What’s in a name?

I have to admit there was a gentle, but persistent, niggle in the back of my mind about the name of one of my three main characters. And I found out why last night.

Gene Kerrigan The Rage

Kerrigan’s latest (award winning) novel

Just before I went up to bed, I glanced, as I often do, at some of my books in the sittingroom. One caught me eye – by excellent crime writer and fellow journalist Gene Kerrigan http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/authors/gene-kerrigan.

I opened it up and low and behold there was the same surname as one of my characters. Not only that, but it was his main character in the book. How could have I not remembered?

I suppose it throws up how we come up with names, often thinking we have come up with them. Are they from some other book we have read in the past, thrown into the swirling soup of our unconsciousness only to bob to the surface when we go searching for names?

Anyway, there is nothing for it, I suppose. I’ll have to change the name. Which is a bit of a shame as the name is now part and parcel of the character in my mind. And I like the name. Any words of advice out there?


About Cormac O'Keeffe

I've written a novel. And, it's going to be published. This April. Mad, or what? It's entitled 'Black Water' and is a crime novel set in Dublin's gangland, along the evocative Grand Canal. This blog is about that bumpy journey, which is about to get really exciting. You'll also find some photography on this blog, particularly snaps that relate to my novel, much of it centred along the canal. There are also some reviews, both fiction and non-fiction, many of them published in the Irish Examiner, a daily national newspaper in Ireland. I work as security correspondent there and have specialist interests in crime, drugs, policing, the justice system, communities and human rights. Both my personal life and my professional life have fed into my novel, or, rather, have been poured into it. My novel was granted a literature bursary by the Irish Arts Council in September 2014 and my journalistic work has won multiple awards from the Law Society of Ireland over many years, most recently in 2015.
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4 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. jjtoner says:

    I would keep the name. Maybe change it a bit if you’re worried about it. Could you change the Christian name and keep the surname, maybe?

  2. SJ O'Hart says:

    I’d say you’re fine to keep the name, unless it’s something so unusual that Gene Kerrigan must’ve made it up himself, and anyone reading your book would be automatically inclined to think of his! I had a character walk into my head once, and announce herself by name, so I gladly wrote all about her. Then, on Twitter a few months later, I found out an author (of whom I’d never heard) had a character with exactly the same name in her books, which are bestsellers in Australia. It was a weird moment for me. I decided I’d change the name of my character, which hurt a lot. But necessary in that case, I felt.

    • CJ O'Keeffe says:

      Thanks for your comment SJ. Yeah, it is totally reasonable for me to keep the name (it is just a surname and the characters are different genders). It just took me back when I spotted it and felt a bit deflated. I like the name and associate it with the character. Still haven’t made up my mind on it. Thanks again and best of luck on the rewriting!

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