I’ve been struggling with names for some of the characters and locations in my novel. This isn’t a new struggle, naming things has always been hard for me — in part I think because I know that names can hold great importance.
I want to get the names just right because it is important. I don’t want a Kalina to be stuck on the page as a Marta for all eternity… it just won’t do.
Names are a piece of our identity, they are often one of the early things that we know about someone, and we certainly do make assumptions based on someone’s names. People say things like, “He doesn’t look like a Edmund” as though that name somehow embodies something about how that individual should look. Or be.
I know some fairly quiet and easy-going people who will be very assertive when it comes to their name. I have friends who have changed their names — some legally, some unofficially — because their names did not fit them. Some of these name changes accompany life events, some happen when the person was very young, and some happen later in life. Sometimes it’s just the spelling of a name that needs to be tweaked in order to make it fit.
Some I know, including my mom, have changed how much of their name they use. Known for years by a shortened version of her name, she started to use the full name at one point to mark a shift in her life and in how she viewed herself. It can be empowering to claim a name for yourself, or to reclaim your name.
The power of names is certainly nothing new. A number of religions put importance in names, and there is a lot out there around the idea of the power that comes with knowing ones “True Name.” Magic and power held within the simple combination of letters that form a name.
Yes, maybe this is just an extended excuse for why I’m struggling with picking the right names for some characters and places, but I think it’s also a concept that merits more exploration and reflection. Sometimes the correct names come to you in an instant, but sometimes they are harder to find and I think that people’s connections with their names is intriguing.
What have your name experiences been?
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