by Roshani Chokshi
Naming characters, or rather finding the right names for characters, is the moment they feel real to me. I think a large part of that is because all of my names that I choose for my characters have a lot of significance, whether it is a glimpse of their future or a nod to some fundamental aspect about them. Whenever I meet readers with interesting names, my first question is “how did you get that name?” To me, names are a kind of destiny. We are given names to celebrate those who we have loved and lost, to honor lineage, or simply to express a hope for that child. But names are also magic. Growing up, I was always jealous that my sister never seemed to encounter any issues with her name. While I got the super ethnic “Roshani” and have spent years dreading what mutation of it will appear on a Starbucks cup, my sister got the name…MONICA. It’s not fair! She is always the one who knows that she’s going to get a special keychain with her name on it from Disney World. I think the closest I found to “Roshani” was “Rosie” or “Robert.” But my sister got that name because when she was born, she was very ill…to the point where my family thought we might lose her. And so my grandmother said “change her name, so that Death won’t find her.” Firstly, I think this makes Death seem incredibly incompetent and hopelessly bureaucratic. Secondly…what was supposed to be my sister’s true name? She claims she doesn’t know. Once, I jumped on her bed at 4 AM trying to scare the answer out of her. I ended up getting kicked in the face. But I think about that story whenever I’m dreaming up new characters because I think that the moment I’ve named them, I have parted with some magic.