In a story I’ve yet to finish to my satisfaction, I named a character Kevin. Didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. He was mentioned only once, and his exact role, his actions were never explicitly said. What happened between him and the narrator of this story was alluded to, and sure, anyone could figure out what had happened between them. But he—that name—was only mentioned once. He wasn’t a real character, I suppose, is what I mean to say. His actions were the character; how he influenced the trajectory of these characters’ back-story, that was important, that was the character. Kevin was the fog of a nightmare that these characters were trying so desperately to run from. But he wasn’t a character. His name didn’t matter to me.
It didn’t matter until I accidentally started writing a prequel of sorts to that story which made the Kevin character the third of a three-pronged attack on the main character’s sanity. It started to matter then because one of my closest friends is named Kevin. That makes me uncomfortable. Do other writers have this reaction? Do they have rules against naming particular characters a certain name? Do other writers refuse to use their mother’s or sister’s name for a love interest? Or their best friend’s name for a rapist?
This wasn’t supposed to be a character. So why not just change the name? What does it matter? Well, the problem now is that I’ve spent months working on both of these stories, and beyond what’s committed to paper there’s a hidden story for them all, a back-story that’s developed and played out in my head whether or not I’m actively writing these characters. This back-story is as real for me as anything taking place in the so-called “real world,” despite my realization that I’m making it up as I go along. This is why all writers are that special kind of crazy that makes us all so endearing and delightfully morose; we’re creatures of two worlds. And sometimes we lose track of which one is real.
Which is why this Kevin thing is making me really uncomfortable. But as I get ready to post the next part of my ongoing accidental story through Wattpad, I’ve realized there’s nothing I can do. Not after this long. Like I said, it’s been months. For months this guy’s name has been Kevin. This Kevin is a son of a bitch, he’s obnoxious, he’s entitled. He has no idea that what he did to this girl was a crime, or that he should be punished.
Looking at a character after this long, thinking about their name, is like seeing their name spelled out in front of me as part of a photo-mosaic puzzle that I’ve put together. In each letter is a thousand images and ideas and snapshots of what this character has done, what they’ve experienced, who they’ve interacted with and how they’ve come to exist in this small little story, this slice of their life that I’m writing. It’s all there now, it’s all put together to spell out their name. I don’t know how to change that, no matter how much I want to.