Huh? you ask.
Let me explain: I'll give a character a real person's name - but NEVER the very same person's personality. Case in point: In my mystery, Second Time Around, a fellow appears at the end of the story and his name is Donald McHenry. I DO know a fellow named Donald McHenry - he's my 79 year old father. But he's nothing like the character in the book: a 55 year old CPA with a full head of curly dark hair. Well...okay...maybe the real DM is color-blind, just like the guy in the book...
All kidding aside, the first names - and sometimes even the full names - of people I know appear in my books, but never with the same personality types or occupations or physical characteristics. I am not the least bit interested in being sued for libel, slander, invasion of privacy, etc. In the case of the situation with my father, I had his blessing (read: permission). But in other cases, the people whose names I borrowed were thrilled: my friends and my children. I also only use these "borrowed" names for secondary or incidental characters. I do not use them for main characters. I've often thought of using the name of an old boyfriend as the murderer or, God forbid, the name of my ex-husband. But I think that's walking way too close to the line.
When it comes to naming main characters, I keep a number of things in mind:
- Avoid using the same sound, or beginning letters: i.e. Jack and Joan; Barney and Bonnie
- Avoid cutesy names: i.e. Jack and Jill; Pat and Mike
- Avoid spellings that don't easily translate phonetically: i.e. Celenie or Siobhan
- Use ethic names when appropriate
- I tend to use one syllable first names for male protagonists, especially names with hard sounds: i.e. Jack, Ben
- I tend to use two-syllable first names for female protagonists - this contrasts with the one syllable male protagonist names
- I prefer Irish or Celtic names (strictly personal)
- I prefer that first and last names have some common sounds--this works well for auditory readers: Lyn McLaren, Timmie Campbell
- I prefer NOT to use overly unusual/uncommon names: i.e. Balthazar, Mordyce