The Hidden Danger In Character Names

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We visited “Maureen,” her husband and kids, in Ireland for last New Year’s. She had worked with my wife in England and was a bridesmaid at our wedding. (He was one of my ushers also.) We have stayed close.

An avid fiction reader, and unabashed Irish romantic, “Maureen” declared she couldn’t wait to read my novel. Thumbing through a copy quickly at the kitchen table, she flipped it over to glance at the back cover. A game of “name association” began after she started to read the description aloud breathlessly:

  • “Maureen”: “….Isabelle. Isabellllllllle. Oui, Isabellllllllle.” [She raises her eyebrows, and grins knowingly at my wife.]
  • Me: “Okay, what?”
  • “Maureen” (speaking to my wife as if I were not sitting at the table also): “You remember the name of that French girl who had that affair with ‘A’ [at work]?”


  • My wife (again to “Maureen”): “Oh, that’s right! Isabellllllllle. You just reminded me.”
  • Me (sarcastically, left hand against my face now): “Oh, greaaaaat. Like I need this….”
  • “Maureen” (smiling, continuing with my wife): “She threw herself at him from the day she was hired. The whole team saw it. He left his wife for her.”
  • My wife (again to “Maureen”): “I left not long after she started. Didn’t they get married and have a kid?”
  • Me (saying to both, smiling, shaking my head): “It’s just I knew a girl by that name too. I liked the name. Thought it went with the character.”
  • My wife (to “Maureen,” and bypassing me again): “You stay in touch with some from the old bunch. You know if they’re still in Bournemouth?”
  • “Maureen”: “Don’t know. I could ask around. I’ve lost track of them….”
    The above brought to you by the Department of “Every Character’s Name Reminds Someone of Someone.”

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