All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A long time ago in a city far far away (London) I was sat in the office restaurant eating lunch. We were talking about the League of Gentlemen and my colleague told me that he had been friends for many years with one of the writers. In fact, some of the character names in the show were inspired by him and his family. He told me that, while studying, the writer had been advised that when creating characters it helps to name them after people you know, because you immediately feel a connection to them and they feel real.
That conversation has always stayed with me, I bring it out anecdotally whenever the League of Gentleman is mentioned or whenever that particular writer is connected to a project.
But it really came to mind two years ago when I started writing Inspired By Night and needed names for the characters. For the most part, any names I’ve borrowed have been purely for the name sake, but occasionally a little personality or scenario has crept in that influenced the character.
For instance, James is a computer programmer that Olivia had interviewed and as part of the interview, Olivia had designed a test. Steven was cocky about it, thought the test very simple while James over analysed it.
I was childishly pleased that Steven had made a small error – nothing critical but an error all the same, but James had made an error that was actually my mistake in the test design. When I corrected it, I found James would have been right.
This actually happened in real life and knowing I was going to use this anecdote prompted me to use the name. I bumped into the real life James recently and told him he’d inspired a character name, he was cool with it. There are no other similarities at all between the character and his name sake though.
One of the characteristics of Steven is that he’s very confident, despite his young age and lack of work experience. Olivia finds that particularly annoying. I once worked with a guy who was straight from university, and I always marvelled at how confident he was, dealing with the public. I didn’t find him annoying as such, I was more jealous at his ease and manner, but more than anything, I was annoyed at myself for having always hidden behind the mistaken belief that confidence came with age and experience. My colleague – you guessed it – Steven, showed me it didn’t. I can’t imagine how much I’ve missed out on in life due to my shyness and social awkwardness, stupidly believing that one day, when I grow up, I’ll be much more confident. I’m still waiting to grow up!
After I’d decided to use the surname Teller, I couldn’t help calling Steven’s father John – a vague reference to John Teller, the deceased father of Jacks Teller from Sons of Anarchy. I also named the house keeper at Thornton Manor after Rose from Upstairs Downstairs.
And then there’s Ruth. Some of my favourite parts of Inspired By Night include conversations between Ruth and Olivia. I named her after my friend and she accidentally took on some of her personality… Albeit a slightly exaggerated version.
“Why are you wearing flat shoes?’
“I’m taking you shopping”
“I hate shopping”
– Ruth & Olivia
Ruth never makes me go shopping, though it’s true I hate buying clothes, usually it’s me that makes Ruth go shopping, when I need a special occasion outfit, because she knows about clothes and I don’t. She’d never let me go out in public looking ridiculous but she wouldn’t out and out tell me I looked awful – unless she absolutely had to.
Ruth was the first person in whom I confided that I was writing a novel with lots of sex in it. She just grinned at me and said she couldn’t wait to read it.
Finally I had to name Olivia’s ex boyfriend Brian. We have an in-joke amongst my friends that I only fancy blokes called Brian – it only happened twice, a long time ago. As huge fans of The Life of Brian me dating someone called Brian was a gift, but replacing him with another Brian was something else. I’m going to stop saying Brian now!