If I had a coin every time someone asked me where I am from…
Sadly, most of the characters from my older stories can hardly say the same. When I started writing, my characters were like me: not from anywhere in particular. I would give them what might be considered common names like Clover and Nicholas without thinking about the potential consequences.
I think Romeo and Juliet have effectively shown us the danger of giving names too much importance. But they can be significant indicators of identity, heritage, or surroundings. Even though I might not feel truly Indian anymore, my name is still Indian. This discrepancy forms one part of my identity.
Most of my earlier characters’ names were chosen based on name meanings or simple whims. I remember feeling smug about my subtleness when I named one particularly bitter character Sorrel.
It was last year, when trying to come up with a pseudonym, that I actually asked myself: What’s in a name? In doing that, I started asking my characters where they were from. A lot of them couldn’t answer: they had been settled in nameless little regions that weren’t geographically grounded. Others alluded to a place “near London” or some little village in England that I have never even seen.
In picking a name for myself, I suddenly wondered about my initial instinct to go for a more Anglicised pseudonym. More importantly, I realised my indifference towards potential connections my characters might have between their names and their places in the world. By ignoring the possibilities in names, I might have been leaving a whole part of their identities shadowed.