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  • Writer's picturePeter McAllister

What’s in a name?

When you read a story, how does the name of the character influence the picture you build of them in your mind?

I have been thinking a bit about this as I work on my next project. In my first book, I perhaps overthought things!!

As an example, the main character came from a weird thought process: · Who is a part-man/part God kinda guy doesn’t fit in but is admired for his deeds – obviously the mythical Celtic Finn McCoul was a good starting point. · Can’t call him Finn, who is a famous Finn? · Neil Finn – the legendary frontman of the bands Crowded House and Split Enz · Neil is too boring, but his son is called Liam and that works – hence Liam McCoul

If a reader decoded that, I would be very worried!

So does a name drive us to an accurate view of a character? So I did a bit of research – what are the Peter McAllister’s like?

Let’s start with the made up ones. In movies and TV – here are four and their occupations:

· General Peter McAllister in the 1987 buddy cop action film “Lethal Weapon”. · Peter McAllister, Kevin McAllister’s father in both “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” (possibly Mafia) · Peter McAllister, Detective in “Ocracoke” · (John) Peter McAllister “The Master” - an American guy who had been living in Japan since World War II and learning the way of the ninja.

And here are the jobs of 14 real ones that I ran into on the internet (don't ask!) · President of the Health Labour Relations Association · Tetrate engineer (IT) · Property Developer · Music Teacher · Roads Operator · Environmental activist · General Practitioner · Managing Director, Food Services Company · Bodyguard · Chief Development and Operations Manager, Steel Company · MD, Neurologist · Executive Director, Ethical Trading Initiative · Author of Cosmonaut”, “Manthropology” and "Pygmonia: in search of the secret land of the pygmies:" · Author “The Code: If Your AI Loses Its Mind, Can It Take Meds?”, and Technology Manager

Not a lot in common there – although you can put two together and get a plot for a movie – like bodyguard to neurologist, or property developer to environmental activist.

The only thing that does stand out is that 4 of the 14 real ones are MD’s or PhD’s. With each of those representing less than 2% of the population – they are way overrepresented on the list (that is probably bias in the sample).

Anyway – for my next project should I follow my own twisted thought patterns or just pick a name and get on with it?

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