What's in a name?

As a David I often get asked: "Do you mind if I call you Dave?"
I've never really thought of myself as a Dave. But then I've never thought of myself as Mr Irwin either - that's a name that belongs to my Dad and I only occasionally borrow it to go to the dentist or building society.
Having said that, I have no problem at all with Dave. It's usually my friends that use it, so if I'm going to be Dave for the day then a pleasant time lies in store. Either that or I've got cornered by a chugger. "Do you know how many people die of dysentery Dave?"
I've had other names of course. Davy - which was what my old editor used to call me and always brought to mind the man in the coonskin cap. Then there's Dee - which my Mom used when I was younger. Day - used by a lad I went to primary school with. Never quite got that one, but then again he had a very unusual name himself - not one I've ever found in my many visits to BabyNames.com
Not to mention nicknames. Had a few of them when I arrived at secondary school. Cactus Kid (I was growing cacti at the time), Medieval Man (on account of my haircut apparently) and Anti-Social Kid. The last one I didn't like, not least because it was used by a bunch of rather unpleasant Year 9s during a rather unpleasant first term. Totally wrong anyway. Anti-Social Kid would have been playing music at unreasonable hours of the day or kicking down brick walls. I was more like Unsociable Kid - although I never dared to correct them!
On rare occasions I've been abbreviated. During my brief spell as an editor, I got wind that my sub editors had started referring to me as DD on the instant messaging service. I originally took this to mean "Drag and Drop" - a slight dig at the fact that I skipped rather a few steps when sticking Jpegs on news pages. As it turns out it stood for Diamond Dave, apparently because of the speed at which I got the paper out. Although the brisk pace was, in part, because of the drag and dropping, so I wasn't entirely wrong!

The reason I got thinking about names is because I'm not sure I think about them enough when I'm writing. I always used to. If anything once upon a time I would absolutely agonise over what to call my protagonist. The trouble was that whatever I ended up with would stick in the throat. Ardraif Rathoruit, Delahrim Haylar, Dovas Dulendrier (the originally DD - did I mention I liked alliteration too.)
Looking back, it was as if I was aiming for a triple-word score in Scrabble every time. In my defence these were all taken from a fantasy series I was writing at the age of 14, but all the same they didn't so much trip off the tongue as fall down the throat and end up finishing in a sort of strangled gasp.
When I started writing stories in the real world, I was perhaps mindful of this and went for utterly ordinary choices. Matts, Jameses and Amys were the order of the day. This isn't a bad approach I suppose. There's a proud tradition of mundane monikers - James Bond, Winston Smith, Harry Potter...

However, when I began to think about my current story, I knew I wanted to do something a bit different. Dare I say it, a bit Dickens - who I always admired for the way the name seemed to become the character. Heeps and Havishams are not in themselves unusual, but give them clammy palms or an ageing wedding dress and they come alive.
As for my story, it's set a short way in the future and I thought that the names could be just another way of showing the world has moved on.
I called one man Cato, on account of the fact that there'd been something of a Roman revival. Makes sense to me that if time-travel was a fact of life that certain things would fall back into fashion.
One of the main characters I called Harper. Which is an odd choice on the face of it, since today that name is quintessentially America and yet the lady in question is a straight-talking, kickarse Yorkshirewoman. She was, incidentally, kick-arse before I decided to place her in Sheffield. When I later settled on the fact that she would come from God's Own County I was slightly worried that she was saddled with a name more fitting for the Mid West. Then I got to thinking that while that might be true today, Yorkshire in 150 years' time could be a very different place. Maybe they grow grapes in the Dales and the Minister has been renamed The Steps - on account of all the dancing that goes on. So, Harper she remained. A modern woman of the future.
I suppose this is one of the small pleasures of writing. Picking names that sound right, sit well or, in this case, tell you a little more about the world. I just wish every bit of writing was as easy.

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