Category Archives: Friday Reflections

Friday Reflections & Prompts for Your November Challenge

Good day, folks! How has your November challenge been going so far? I didn’t end up taking on anything other than the Poem-a-Day challenge, but that’s keeping me busy enough 😉 I’ve been going at the average pace of two-poems-a-day, dropping to one on busier days.

We are already a week into November! Today’s post will include the usual Friday Reflections topic as well as some prompts and links to keep you rolling 🙂

Friday Reflections: Translation

Translation is a daily activity for a lot of people who are multi-lingual. You may not even realize how often you’re translating things from one language to another. If you’re used to this, perhaps you could take a close look at some of the “ordinary” acts of translation you’re always doing, and try to capture that in what you write. Often there’s some comedy in the effort of translation–in the futility of the effort, since there’s always something important “lost in translation”. (You could try writing about what it is that you think is lost in translation.)

All the same, you can’t live without translating, either, just because it’s not a 100% successful activity all the time. Perhaps you could imagine a scenario in which translation is not possible–what kind of communication remains in the end?

Translation doesn’t necessarily have to be from one entire language to another. Often you’re simply trying to translate your ideas, feelings or thoughts into words. Isn’t that what we’re doing when we write? Or when we try to explain our experiences to others?

Perhaps you could write about some of your specific efforts in translating what’s on your mind into communication. Meta-fictive and meta-poetic works (like poems that are about writer’s block) are all about this (difficult) process of translation!

The act of translation isn’t limited to words, either. We translate between words and actions all the time, too! Charades is a classic game that tests how well you can do so. There are interesting ways to play with this kind of translation, such as by highlighting the incongruity between a character’s words and actions 😉

Also, translations gone wrong can often lead to misunderstandings–there’s much scope for humour (and tragedy) in this.

These are just some ideas. If you’ve got something more creative you want to try with translation, have a blast!

Apart from the poem I’ve quoted here, you can also check out ‘Lost in Translation’ over at The Poetry Foundation for a fun read 🙂

Prompts for your November challenge

Here are a few more quick prompts to keep you fuelled for your November challenge:

  • punctuation
  • frostbite
  • there’s this ______ (fill the blank in with any word)
  • set (the) _______ on fire

If you need to hear some poetry to get you into a poetic mood or rhythm, The Poetry Station is a great place to find something inspiring and contemporary to listen to!

Happy writing, folks, and keep the November writing fever going! 🙂


Friday Reflections: the Sun, the Moon, the Stars

I’m back after a long time, everyone! I’ve had a very busy couple of months, and though I’ve wanted to make my regular posts at the very least, I couldn’t squeeze them in; very sorry for the lack of prompts!

I had time enough tonight to actually do some stargazing, and I could see enough stars despite the city lights (plus, after many weeks, it hadn’t been too cloudy); so this Friday’s Reflection shall be to contemplate the stars! (or well, heavenly bodies in general.)


The Sun, the Moon, the Stars

You’re more than welcome to pick any one, two or all three of the above mentioned; you can explore related ideas such as “galaxy”, “universe”, “outer space”, or “the Heavens” — interpret the prompt in any way you’d like!

The skies mean something different for each of us. For me, stargazing gives me an immense sense of peace; I feel powerful energies emanating from them, too. And it’s always interesting for me to consider that the stars we can see may or may not exist presently, considering how long it takes for their light to travel all the way to us.

In some cultures, planets are also considered “stars“, so that’s another angle to look at it from. You could also consider the stars as multitudes of suns, much like ours, at great distances away. And of course, we know that even stars, long as many of their lives are, eventually fade/die; what about what happens to stars when they die – something that is determined by their size and nature? Many stars also provide light and sustain life (our Sun is a great example, though the Earth plays a vital role in letting that happen!).

Here’s an excerpt of a lovely poem by John Keats, especially famous for its first few lines:

Poem courtesy: Poetry Foundation

Poem courtesy: Poetry Foundation (click to read complete poem)

You could describe the sun/moon/stars as you see them today/tonight (I love watching the skyline during sunset and twilight, or cloud-watching generally) or how it affects you at that time — the burst of sunlight behind a tremendous cloud formation, the shades of red, orange and pink during sunset, the silver moon rising at twilight…perhaps even the cityscape lining the horizon! From where I live, the moon appeared as a very thin, hair of a crescent tonight — it was a lovely sight!

A lot of people consider the moon as a “friend” of some kind, who appears every night and gives them company if they’re in need of it 🙂 It has also been considered “inconstant” since we have new moons every month, when it’s not visible. Of course, it’s really always there, just not visible – you could consider that, too.

Similarly, the skies or Heavens are also said to “watch over” everything that happens on earth. In some cultures, people believe their ancestors are amongst the stars and protect/watch over them. Of course, people make wishes upon stars and shooting stars, too!

You could also explore the Heavenly bodies in various Mythic modes: there’s a character in almost every existing mythology who represents the Sun and the Moon, and perhaps various collective groups of stars too! Do you associate these bodies with what the characters symbolize? Why do you think these associations came into being? How do they influence us now? Do you have different associations you make with them? How are they appropriate to their natures?

Perhaps you could rewrite a short myth and give it a little twist – changing what that character symbolizes? 😉 Just consider why the change would be necessary!

On Constellations

Consider the spaces between the stars that are visible (tonight); what does the big picture look like? What do you make of constellations? (One of my recent poems was about a “journey” of sorts that I took along with a constellation character, across the skies.)

Do you like forming your own constellations? What do you base them on? Perhaps your writing today can be about the process of creating a constellation; perhaps what you write can reflect this process in its own way physically, too – try spacing out the words, arranging them differently, perhaps to resemble the twinkling of stars somehow? Can you capture the image with visual or aural onomatopoeia?

Write the Stars!

Whatever you choose your theme to be, make sure you step out and experience the sky for some time, let it sink in, and then reflect on what you’re watching 🙂 Sunsets have often been metaphors for “endings“, nightfall for the coming of some “darkness“, good or bad. Similarly, daybreak/dawn usually represent beginnings, the appearance of the sun again, and its light. Similarly, clouds have been entities that constantly “wander” adrift, and explore the world, and are sometimes even “messengers” in literature.

You are always welcome to interpret these differentlythe universe doesn’t fix these meanings, we do. We’ve come a long way from thinking the earth was the center of everything — the stars in the sky are a glimpse into the infinite expanse of the universe (or perhaps it’s finite?). At the same time, the earth is where we experience these things, and every day no less.

So go ahead, pick your stars, and write them 🙂 happy weekend, folks!

I’ll sign off by sharing this lovely musical composition (Across the Stars) by John Williams (here’s a video of a live orchestral performance) you can try to write to:

Friday Reflections: Freedom

Posted on

Hullo, folks! I’ve had a bit of a break this summer because of a bit of travelling and plenty of family fun, but I’m back for today’s Friday Reflections post.

One of the world’s most beloved poets (of course, she was much more than a poet, too), Maya Angelou, recently passed away. Her poems are amongst my personal favorites; they always inspire me, and give me strength.

Today’s post has also been inspired by her life, and the topic is Freedom.


Image Source:

The Meaning of Freedom

Well, the dictionary certainly defines freedom in several ways, depending on the context — but each of us desire different kinds of freedom. It could be freedom of speech or the freedom to choose a way of life; it could be the freedom to read books, the freedom to be educated. It could be a country’s freedom — independence. Someone could be breaking out of social confines: limits determined and imposed by society, based on class, creed, race or gender. One could also yearn spiritual freedom.

What’s the first kind of freedom that strikes you? Which would you prefer most? Do you think you already have it? If not, why not? If so, does it satisfy you?

You could also always write about how doing some specific action set you free in some way. Perhaps creativity sets you free? Or going out for a run in the early morning? It could be emotionally taxing, like letting go of someone or some past incident; it could be a ritual of some kind that releases you in some way. One could also let go of inhibitions and fears (like in the song, Let It Go). Go for whatever resonates with you best!

Freedom works great as a theme in novels and short stories, even in poetry; and there are many symbols that are commonly used to represent the concept of freedom. Birds (in flight) are amongst the most common images used (such as as on the covers of the book series, The Hunger Games). Another image is that of broken chains, which constructs a story: there is a past (one of confinement), then the struggle for liberation, and finally freedom.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
-Maya Angelou

An Exercise: Illustrate your concept of freedom

Based on what kind of freedom you’ve chosen to write about, can you construct an image that would be representative of it? Try to avoid clichĂ© images, come up with something different. Try to be specific, and use all five senses to flesh it out.

You’re welcome to even try to sketch this image, if not write a poem or a prose piece.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

One of Ms. Angelou’s best-known and loved works is her autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; the poem of the same title is equally famous.

I share it with everyone here today, so that it may continue to sing of freedom:

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

(Poem Source)

With that, I’ll sign off — I wish everyone a happy weekend, and happy writing 🙂


Friday Reflections: Windows

Hello, folks! 🙂 I hope everyone’s been keeping up with their challenges — we’re more than half-way to the finish line! (Don’t let it fool you though — there’s no real finish line, only milestones along the journey!)

Today’s Reflections topic is Windows.

“Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”
-Carl Sandburg


I don’t want to put any more thoughts into your head before you brainstorm — you might have more creative images popping out of there than what I’ve got! Just take five, ten minutes to jot down your thoughts. Do you imagine a scene? Note down what you see; then consider why that image might have come to you. What does it have to do with “windows”? What significance does “windows” have?

It’s entirely up to you whether you want to write about Microsoft’s famous Operating System, or these wonderful glass-fitted openings in rooms:

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

You could even read through this Wikipedia article and take a look at the many different kinds of windows!

The word “window” could also refer to those rectangle cut-outs with transparent sheets, in envelopes, through which we can read the address.

You could observe what’s outside your window right now (or perhaps what’s outside the window of your favorite Cafe), and write about the kinds of people, happenings, and encounters you see.

Just take your pick and write away!

(It might help to know that the word “window” comes from Old Norse, combining the words “wind” and “eye“.)

There are so many interesting phrases we use today incorporating this word:

  • out the window
  • window-shopping
  • window to…(e.g., imagination)
  • a window on (something)
  • window, as an interval, i.e., time window/window of four minutes…

The phrase ‘window-shopping’ is always fun to work with! Though this quote always comes to my mind:

“I went window shopping today! I bought four windows.”
-Tommy Cooper

Apart from phrases like these, windows often take on symbolic or metaphoric meaning in a lot of writing. Windows are interesting in how they are often transparent, and could let in wind and light, but are still barriers.

“Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth.”
-Khalil Gibran

A character confined to the space of one room, the window that he/she gazes out of takes on a very different meaning. We have characters smashing open windows to enter/exit buildings – it could be for a robbery or even after a robbery, as the last resort/getaway strategy; it could be to run away from one’s wedding; it could be to get inside one’s own home — perhaps he/she had locked him/herself out!

One may open a window to let in a breeze – the breeze may carry in with it fluttering leaves, inspiration, or some scent that invokes memories for the poet persona. Glass windows also let in light, which may be metaphorically significant. Does the character/poet persona open or close the window? What about curtains or blinds?

You could choose to be extremely concrete, or completely abstract; you could choose to dance somewhere between the two, or back and forth.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem I’ll Open the Window by Anna Swir (you can read the entire poem here), to give you an idea:

I will open the window
and the large, frosty air will enter,
healthy as tragedy.
Human thoughts will enter
and human concerns,
misfortune of others, saintliness of others.
They will converse softly and sternly.

Another poem: From a Window by Charlotte Mew.

Many have written about what they see outside their window, or why they’re looking out the window (instead of just going out the door?). Perhaps the very idea of looking outward is a positive one, signifying that someone, who has been withdrawn for a long time, is finally opening up, moving out, moving on… Perhaps they yearn for freedom — to go out, to experience the world, or be with nature.

While we’re on the topic of “windows”, I’d also like to share this lovely, very touching video (and the music):


In the spirit of National Poetry Month…

I’ll share one more poem today; it may not have windows (but I think poems themselves are windows, in a way), but it’s one of my personal favorites.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Happy Writing!

I hope this helped you get your creative juices flowing, if they weren’t already. Good luck with your NaPoWriMo/Poem-a-Day challenges! Have a happy weekend,  folks — I hope it’s full of writing/poeming 🙂

Friday Reflections & more!

Hello, folks! I wasn’t able to make posts thanks to a few exams that occupied my first two weeks of April — but here I am, to join in on the National Poetry Month fun! I’m ten days late into the game, but better late than never, eh? I have been keeping up with the Poem-a-Day Challenge. In fact, most days I’ve been able to write more than the required one 😉

For anyone who’s new to the whole event: April is National Poetry Month! (I’d peg it as international now, actually.)

There’s generally a lot of poetry awareness around this time, so if you can help it, try to read a new poem every day. Better yet, spread the word! Get others to read more poetry, share your favorites, spread the joy!

For those who enjoy writing poetry, April’s even more fun! April for poets is as November is for novelists: it brings with it the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge: writing one poem a day, every day, for the whole month! Anyone who’s participating can find a great many blogs full of prompts and poems this month. Be sure to check out, where they offer many suggestions and a prompt every day.

Mr. Brewer over at Poetic Asides also conducts a Poem-a-Day Challenge during April, so do participate if you’re interested! This year, it’s even more interesting with an anthology being released including submissions for the challenge, as well as with various judges coming in for the event.

NaPoWriMo 2014

A Poem for the Day

I’ll kick off with a poem, to spread the Poetry Month joy 🙂

The Poets light but Lamps— by Emily Dickinson

The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference —

Friday Reflections: homebound

Take a few moments to brainstorm on the topic: “homebound”. Jot down all of the ideas that come to you, make a note of the kinds of things you see in the images and scenes that the word brings to your mind. Take a moment to think about who is in that scene and why things are happening that way in the scene.

The prompt came from the poem I wrote yesterday, of the same title. There are two definitions for this particular word, and in my poem I took advantage of that duality of meaning:

1. Going homeward: bound for home
2. Confined to the home

(Definitions courtesy Merriam-Webster)

You can question what we mean by the word “home” – how does your character or poet persona (or self, if you’re the one speaking) think of “home”? You can also play on what we mean by “bound”. It can be seen in a negative light, that is, being bound or confined to a thing. In which case, is there a sense of wanting to break away from there?

Put together, the words interestingly have this definition: “going homeward“. Does it recall the phrase, “home is where the heart is”?

Does your character/poet persona happen to not have a definition for “home” because of unique circumstances? Do they perhaps form one by the end of your piece?

Home could be the earth. Home could mean a tent or cabin at camp, a single-bedroom apartment, a two-storey house, a mansion – anything. It could even be a hovel (like Yoda’s, on Dagobah!).

Yoda's Hovel

Home also happens to be a very common button on websites, directing people to the homepage! Just for a little twist, in case you feel like writing something about computers or the internet!

Hope that gave you some food for thought!

Happy Writing!

For those of you taking on the challenge, we’re already a third way through! Stay strong, keep poeming, and most importantly, have fun 🙂

Even if you’re not attempting the PAD Challenge/NaPoWriMo, you’re welcome to start even ten days late, or just spread some love for poetry this month! I’ll be updating more frequently (now that I’m free from my exams!) with more poems and prompts.

Happy writing, folks!

Friday Reflections: Memories

Good day, folks! 🙂 Hope everyone’s been gearing up for (Inter)National Poetry Month! It’s just a few days away, now.

To get you warmed up, in case you’re participating in the April Poem-a-Day Challenge–or any other Poetry-writing event, this Friday’s Reflections post has several references to other poems, books, songs, and related articles! 🙂

Without further ado, this Friday’s topic: memories.

by PARANOIA--7 at Deviantart

wonderful photography by PARANOIA–7 at Deviantart


Before my ideas clutter your thoughts, just take a few minutes and brainstorm around the topic “memory”/”memories”:

  • list out any words that pop in your head when you think “memory”
  • jot down any memories that strike your mind first
  • if you want to write about memories as such and their nature (not specific incidents in your life), you could brainstorm through the process of memory-making and remembering, and on how/why these happen

If you have a specific memory in mind already:

  • brainstorm note any and all details you can remember, down to names, places, clothes, colors, time of day, season/month, dialogue (if any) and even brand names
  • brainstorm as many sensory details as you can with regard to the scene of your memory; if what you’re going to write is going to recall a memory, you can create the scene most effectively by being specific
  • try to brainstorm words that capture the mood of the memory

All Kinds of Memories

When we say “memory” we can mean the power of the human mind to save and recollect information. We could also mean Computer Memory: RAM or hard-disk memory…could be a tech-y poem (I’ve written one, it’s quite fun)!

The mĂ©moire (French for memory) is also literary form. It’s not, however, the same as the memoir (the better-known of the two).

Memory poems, and the theme of nostalgia, are amongst my favorite when it comes to writing. I love saving up many keepsakes and little trinkets, and when I go back to them, they almost always invoke a little poetry.

(The word nostalgia always reminds me of Yanni’s piece — this particular medley is all the more evocative.)

Often, these writings are bittersweet, because we’re talking about what’s already passed. Sometimes, they’re downright painful!

Some such famous poems include Lord Tennyson’s Tears, Idle Tears and William Blake’s Memory, hither come.

We talk about cherished memories, painful memories and childhood memories; we talk of short term and long term memory, and even memory loss. Many contemporary stories have protagonists who suffer from memory-loss — either temporary or permanent (think Memento). We talk about how some memories fade, or about how we’re either trying to remember or trying to forget something.

Sometimes, we’re trying to remember something, and it’s on the tip of our tongue, but not quite — a very interesting phenomenon!

We have all kinds of things aiding our memory now — Post-It notes, reminders and alarms, To-Do lists(potential list poem!) How do you keep track of/remember what has to be done? Do you have a system? Take a look at your system — if you don’t have one, see if any family member you know, or perhaps a friend, does. Observe. How often are these aides…required? A little too often for comfort? Or does the subject perhaps have extremely good memory? (I certainly don’t!) Perhaps photographic memory?

We could remember a person, remember an experience or even an object. We could remember our pasts, remember the people and things we’ve lost. We could even remember a culture — perhaps a dying culture — the remembering of it being its only means of survival.

A poem I wrote several years ago was written from the point of view of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I was able to create tension by placing her beside her daughter, whom she did not recognize, and also by filling the scene with items and ideas that were to evoke memories — but only cause the woman pain and confusion instead.

You could also write about recollecting certain memories with someone else who has experienced them. Or perhaps, being unable to do so.

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver


It’s interesting how photographs used to be so rarely taken once upon a time, and often only in large groups, or in studios — and now we click! thousands of them with mere touches to our smartphones. Many of us still have that nostalgic feeling, though, when we go back to certain photographs we haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes, the memories seem so far away that we wonder if it really happened:

“Was it a dream?
Was it a dream?
Is this the only evidence that proves it,
A photograph of you and I–”
Song: “Was It a Dream?”, 30 Seconds to Mars

One of my personal favorite Memory songs is Memories by Within Temptation, and its lyrics give us an example of the effect one’s memories can have on him/her:


The Mind works how it will

This article on Memories, Photographs, and the Human Brain looks into the working of the human mind and how it captures memories and images.

It’s interesting how we remember things. How much of it is really as Mr. MĂĄrquez says?

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
(from Love in the Time of Cholera)

And then there is this lovely bit from Haruki Murakami‘s Kafka on the Shore:

“Most things are forgotten over time … There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.”

Happy writing!

Try to put together the pieces of your brainstorm and flesh out the details of the memory you’ve chosen. Finally: what does it do for the poet persona/writing voice? It could offer some kind of progression or growth. Does it prove cathartic or epiphanic, or provide some sense of closure?

Give some thought into why that particular memory, and what its recollection achieves.

Hope that gave you some food for thought and hopefully helped to write a piece 🙂 Happy writing, folks!

Friday Reflections: What’s in a name?

I apologize for having taken quite a long break from blogging — coursework’s kept me busy, and I’ve had some trouble with the internet connection at home. I’m back, though, and ready to start gearing up for National Poetry Month (April) / the April Poem-a-Day challenge! 🙂

Hope everyone’s been reading, reflecting, and writing!

What’s in a name?

This Friday’s prompt — as the Bard once wrote, “What’s in a name?” — was inspired by a line of dialogue I heard from a character in a video game. (Prompts really do strike you from out of anything!) The character in question had made a statement about the pride and strength she draws from her family name.

By an extension of the idea of signs (previous post), the quote immediately got me wondering about how her name, as a sign, had gained significance – so much significance that it became not only a matter of pride for her to boast it, but also gave her a sense of purpose on the battlefield.

What, indeed, is in a name?

Shakespeare says…

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2, Lines 38-47

“Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself

O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

This is the origin of the phrases “What’s in a name?” and “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – the idea that it is not the name (or title) of a person or thing that matters so much as their essence – what they really “are“.

Indeed, should one be another’s enemy merely because of a name, in this case – a family name that one inherits (not taken on by choice)?

Of course, one could also say that a name is inextricably linked with a person/thing’s personality or essence.

The video game character who inspired this post, for instance, found purpose in her name. It gave her something to fight for. Her family name and her title are very much a part of who she is essentially. She has become that kind of warrior because of her name. Would she have known this pride or strength had she been of some other name or title — or without any title at all? (Just as a note: she is based on a historical figure.)

And we understand a lot about a character’s aspirations, when he/she wishes to “make a name for him/herself”.

Identity, Belonging and Other Questions

The NamesakeIt’s very interesting to wonder whether our names affect our character. In fact, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake deals with this concept in a certain light. It’s also a work about diaspora that deals with questions of identity and belonging, among other things. These are also important concepts where names are concerned.

How much of one’s sense of identity comes from one’s name? How much of one’s sense of belonging to one’s village/city/nation comes from one’s name? What if your name and your place, where you feel you belong, don’t “match”? Would you rather it match, or rather you stand apart? Does your name, like my video game warrior’s does for her, stand as a symbol of pride and strength for you?

These are all questions we can ask for anything – whether for self-reflection or to write more complex characters in that next novel.

In Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, it’s clear that Kunta Kinte holds tightly on to his name as though it were a matter of survival – and indeed, it becomes so, as it is carried on from one generation to the next.

Similarly, naming can be seen as a very powerful act in Native American literature. An example is in N. Scott Momaday’s The Names: A Memoir, where he writes,

“Pohd-lohk affirmed the whole life of the child in a name, saying: Now you are, Tsoai-talee.”

To name

There seems to be great power in naming people or things. We do know that language communication depends heavily on the system of naming. Writers spend hours together deciding on the perfect names for their characters. Why would that be? How much do names mean to you? Do they matter right down to their consonant and vowel sounds, the shapes of the letters on the page, the multiplicity of meanings that the name could take?

Every time you name a character, you can take various aspects of the name into consideration – the visual, auditory and psychological effects it has — on him/her, the other characters, and the reader.

You could even make powerful irony out of a name by having the character’s personality oppose it completely!

Here’s an interesting passage from Gary Paulsen’s Woodsong on imposing names on others:

“I began to understand that they are not wrong or right–they just are.
Wolves don’t know they are wolves.
That’s a name we have put on them, something we have done. I do not know how wolves think of themselves, nor does anybody …”

To name-call

An incredible, heart-rendering piece of spoken-word poetry by Shane Koyczan on this (thank you, Fahima, for pointing me to it):

Write away, folks!

Whether it’s going to be another amazing piece of poetry like Mr. Koyczan’s, or your next character’s name and personality file, spend some time thinking about what, for you, is in a name  and don’t forget to write your thoughts down! 🙂 Happy writing and happy weekend, folks!