What’s In A Name?

I was talking to a friend recently about how giving a character a name made that character come to life. The conversation started after I’d said that I had put a post on facebook basically asking if anyone wanted to be ‘killed’ in the story that I’m currently working on (it’s my NaNoWriMo story). This led to me saying that in the novel that I have co-written and am about to re-write I have people that I know named in it but none have their full name mentioned except one. I had decided to name this one character after a friend and once I started playing some ideas out in my head the characters personality really began to come through as I wrote and he’s become someone that I want to have in the story. The character and the person that he is named after are not carbon copies of each other, but the spirit of him is there and that makes the character much more real. If I could get that depth into some of my other characters I’d be well happy.
This does beg the question of just how much of us is in our names. Many of my friends call me by my nickname, some of them I don’t believe have ever called me by my forename and one of my friends has a long name which is shortened and it suits her.
I do think a name can be defining of us as it can evolve as we do. Would we love Del Boy as much if we only knew him as Derek Trotter? Would Bruce Willis be the action hero if he was known as Walter Willis? Or how about Ozzy Osbourne or Meat Loaf?
These are all people that have a name that they are known by which isn’t what is on their birth certificates but it’s who they are. True, a rose by any other name is still a rose, but that’s a plant. Two roses can be the same, two humans cannot be.

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