Why Can’t I Name Characters Not After Famous People

 

Let’s see, hilarious mistakes.

There is no doubt in my mind that I made far more of these than I can remember right now. Actually, I can remember a lot of mistakes I made, and I even caught a lot of them myself before we went to copy edits (that woman missed NOTHING I tell you), but they’re not particularly funny.

One of the things I had to be vigilant about was the way my characters talked. Often, I would think a particular idiom or expression was old enough to use in my historical novel when, in fact, it wasn’t. At one point I remember I used the term “all in”—and reread this dozens of times before it occurred to me to verify when the card-playing expression actually came into use. Turned out, no one in 1910 would have been thinking or speaking those words. Who knew?

The thing I seem to do pretty consistently is to name characters after famous people and not even notice. Irma Jones, a very minor character who came up in my post last week, was originally Nora Jones. Yup. And then a kind beta reader pointed out to me that I might not want to distract my readers with thoughts of the famous singer and I thought, oh yes. That’s a good point.

I also did this with a much more important character, Ali McBryde. Ali was originally Ali McGraw, and I suppose this is a little less silly because Ali McGraw was far more famous before I was born than by the time I started writing the book, but I still know who she is, for Pete’s sake. I have seen Love Story and admired her plaid outfits, and so on and so forth. This one got all the way to the copy editor, who very kindly suggested maybe I didn’t realize there was once a famous actress with this name. Nope. I did realize. I just can’t seem to come up with good names on my own and must unwittingly borrow them from the recesses of my subconscious. Oh, well.

What about you? Have you caught any hilarious mistakes in your own writing recently? Let me know in the comments!

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Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master's degree in art history after a year spent in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

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