Tuesday, March 13, 2012


As one of my writer friends frequently points out, I have a reluctance for naming characters that borders on compulsive. Check back my #friday flash stories, if you don't believe me. My characters are 'the mother', 'the muse', 'the guitarist', 'his friend'. In one story I named my main character J and said to the above-mentioned friend, "Well, at least I half named that one."

But maybe there is a little more than laziness or lack of inspiration at work, because ever since I was a kid, I've had this strong feeling to be 'free' and naming of course implies ownership. We get names from our parents, nicknames from friends (and enemies). Naming is a form of colonization. In the old Cape Colony, slaves and indigenous people could only participate in society by being baptized into the Christian faith AND BEING RE-NAMED IN THE PROCESS. In fact, slaves were also named upon arrival. Native Americans were called Indians by early explorers who mistaken thoughts they had discovered the East. The Xhosa tribe were named that by their rivals, the San and it means roughly 'The Angry People'. The San, on the other hand, refer to themselves as merely 'the people', a subtle implication that the claim to humanity from anyone other than the San themselves is slightly questionable. Naming is claiming. Naming is the encroachment of domestication upon the wild. Naming is taming, or sometimes making an attempt to tame the untamable. Naming draws borders. Naming lays claim and keeping something unnamed preserves just a tiny seedling of the feral and the formless within its soul... leaving it with the potential to transcend, to transform and to find its own path... A little vagueness leaves room for the imagination... and the infinite... gives the magic of the spaces in between some room to breathe.

I completed the chalk drawing this morning. I haven't drawn in chalk for a while... In keeping with the blog post, I am not naming the subject...


  1. And I think many people come up with their own names when they read stories. Like hey that sounds like a Bob or a Mary.

    For myself I normally just name the character with the very first name that pops in my head. Sometimes it doesn't work out that well.

  2. Interesting that you recognize so much cultural, and sometimes personal, importance to names and yet hesitate so strongly in naming characters. For me the problem is changing names after I've found one that fits. It can be excruciating.