What’s in a name?

Somewhere in this chaos is D's real name.
Somewhere in this chaos is D’s real name.

D, I call him. Druid. Dubh.

A title, he says.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I only recently discovered D’s real name – the name he was born with, and not the name I had been calling him all these years. In my defense, it’s not easy for a character as old as D (1345 and counting) to keep one name. Languages change. People change. Countries rise and fall and what was once a mark of pride becomes shame, and back again.

And in D’s case, he gave up his real name when he became less than the man he wanted to be. He took on a title, an identity that would keep him safe. It was, perhaps, the only way he could armor himself against what he had become. That title became a shackle, one he had to destroy if he wanted to claim his real name, and with it a destiny and lineage he could be proud of.

Names are powerful. I’ve heard this more than once, and while my rational brain accepted it, I never quite knew how true it was. Sure, having the right name – one that suits you – just is. My son had his name picked out well before he was born – back when I thought maybe he was a she. But the moment his name popped into my head, I knew I was having a boy, and I knew his name was Thomas. I may have any number of nicknames for him (The Boy or The Kid being the most notable here) but he is, and forever shall be, Thomas.

D as imagined by Green Embers
D as imagined by Green Embers

D isn’t quite so clear-cut. How could he be, when he is by his very nature a man who walks between worlds? Each situation requires a different identity, and with that identity, came a new form of his name. Each one suited the times and the language. Each one portrayed a facet of his personality.

Writing his book became something of a mystery to solve, even though I wasn’t aware I was trying to find his real name. When I did find it, I realized his name – his real name – had been the key to unlocking his true self and undoing the resentment I’d held onto during the years in which I did not write.

That’s a lot of responsibility for a character, even one as epic as D. I don’t blame him for hiding his real name from me – not anymore (just don’t tell him that; he’s got a big enough head as it is). He has earned his real name back, and as I wade through book 2, I am happy – no, scratch that – honored to be able to use it.

Cheers, D.

For the WordPress Weekly Challenge: The Power of Names


Published by Katie Sullivan

Descended of pirates and revolutionaries, Katie Sullivan is a lover and student of all things Irish. Born in the States, she is a dual US/Irish citizen, and studied history and politics at University College, Dublin – although, at the time, she seriously considered switching to law, if only so she could attend lectures at the castle on campus. She lives in Milwaukee with her daughter, two cats and a pesky character in her head named D (but you can call him Dubh). Her first series, The Changelings Saga, a young adult historical fantasy trilogy is available on Amazon. She can be found writing with said character at her blog, The D/A Dialogues.

15 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Oh boy, I am not sure I could imagine D as a Randy, lol. Names are so interesting and sometimes finding the right name for a character just pops out and other times it doesn’t. This post reminded me of Fizban from Margret Weiss and Tracy Hickman books. In their collaboration they almost always have a character with an anagram from that name who is a wild old crazy wizard, lol. One of my favorite characters. 😀


  2. Names are so critical. It’s better that D’s name eventually came to you, than if you had gone ahead and named him something like Randy 😉


  3. Names are always a sticky subject with characters. You have the nearly completed being in your mind and you really analyze it for the right name. Never figured out why it feels more stressful to name a character than a child.


    1. It can be so much more stressful – of course, in draft form things can change. It’s just a matter of making sure they’re consistent. The name of the kids’ fathers changed several times until I could find the right fit. And Sean’s middle name has been three different things (it became important in book 2, so I had to a)identify and b)be consistent!


      1. I have yet to use middle names, but I probably would for a haughty noble. I’ve had a few characters get name changes too after the first draft. The main ones tend to stick around though.


      2. Oh yeah, Sean and Maureen have been Sean and Maureen since I was 14. Main characters – with the exception of D thus far – rarely give me trouble. It’s the secondaries that change them at the drop of a hat until they find one that’s comfy.


      3. Oh my goodness, don’t give him ideas!
        I’m sure there’s plenty – and book two is rife with little discoveries – some heartbreaking and some really really cool. As I told Helena – I’m going to have to write something fluffy after this!


      4. I’m still having trouble figuring out when to write one series though. Time-wise it crosses over with a few others, so I might have to start it and stop to do other series to avoid spoilers.


  4. He’a quite an impressive character. You joke around on the D/A dialogues, but in your book — he is almost frightening in his intensity.


    1. He is – and joking with him was one of the ways I was able to let his natural intensity come forward. It has taken a long (looonng) time to get my head around him as a character – still am. After this I’m going to have to write something fluffy.


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