We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers. Writing Challenges help you push your…
We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers. Writing Challenges help you push your writing boundaries and explore new ideas, subjects, and styles.
To participate, read the challenge instructions and write at least one post in response. Tag your post with DPchallenge and include a link to this post to generate a pingback. Make sure your post has been specifically published in response to this challenge. We might just highlight some of our favorites on Freshly Pressed on Fridays, or in our quarterly newsletter.
You can get out of a bargain with Rumpelstiltskin if you know his true name. Names can give you access that others don’t have. Literature and fairy tales are obsessed with the power names can have over people and objects. This week, we’re asking you to take a look at what names mean to you.
The history of names
Names are powerful objects. Our names are significant to us and we keep them private, sharing rarely if at all. Sometimes names are used as a sort of “Get out of jail free” card, as in the classic fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin.
In this tale, a queen wishes for gold — specifically, the ability to weave gold from straw. Rumpelstiltskin, a mysterious figure offering the queen this power, asks for her firstborn child in exchange, unless she can find Rumpelstiltskin’s true name.
On the Internet, it can be difficult to identify a person’s true identity. There are two threads here: the power of anonymity and the struggle for true identification. In order to be anonymous, you can simply pick a new name. To identify yourself truly is harder: tools like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) can be used to help.
In contemporary fiction, the power of names continues to fascinate writers and readers. Two of the more popular series in the science fiction and fantasy field are Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles and Scott Lynch’s The Gentlemen Bastards. In both series, names are given sorcerous power over objects and people; one character yearns to know the name of the wind, another taunts readers and fellow characters with the mystery of his true name.
In marriage, tradition is for the woman to take her husband’s name. In most cultures today, this is just a convenience, though there can still be religious significance. Historically, a woman would take her husband’s name because she was unable to own property or amass wealth. Taking her husband’s name allowed her to do both of these things, and provide for her children’s future.
The power of names
For this week’s challenge, we’re asking you to explore your history with names. What meaning does your name have to you? What power does it have over you? Do you have a nickname when you are at home, but not in the world at large? Or vice versa?
Need some help getting started? Here are some prompts:
- Do you like your name? Why or why not?
- Have you ever legally changed your name? Describe the experience.
- How did you choose your child’s or pet’s name?
- Growing up, did your parents have their own nickname for you? Why? Would you do this with your children?
- Did you go to school in a different country where the standard of names is different? What was your experience with this?
- How many names do you legally have? Why? Where did they come from?
- For our fiction writers, show us the power of names. Is it the name of an object, person, or place? What power does the name provide?