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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Taking Names

Updated: May 8, 2021



When our children came into the world, one of the most agonizing things on the to-do list was naming them. Thankfully, I really only had to do that with the first child. The second pretty much named himself. The third came with a name. Once done, I could release that stress and get on with the job of parenting. No small feat in itself.


Names. As much as I love the creative process, I hate coming up with fictional names. What if I accidentally use someone’s name, unintentionally, and they get really mad and threaten to sue me and all that? See how neurotic I can get?


Have you ever noticed the disclaimer in fictional books and movies? It goes something along the lines of: all characters are fictional and any resemblance to a real person is strictly coincidental. Truth! It’s coincidence. No way I would deliberately use a real person’s name. How embarrassing would that be? Not just for the person, but for me as well.


And the most complicated names are probably real somewhere in the world. It’s almost impossible to make up a completely unique name. I have tried. I gave up trying. I have even attempted to throw a bunch of consonants together to form a name, looked it up on Facebook, and found one in real life. It’s not worth the effort.


Recently, when I was dealing with some writer’s block, I went out to a local man-made pond near my home to sit with my laptop and just free-flow some thoughts while watching the ducks, geese, and other birds. One particular duck caught my eye. It was mostly black with a white beak and non-webbed feet even though he was swimming. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure it classified as a duck. I think it was. I only know what Mallards look like from Minnesota.


Anyway, I latched on to this duck mentally, watching its every move, how it stayed away from the other ducks and geese and birds.


Having no idea if male or female, I decided she identified as female and named her Mabel Mae Rosewood. I created for her an entire identity. I decided she was a loner, an outcast, rejected by her fellow birds for reasons of her being different. She was different in the sense that she was willing to sacrifice anything and everything about herself for the happiness of the other birds. It was an intense need for her, a severe co-dependency, that she could not ignore. But, it caused the other birds to both take advantage of her and avoid her. (Sound familiar to anyone? It does to me. Not saying, just saying.)


I created this whole short story around her and her need to overcome this heart-on-her-sleeve mentality that went too far. She loved too much. Which came first? The story or the name? A good story and a good name feed off each other. Ever wonder how much personality develops out of a name? I have. A good name that matches a specific character's personality adds fuel to the story fire.


That became the point of the story around Mabel Mae. Is there such a thing as loving too much? Interesting question that needs a story-teller.


Just as I was starting to really get into it, I started getting a sunburn. I had forgotten the sunscreen. Gotta have sunscreen in Southern California throughout the year. I decided to pack it up.


I did a dumb thing. I deleted the story I had started. It wasn’t adding up to enough for a book, just a short story. But, as soon as I hit delete, I regretted it. I should have kept that story. Not for you. For me. I had some things to learn from Mabel Mae. Funny how that story started with the notion that I hate making up names, and that was what I sat out there to do – make up names. I named one lonely duck, none of the others, and just like that a story started coming together.


I love making up fictional names.


Thanks for reading,

Sarah


 
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