My mother and I share the same first name because of an argument my father won.
One evening my step-mother shouted down the hall for me to come to the kitchen. She used a name she thought I should have. I turned to my step-sister. “What is she doing?” I asked.
“Well, I’m not going.”
My step-mother shouted my new name again.
“You’ll get in trouble,” N. said.
I was a 10 year old who ran from adult disapproval as if I were playing a game of tag and that adult frown were It. And my step-mother could do more than frown. “I don’t care,” I said.
N. didn’t believe this. “You better go.”
The new name again.
“No. She uses my name, then I’ll go.”
My step-mother shrieked this time. I sat on the edge of my bed, put my hands in my lap, and waited. I closed my eyes so that I wouldn’t have to see N.’s Shawn Cassidy poster.
The house was silent, and N. sat next to me.
“MARTA! I’m calling you!” Yes, I fell in love with the sound of my own name right then when her voice cracked shouting it through the house.
With the sleeve of my nightgown I rubbed my eyes so that my step-mother wouldn’t see they were wet. “Now I’ll go,” I said and stood.
N. looked up at me as if I were someone she didn’t know. “Wow,” was all she said. We are both amazed she didn’t come into our room breathing fire.
How much thought do you put into a character’s name? How do you know you’ve even found the right name? Have you ever changed a character’s name again and again frustrated that none of them work? You’ve got to get it right or the character won’t come.
What are your favorite names in fiction?