So, your writer friend named a character after you.

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They may have told you this, thinking it would make you happy to hear it (and perhaps it did). Or you may have picked up their book after publication and noticed a character with your name, known that they wrote this book after meeting you, and thought to yourself, “Surely, that’s not a coincidence.”

But then you notice that the character with your name is…well. Not your best side. Perhaps a little like you, but surely you do not have that many flaws? Such weird peccadillos? Or such grievous sins — surely your friend does not see you that way!

Do they see you that way? Are they not-so-subtly trying to tell you, Hey, this is what I think of you?

No. They’re not.

(Or maybe they are. I’m not trying to speak for all writers here — I’m just sharing my perspective. There may be writers out there who are just that passive-aggressive.)

When I name a character after a friend, I do so, by and large, because I needed a name and said friend’s name worked in my world. I will usually intend that character to be a protagonist. Often, that character has quirks and peccadillos and weird flaws and big sins that come out in the writing that I never would associate with my friend — and by that point, the character is their own person who happens to have been named after my friend, and perhaps they share some superficial similarities but that’s really it.

It’s so obvious to me, the writer, that this character and this friend have nothing to do with each other except a name that I forget it may not be obvious to said friend when they read the story. They may read it and wonder if that’s what I really think of them, and gods, I must not be much a friend at all if that’s how I feel!

Friends, let me assure you: your names appear in my books because they were handy names, and perhaps I felt I wanted to include you somehow. The characters your names are bestowed upon are not you.

I’m just not that passive-aggressive.

Now, there may come a time when you do appear as a character in my book — but often under a different name. You may see some of yourself in other characters, and that’s likely because you’ve been such a huge influence in my life that I can’t help but to write you in some way. Or, you helped me out on one of my campaigns and got a perk where you get to be a character — that’s also a possibility, and one in which I would work with you in character creation.

But if you see your name in my story, don’t tear yourself up wondering if I was subtly trying to tell you something. I wasn’t. The characters have minds of their own, just like we do. I can only poke at them and hope they’ll go the direction I want them to go.

It’s like herding cats.

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