Do you ever go back and think about the names you have carried through your life? And how each name has defined that stage of your life?
For example, I was June and Frank’s daughter for four years. Then I became June and Chuck’s daughter. While I carried my maiden name, I was lacking in self-confidence, hid my writing, lived in day dreams, and blushed fire engine red at the slightest hint someone might spot me in the corner. I lost that fear only when safe in the circle of my close friends.
Under my married name, I became confident and sure, proud of writing (though the confidence in writing still sucks), able to release anger, able to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything, even comfortable speaking to crowds. I saved lives. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? That comes from the years as an EMT. So I did save lives, but only with the help of all the other fire fighters and medics.
Then I took on the name ‘mom’ and became yet another person. I took on the name ‘orphan’ and started life without parents. I took on job titles, took on an unwanted label of someone who had cancer. I’ve had the labels of ‘daughter’, ‘sister’, ‘wife’, ‘friend’ and even ‘bitch’ to some (kind of proud of that one).
Each name, or label, tags a piece of my personality. That piece comes to the forefront when I go by the associated title. With all the changes, the three names I am most proud of, and that I never want to lose, are ‘writer’, ‘wife’, and ‘mom’.
All of which got me to thinking about what a great tool this is when used in writing, giving a character nicknames to pull out certain personality traits. This is used to great effect to not only show traits, but also to show conflict, to reflect a character’s growth, etc. Of course it has to be done with a very light hand or it becomes a clumsy plot device.
What I realized is that I don’t think I’ve ever taken advantage of this writing tool. I’m going to have to work on that.
Until then it’s time to put on the labels of ‘fire builder’ and ‘dog walker’.
What names have you worn throughout your life, and how have you grown into, or past, those labels?