The Power of Names

Names have power.  This is something that seems to have diminished in importance in our modern world, fading from our consciousness.  And yet, names still hold some of their ancient power.  Parents spend months choosing “the perfect name” for their new baby, we observe pets for certain idiosyncratic behaviors that will tell us the best name for them (or they exhibit traits associated with the name we choose), and teens agonize over the screen name that will best reflect their “true self.”

In ancient times, names held the power to control.  To know the innermost, “true” name of a thing was to have ultimate power over that thing.  Wizards were keepers of names and the more true names they knew, the more powerful they were.  Giving someone your true name was the ultimate sign of trust, giving that person power over you…if they so chose.  While we do not attach the same beliefs or significance to names anymore, there is still something mystical about choosing a name.

With such care given to choosing names for pets, children, and online personas, it stands to reason that the same care should be given when choosing names for one’s characters.  After all, are they not the children of our minds, our hidden desires and idealized personas given flesh?  Many authors have said that their characters do not feel real or alive until they have been given the perfect name.

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