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Some of you may be wondering... what in the realm of swimming ferris wheels is name-dropping? Is it good, or is it bad?

Let me answer you that latter question with a haiku:

Bad bad bad bad bad

Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad

Bad bad bad bad bad

Of course, I am being a bit dramatic. I'm a little traumatised. That's all.


Name-dropping is a pretty simple concept. It is when you are writing your story, and you say the names of characters. That's it. It doesn't matter if the names are dropped in dialogue, or if they are dropped in the narration. It doesn't matter if the names are real people from the outside world, or just characters inside your book. It is simply the concept of inserting a name in the story.

It is a fundamental part of writing. We have to name-drop. That's how we introduce characters and give them a name, after all!

However, when it is done excessively, it can be... well, how do I say this?

Oh. I know.

Bad bad bad bad bad

Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad

Bad bad bad bad bad

This happens a lot in stories I read on Wattpad. Hell, it even happens in popular, published novels that I read. And it can be super frustrating.


Well, okay. Imagine you have just picked up the story. And this is the first thing you read:

Appleberry Knuckles went to the classroom. She sat next to Blue Urchin, Caramel Dumpling, Downward Arrow, Eagle Spread, Forever 12, Grey 50, Hexagon Muffin, Ice Creamble, and John.

"Did you hear about Kelvin Celsius?" Forever 12 said. She was wearing a shirt that Leotard Cat and Montana Hannah had gotten her for her birthday. That birthday had been so amazing—Nile Ocean and Ogre Shrek had baked the most amazing cakes, and Pattake Bake had helped Downward Arrow paint everyone's faces!

"What did Kelvin Celsius do?" Appleberry Knuckles asked. Hexagon Muffin and Caramel Dumpling leaned in.

Appleberry gulped as Eagle Spread met her eyes.

There was a warning in there.

The same warning Eagle Spread had tried to give her all those years ago, when Quip Funny, Rasporange Pink, and Southern Alabama had—

"Appleberry Knuckles?" Blue Urchin was saying, snapping their fingers.

Appleberry Knuckles blushed. Everyone in the classroom was staring at her now. Even Tortoise Hare, Umbrella Rihanna, and—

She gasped.

Vent Among was looking at her.

She wished Wales Kingdom and X O was here to comfort her.

Yo-Yo-Ya-Ya-Yi-Yi-Ye-Ye-Yu-Yu patted Appleberry Knuckles' shoulder while Zipper Broken smiled sympathetically.

"What did Kelvin Celsius say?" Appleberry Knuckles finally asked.

It was John who answered her.

"Seriously, author, why am I the only one with a normal name?"

End scene.

I have read stories where, within the first few paragraphs, literally twelve characters are named. And all of them have dialogue. And I'm expected to remember all their names, all their little bits of personality, and their relationship with their protagonist as revealed so far?

Oh, hell no. I can't even tell you what I had for breakfast. Or what colour my underwear is right now. And now you want me to somehow memorise your protagonist's entire family tree, know the names of everyone in their school, and be able to recite all 494 presidents that their big fantasy world has had so far.


Not only does it make your story really hard to follow, but it makes it genuinely exhausting to read. We simply cannot keep up with the pace, and there is a lack of purpose to the story.

So, please, only introduce characters purposefully. If they don't need to be introduced straight away, don't introduce them straight away. Give us time to just ease into the story and get to know your protagonist.

If you are introducing a few characters at the start, slow it down. Give us a good sense of who they are through descriptive writing, strong characterisation, and patience.

I was going to end the chapter here, but someone did ask me... what about name-dropping pop culture, or historical names? For example, what if you include 'Obama' in your story, or Elvis Presley, or Harry Styles? Is it good? Bad? Will readers be able to follow your story if they read it in 2070? Or 4029, assuming people still read and writing is still a preferred hobby over, say, licking the dirt off bridges?

In all honesty, it is up to the author's discretion.

Name-dropping political figures or historical figures can be really important if your story is set in a certain time-frame that is fundamental to the story. For example, Hitler is often mentioned in books about WWII. If your story is specifically set to showcase what the music industry was like in the retro 1970s, then yes—name-drop! If there is a book set in moments of history that are significant, then yes, it is important to name-drop to make it authentic to that time-period.

Otherwise, do keep in mind that name-dropping real people can date your story, as well as add certain cultural limitations to your story. You may mention Shakira in your story, but your readers in 3023 who have just started licking bridges may not know who that is. Heck, even some people in 2023 don't know who Shakira is—I just asked my dad who she is and he asked if it's the name of his eye medication.

So be careful when adding names in your story, as those names may not be relevant/present in a few years, and may currently not be relevant in a few places.

That being said, as long as you only do it a little bit, that doesn't matter! In fact, it's kind of cool—it gives your reader an opportunity to do some research and learn more. Once again, that's only if the name-dropping is done appropriately and not excessively.

But what about copyright, you ask? Can you mention Shakira in a novel without getting sued?

Only if her hips don't lie!

But the real answer is that it is pretty much perfectly legal to state that your character likes Harry Potter novels, or loves the way Harry Styles has dimples, or likes to wear Gucci (and Louis Vuitton). As long as you are not claiming to own any of those, that is fine. 

Besides, if you are on Wattpad and are writing fanfiction/not receiving money, it literally does not matter who you name-drop. If you are publishing a novel, then you have to be a bit more careful—you should probably seek permission before writing Harry Potter as your own character in your story.

I will say: anyone can sue for anything. An actress once sued an author for saying their character looked like her. It was some drama about the actress claiming the author was stealing her property (her likeness), and claimed that it was damaging for her career for that to not be in her control. I don't actually know who won that case.

Meanwhile... Stephen King is mentioned in countless stories. People even make up dialogue for him and include him as a character. And he seems to not give a damn.

In other words, just don't claim to own anything you don't own, and you're pretty much good to go!

And if you are on Wattpad, you can write about whomever you want however you want!

Actually, I take that back. Please, I beg of you, stop writing Donald Trump x Spray Tan smut. I beg of you.

Anyways! The next chapter will be on how to write children in stories. Specifically, what ages can do what. I am sick and tired of seeing nine-year-olds driving cars and seventeen-year-olds trying to bite their toes off. I'm going to whip out my psychologist hat and tell you all the milestones. Stay tuned!

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