Well, in some cases, the opportunity for libel!
Giles Black set A Legendary Death, an interactive murder mystery (the sort where the audience has to work out whodunnit), in the fiercely competitive realm of archaeology. Events unfold on a (fictitious) TV archaeology show. Naturally, one of the characters is the show’s host; Giles picked a name, finished the script and thought no more of it.
A few days ago – a long time after we had published the mystery – Giles turned on his television and was startled to find a history programme fronted by a man with the same name as his fictitious presenter. Giles isn’t sure how he did this. He thought he had plucked the name out of thin air as one that fitted the presenter of an archaeology programme, however this might have been a trick of the subconscious, pondering the name of a TV presenter and coming up with just such a name!
Was this libellous? Well, on the one hand, it was completely unintentional. On the other hand, Giles’ character was a person of the same name in a very similar profession and, given that A Legendary Death is a murder mystery, the character was portrayed – at the very least – in an unsympathetic way.
Our conclusion was that, however thin, a libel case might be made. Rather than hand this over to the musings of m’learned friends, we took the decision to change the name of the character. Giles assures me that he has made up the new name, and that it doesn’t belong to any TV presenter – as far as we know…