume that that character is (a version of) you and they will read that character's personality, goals, and behavior as being either a portrait of yourself or who you would like to be.

You may intend that if your novel is autobiographical in some way or if you write a story about the adventures of your gaming character, but you may not want your readers to read you into your novel if that's not what you wrote.

If I had to guess, I'd assume that you feel that that name is fitting because you do indeed identify with your character overly much. That is, you lack professional distance from your narrative. That could become a problem during the writing, because you wouldn't write what the story needs but what you wish for. It is always a good idea to make sure that your characters are their own persons and have agency independent of you. Naming can be part of that.

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Personally, I would change it. I don't believe in name-determinism. I think you can build a character named "Felix" or "Wesley" into the cruelest sociopathic badass in the Galaxy, if you want.

On Star Trek, one of the kindest and most moral characters is named "Crusher".

Yes, there are stereotypes for names, but I find it boring when a heroic character is given a stereotypical heroic name, and a villain is given a stereotypical villain name, and the techno-geek is given a geek name, and the dumb athletic jock is given the common name, ...

What we see recently is that heroes often have very common first names that don't carry much baggage: Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Peter Pan, Ethan Hunt. Jack is so popular as the heroic lead it is becoming cliché.

I agree with @Ben above; you may be subconsciously biased by your familiarity with your own name and what you think it means; and your readers aren't going to be able to read your mind.

They are going to see your name on the front cover, and the first thing you will do is introduce them to a hero with basically the same first name: They will assume you are writing a fantasy starring yourself.

Names are what you make them; IMO you should pick a name that is not particularly memorable, and by your story, make it memorable.

That is what JK Rowling did, there was never anything special about "Harry Potter", it was intentionally a common as dirt name. But now, approximately everybody in the world knows who "Harry Potter" is, and billions of people love that character.

The same with Charlene "Charlie" McGee, the little girl in Stephen King's Firestarter. Not as memorable as Harry Potter, but we don't think of many 8 year old "Charlene's" as being a badass. By the end of that book you'll believe Charlene McGee is not a person you want to go up against.

The name will mean what you make it mean. I wouldn't poison the well by using a name so similar to your own that it creates any false expectations by the reader, from page 1.

My advice is to change it, to something common, and as writing advice do not rely upon "what names mean" to name your characters.

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You're overthinking. Sure, there's a possibility for people to make fun of you for it, but there is always a chance of that. People will make fun of anything if they want to. However, if your story is good, the majority of people won't care. If anything, I see an interesting story that you could talk to fans about.

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