Self-Indentification

So, swanky new digs.  Hmm, looks just like the old ones.  Except for one very important thing.  As mentioned in my post on the old blog that announced the transition to this one, the name is different.  No, it’s not really a pen name.  If I published tomorrow, I guess it kind of would have to be, but it’s really my intended post-marriage name. Not my maiden name, either.  It is, however, a name that fits me, and pondering the name made me think a little about how we identify ourselves.

I’ve lived my life in a number of online arenas where you could go by a name other than your own, and in those I’ve met a variety of people.  Some have gone by their own name, some by a handle of some sort that was generally meaningful to them. This was something that I always found interesting, because it offered a fascinating look at how different people construct their public identity.

I think we all identify ourselves to others and to ourselves in certain ways that we want to feel represent us.  It’s part of constructing our identity and presenting it to the world.  This post-marriage era of my life has included a lot of pondering on that subject, on who I am and how I present myself to the world, how I want to be seen and how I shape that perception.  I won’t go into the whole thing here, as a lot of it is more personal than I’m prepared to get about it here, but I will say that it’s part of what led me back to writing, realizing that I present myself to the world as a writer and that if I wanted that to be a valid presentation, I had to get writing.  The name change is part of that process for me too, because I never seemed to fit into my maiden name all that well, probably because I’m not close to that side of my family.  I’ve toyed with changing my last name to Hill for a long time, long before I got married even, because it always seemed to fit me better (in addition to being way easier to spell than either my maiden or married name).

It seems a little silly to have spent so much time on it, but it led me to deeper thoughts on the question of identity, the internal identity in particular and how it shapes our reactions and view of the world and others.  I’m finding it’s a useful place to start exploring a character in any of my stories, figuring out what they think of themselves and how they self-identify.  With that question comes, of course, the reasons why they do that and how it affects their interactions with others.  What I find interesting about this process is the number of times it leads me in a direction I hadn’t expected, or adds a nuance or interaction that, while not strictly necessary to the overall story, adds to that story immeasurably anyway.

Of course, name came be part of that.  Does the character use a short form of their name?  Why or why not?  It’s even more fun if their feelings on that have changed in their life, because the reasons for that change can give you a world of insight into the character. As an example, Fay, from my Mirrors trilogy, is actually Faylanna.  But she introduces herself to people when we meet her as Fay, even when those around her call her by her full given name. She’s narrated as Fay because it’s part of how she self-identifies  I won’t get into why here (I hate spoilers) but trust me, it tells something about her.

It’s certainly something to think about as I work on building other tales, with other characters, and even to some extent with the cast of the Mirrors trilogy as I am outlining the final book.  I’m pushing them all in this, really, particularly in the identity category, and the way they self-identify has to be something I keep in mind, both as a starting point and how it changes through that process.  I think that’ll come into any good story though, so it’s an important thing to keep front of mind in a more general sense.

Now, enough philosophizing. Time for the visual stimulation. I’m going to have to go back and update the watermark on my previously posted pics, I think, but that’s a worry for another time.

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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10 Responses to Self-Indentification

  1. Very interesting. I shall have to consider that self-identifying thing with characters in the future. I think perhaps I always have, in a way…I have a pretty strong sense of who I am and I think that comes through into a lot of my characters, but I think its something worth stopping and thinking about now and then especially as I have a novel full of them to deal with almost simultaneously now…

    • Julie says:

      Agreed. And I think that, when you have a character that is very different from yourself (which is bound to happen), it can be a life-saver in helping you to understand them so you can write them properly.

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    My main characters are very particular about their names. Madeleine does not use anything shorter (although she did when she was younger). But as she tells one character regarding “Maddie”— “Jack’s the only one who can call me that. If he’s Trainer, I’m O’Brien.” And before a party, she asks Jack to call her Madeleine—she doesn’t want anyone there to think they could start calling her Maddie instead of Madeleine.

    Another character wouldn’t let me call her “Kat” myself until I got her personality right. Other characters could use it, but not me when I thought or talked about her!

    They are very quick to point out that any similarities with me are coincidental—they are variants of me. It’s just they find those similarities helpful for telling their stories.

    • Julie says:

      Yeah. I’m getting into that more with some of the characters I’m developing for other stories. Helix’s full name is Helixas, but he hates it when you call him that. He thinks the shorter version is way cooler.

      As for the similarities, I could point to a piece of myself in every major character in the Mirrors Trilogy, but that won’t always be the case. Helix is very different from me, Sketh even more so. And Arc… well, Arc’s not even human. I think I’m going to need this technique more as time goes on and story ideas develop.

  3. 4amWriter says:

    One of my main character’s name is Allison. Her mother calls her only by her full name. Her brother, who is also her hero and best friend, calls her Al. Everyone else calls her Ally.

    This just happened, and not something I planned. It turns out that it worked because of her lack of identity. She really doesn’t have a firm grip on her life, she is a dreamer not a doer, and is afraid to live out her dream because it would be at the cost of her mother, a vicitim of domestic violence.

    The narrator refers to her as Ally, so that’s the name that shows up most in the novel. I don’t think it gets too confusing because “allison” and “al” are only used in dialogue. At least, I hope it’s not confusing, lol

    It’s funny how things take shape without the author even realizing there is a reason for it after all.

    • Julie says:

      Yeah. It was a major key to who Fay is when I realized why she had the whole situation with her name going on. It helped in a lot of ways.

  4. MythRider says:

    I really like your photo.
    You write as if you’re a professional. Do you have anything that is already published?

    • Julie says:

      Thanks! I don’t as yet have anything published, but my plan is that it will change this year. We’ll see how that goes. It’s only March, still early. That said, I don’t think that professionalism as a writer is exclusive to the published. It’s just a way of conducting yourself, to me.

      • MythRider says:

        OK you have such a professionalism attitude about your novels …
        Looking forward to reading one soon. ;0)

        • Julie says:

          Don’t worry, that will definitely be something I post about when it happens. I’ll probably put up a sample chapter too at the time, or maybe just before 🙂

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