What’s in a name?
In fiction writing, I believe a character’s name is the most important part of their being. A character’s name is its soul, it is the essence of who that character is, or who they are to become.
For my current project I basically took an old nickname and built a character around it, pretty soon the character had taken on a life of his own, becoming even larger and more complex than I could have originally imagined, and it all started from his name.
There was a point in this character’s development where I considered changing his name. I had imagined it would seem self indulgent to name a character after myself, even if it was only a nickname and not truly my name in full, but by the time I had considered making this change it was too late. My character had already became who he was to be, and to attempt to change his name at that stage would have meant changing everything about him. I found this odd at first, I mean in reality people change their names all the time and it has no grand psychological effect on who they are. I mean if the guy sitting next to you at work, comes in one day and says “I needed a fresh start so I’ve legally changed my name from Steve to Donald.” that’s not really going to stimulate any great change in who he is as a person. To you, he’ll still be the guy in the next cube, albeit a bit more strange, but still, same guy, different name.
But with literary character’s its different, The name is the culmination of everything that character will ever say, do and experience. Rather if it’s bestowed upon them before a single word is written, or if they don’t actually receive a name until you’ve thought out every detail of their personality, either way throughout their literary life span they will have not one single more important characteristic than their name.
So my question is: Where do you get your names?
As stated earlier the protagonist of my current project derived his name from a modified form of my own, but come on, a man can only have so many nicknames. Conveniently enough, I use to work in a Call Center, and though I hated it, it did supply me with a near endless amount of odd, new and exciting names to reference use and develop as my writing life continues to grow. That’s right, you read correctly, I collect names.
And honestly I rather enjoy it. I hear a name I like and I scribble it down on a sticky note or some random scrap of paper and store it away happily like a squirrel hoarding acorns for the winter. Its like a pastime of mine now, everywhere I go, my ears and eyes are open for the next great name that I can gobble up and add to my collection.
So when someone ask ‘”What’s in a name?” then truthfully I’d have to say, everything.