Today, DMc is writing about character names
and how hard they are to clear.
Fortunately, only a tiny percentage of the audience really notices what the names of the secondary characters are. Names are important to understanding the character during development. Names are important in reading scripts, but far less important to shooting scripts. Once you're shooting, there's an actor inhabiting the character, and that trumps the name, except for people writing prose about the show, and they are in a tiny minority. (The fact that all of you readers are probably in that minority shouldn't throw you off.)
I'm a writer and I often have to look up characters' names when I write about a show. Even when I'm pitching shows to people, it's often easier to talk about "the kidnapper," "the sidekick," "the pathologist."
One hack for getting around the clearance issue with names is DON'T USE A FULL NAME. If your main character is RACHEL, that will clear. Or, if her name is MCADAMS, that will clear, too. Put them together and you have Canada's most adorable export. You can't really do that with a lead character -- her name will surely come out soon enough in dialog. But you will probably clear DR. TARTOVSKY more easily than you'll clear DR. EUGENE TARTOVSKY.
I'm always afraid when a name comes too easily. If I think of a first name I like, and then IMMEDIATELY a last name to match, I start Googling to figure out what real (or established fictional) person I'm unconsciously ripping it off from.
Thankfully, most of the characters on my (soon-to-be, please, Lord) show are gods and demons taken straight from myth and folklore. However, I have had to change the name of pretty much evey human character at least four times over the past decade. I'm trying not to get attached to the latest line-up as I know, once production starts, I'll probably have to change them all yet again.
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