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Subconscious naming of characters

Have I told the story of Martin’s name before?

Martin is the protagonist in Something Missing, and my choice of his name has an interesting story behind it.

As I was writing the book, I was in therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of a violent robbery from about ten years prior, and in discussing the book with my therapist, he asked how I decided upon the name Martin. I told him that “it just popped out. No thought at all.”  And that was true. The first word of the book’s first sentence is Martin, and that sentence, like most, just eased its way onto the page without much thought on my part.

My therapist then pointed out that Martin’s name couldn’t have been any closer to mine without actually being my name and that Martin’s penchant for careful planning and obsession with detail were also coping mechanisms I have developed over the years to deal with my PTSD. Fire extinguishers on every floor of my home, first aid kits in my car, and detailed plans on dealing with an intruder if one ever entered our house at night. My planning was obsessive. I would run through conversations in my head before speaking. Whenever I entered a restaurant, auditorium, or similar public space, I would immediately take note of all the possible exits. I would then place myself in a position to face the main door to monitor all who entered.

In short, it turns out I am writing about myself more than I ever realized. I even had an evil stepfather and a birth father whom I had not seen for about twenty years until last week, when the book, in part, finally brought us back together.

But again, I was too stupid to notice these parallels as well.

So earlier this week, I was contacted by a man whose last name is Railsback, wondering where Martin got his last name. Apparently, Railsback is a relatively uncommon last name, so he and his family were curious about my choice. Sadly, all I could say is that it also popped into my head, but thus far, without any apparent psychological underpinning. In fact, I did not even know that Martin had a last name until his father appeared in the novel, and when he did, the name came along with it.

Perhaps someday, a therapist will analyze the meaning of Martin’s last name as well and explain why it popped into my head, but for now, sadly, all I have to report is that it just came along with the character without any discernible reason.