the name game

Yesterday I was working on a poem inspired by something I was told ages ago, which had re-surfaced in a conversation earlier in the week.

So far all I have is this:

Vanessa says,

I’ve heard tectonic plates move
at the same speed fingernails grow.

A flourish of bright acrylic tips
adds emphasis, and then: I like to think
it indicates a kind of synchronicity –
shows we’re in touch with Nature.

Although it hasn’t got to where I want it to be – which would be at least three times as long and with something actually happening in there – I was wondering what to call it. (In my own filing system it’s down as ‘tectonic nails’, but although that may help me keep track of it, I don’t think it will do for a title.)

Originally, I had it untitled, and starting “She says,”. That made the first line a bit long – and I do like that line break – so I decided to move the opening words up and see how that looked. The pronoun didn’t seem to work particularly well, which meant I needed to find a suitable name for the woman.

My first thought was something like Hildegarde or Hannelore, but I suspect I was subconsciously confusing tectonic with Teutonic. Sofia was too alliterative, but Vanessa seems to work, though I’m not sure why, nor how it will sound to readers.

How on earth do other writers name their characters? There are all sorts of connotations and subliminal associations that presumably work differently for different generations of readers.

I’m a bit concerned, for instance, that some readers will remember that “nobody wants to hear about Vanessa.” And then there’s Jubal Harshaw’s theory that “A girl’s name ending in ‘a’ […] always suggests a ‘C’ cup.” Is that true? And, if so, is it how I see this woman?

Maybe the fact you don’t have to think up a name for the narrator is one advantage of writing in the first person.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

4 thoughts on “the name game”

  1. Bright acrylic surely suggests a Sharon, Tracey, or Britney – but the words point towards a Suzanne, Chloe or Vicky. I’d certainly be thinking about a 1980’s level name – slight re-spelling (“because I’m worth it”) of a classic – still looking for Mr. Right but doing fine at the moment – drinking a innuendo cocktail and secretly worrying that if her nails split, people might see her huge fingers.

    Sometimes the name itself can be the foundation of the character – worth taking time over.


    1. That’s what I mean about different names having different connotations for different generations.

      The Sharon & Tracey I knew were best friends in the Sixties. I think they are names that defy dating – there has to be a pun there! – though perhaps they are easier to pin down for class/character purposes. Vicky is another who is timeless (but also characterless for me), while Britney is easily pinpointed. Suzanne and Chloe say little to me, about time or character.

      Bright acrylics could by any female from 16 to 90, I suspect, and I’m not sure whether character(type) isn’t more important than actual age here.

      I worry, too, that the naming of a character following any kind of stereotypical expectations is actually as bad as writing in clichés.

      As you imply, Lorraine might do. Or maybe Pamela… so many possibilities. Mabe I’ll find it a proper title and go back to ‘she’. Maybe I’ll just call her Ayesha.


      1. I don’t “feel” as if an Ayesha would say that – possibly an Ashley – but an “Ayesha” would flash the nails before the tectonics – IMHO, but that maybe just the girls that flash their nails at me.


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