What’s in a Name?


So this past year or so I’ve been puking out Six Word Stories, and need your help with something. And that is, the effect of using names. This is a non-trivial question, when it comes to such a literary form. Does the use of a name draw you in? Is it a throw-away? Distract you? Make you wonder about the protagonist’s backstory?

So here’s a specific, to help you weigh in. From February 27:

“Erica didn’t reciprocate Jocko’s heart-rending confession.”

It could also have been said:

“She didn’t reciprocate his heart-rending confession.”

“Erica didn’t reciprocate his heart-rending confession.”

“She didn’t reciprocate Jocko’s heart-rending confession.”

It makes quite a difference, changing the details of up to one third of the story. Yet it is essentially the same tale of alienation, unreciprocated feelings, shift in the balance of power, a changing relationship, and possibly rupture between two people. So does it matter?

And what if the names or social implications of the names were different?

“Manuela didn’t reciprocate Roberto’s heart-rending confession.”

“Jackson didn’t reciprocate Gunney’s heart-rending confession.”

“Elke didn’t reciprocate Ludwig’s heart-rending confession.”

“Imani didn’t reciprocate Adongo’s heart-rending confession.”

“Miho-chan didn’t reciprocate Tanaka-san’s heart-rending confession.”

…and so on.

Does the use of names associated with a certain ethnic group, nation, or profession change the focus from the events to the group, nation or profession?

And last, this was a woman not reciprocating a man’s feelings. I have no doubt it is a much different story if the roles were reversed. Or if the characters were of the same sex. Everyone has pretty much been in each of those positions once, and it would be hard not to project that experience into the events. Since it was a very different experience for the reader each time, the story would be different.

So please let me know what you think. I tend to go with my instinct and use personal pronouns and proper names when appropriate. It doesn’t seem to affect the number of “likes” or comments much. But as I keep working these, it would be great to have feedback on what you think of the use of names.

Thank you in advance for the dozens of comments, likes, reposts, and links back to your high-traffic sites.



12 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Nationality and gender definitely affect the impression. Group names have a different effect, too: E.g. “Manchester United didn’t reciprocate the Brazil National Team’s heart-rending confession.” ;>)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Names when it adds to the story. No names when it will take something away. For example, sometimes you, in particular, make a statement on the general, human condition. A gender or nationality might reduce the desired universal effect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Names give it an air of familiarity, a touch of something that is sometimes needed. I always find at some point, it’s important, not just for the reader, but for the writer, to give his imagination a name to run forward with. Because, even though the words may be few, the imagination is endless 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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