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Naming a Character for a Friend

My son-in-law Chris hinted that he’d love his name to be used for a character in one of my books. At first thought, it might be fun to do and a surprise for him. But now that I’m in the middle of my eighth novel, a suspense, the idea becomes a more serious matter. Naming a character for someone you know is not as easy as it sounds.

The actual villain in my novel is a real character in history. I couldn’t rename my villain Chris. The protagonist is a woman and while she could be named Chris, it wouldn’t be what my son-in-law had in mind. Besides that, I have plans for my characters that Chris might not like. Would he enjoy being portrayed as a brawling drunk or a victimized weakling? I think not. Probably he’d prefer the role of a Kirk Douglas-type gladiator or a Roger Moore kind of James Bond. I have no room for either in my novel.

A secondary character then. Good guy or bad guy? Each presents its own set of problems. Whichever I select to be named Chris, the real Chris would be looking for the hidden meanings. What was I really saying when I wrote that Chris liked his meatballs. Was I saying he was fat? A glutton? Had bad table manners? What if I wrote that Chris was infatuated with a golden-haired blonde. Wouldn’t the real Chris’s wife object? You bet.

The only way to take on this task without unexpected repercussions, I’ve decided, is to make the character a minor one who takes an innocuous part as a bystander in the book. I could use some of his well-known quirks or attitudes or skills and add them with humor all in good fun. For family harmony and good feelings, though, I’d steer clear of the offensive or snarky. Leave that for fiction. Better yet, maybe I’ll forget the idea altogether.

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