A lot, actually. Not to say that anyone wouldn’t still be the person or thing that they are were they called something different. People would probably still like Lilly’s, even if they were called turd blossoms, but no one would understand why they were called that.
But I do believe that names are important in some ways. My name is Angela. To my friends, I go by Angie. In fact, all my life I was Angie, until about a year ago. I started a sales job, and wanted to sound more professional, so I started going by Angela at work. I haven’t been able to get away from it, even in the many jobs that followed. Now, when I introduce myself, I might look slow, because I have to consider what I want people to call me.
In truth, I like Angelas more than Angies. In my experience, and I think that some people with morphic names can understand, variations are as important as the name itself. I’ve found that other Angie’s I’ve known have been round faced, average to overweight, and laid back. There was one Ange, pronounced the same, and she was as quirky as the spelling, so I don’t think she counts for this example because it’s spelled different. Conversely, Angelas always seem to be beautiful, thin, and put together. Is it because of their name? Maybe not. I suppose it’s possible that it’s a combination of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds that lead people with certain genetic backgrounds to desire to name their children certain names.
Or I could be off base. But think about it. You’ve likely read a story where a character is named something and you could picture them instantly. Or met someone and said to yourself, or possibly even them, “You don’t look like a Sam”. I’ve actually been called out a couple times on being an Angie when I introduce myself as an Angela. I’m more comfortable owning Angela since I’ve lost weight, but I think I’ll forever be Angie outside of a professional situation, and that’s just fine. Maybe if I go by both, I can get the best of both.
Thinking about this. It’s important that your characters have strong names. I like some newly popular names, but they’re almost never right for my story. What I do, is I go to babynames and look up popular names by birth year. That way, I know that the name I picking is correct for the age of my character. And it helps me think of more names then just my go to ones, which all seem to start with J.
Beyond characters, there are writers. Stephen King, Matthew Mathers, Hugh Howey, JRR Martin, Dean Koontz… they’re all short, punchy, simple, some have alliteration. My last name is Cavanaugh. It’s long, it’s clunky, and a lot of people don’t know how to pronounce it, or spell it if they’ve heard it. Turns out, my grandpa on my dad’s side was adopted (just found this out the other day), so it’s not even a blood related name. Also, my dad was… well, that’s a story for another day. Let’s just say he’s not and never has been a part of my life, sans the name.
So the question becomes – should I write under a pen name?
Feel free to comment. Tell me I’m wrong. Or, try to name me! Who knows, if I like it, I might actually use it.