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Izz
03-16-2008, 01:23 PM
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Exir
03-16-2008, 01:56 PM
Depends. For example, if two friends share the page space, be consistent with the naming. If it is a boss and his worker sharing the page space, though, you can (and should) refer to one as Mr Smith and another one as John.

Shweta
03-16-2008, 02:00 PM
I use naming as a way of saying how close my point of view character is to the person they're naming. How they think of the person. So in my WIP there are two main POV characters, and one of them thinks of her brother by his first name, while the other thinks of the same person - who is a stranger to him - by his profession/title.

I also have at least the one POV character who thinks of some people by their first names and some by their last. His flunkies are first-name, his social superiors are last-name.

In real life, we do think of some people by their first names, and others not so much. I think it's a useful social cue. If we use it, we have to be extra careful, of course, not to be confusing :) But I think it's possible.

dpaterso
03-16-2008, 02:51 PM
Genre usually decides this for me. I call my action/thriller characters by their surnames (Smith rammed a fresh magazine into his gleaming SIG-Sauer P226), my less rugged/more conversational characters by their first names (Joe hated when Nellie insisted he come shopping with her, but it sure was better'n painting the fence), and as a rough rule of thumb, unless they're an evil henchwoman working for a mad scientist, female characters are always known by their first names after introduction. If nothing else this instantly avoids confusion over sex, unless it's one of those pecky ambiguous names like Sam or Fred. Whichever, keeping the convention consistent is probably all that really matters. As for how other characters address them, isn't that usually decided by workplace or social ranking? "Tell Smith to come to my office at once." "Hey Joe, boss wants to see you."

-Derek

Mumut
03-16-2008, 03:16 PM
The most ruthless of the criminal gang in my second book is Herr Muller. Even his colleagues call him this. Knights are always Sir Cedric etc. Others are first names. That's how I do it, anyway.

Bufty
03-16-2008, 03:26 PM
Whichever method you use - be reasonably consistent for the duration of that particular POV - so long as the reader knows to whom the name refers it's no great problem. How formal or warm a connection to the character do you wish the reader to have?

Incidentally, the highlighted section below is not written from the POV of Bloggs. It's an omniscient observation from the narrator.


Thanks for the comments so far.

I just re-read my initial post and i should probably clarify the question a little more...

This concerns characters whose POV i am writing from. If, while writing from one characters POV i name him Smith, should i then, when writing from others characters POV refer to these characters by their surnames?

Say when writing from Smith's POV: "Sounds about right," Smith said as the woman placed her groceries on the belt.

Then when i write from Bloggs (note, these are not my characters actual names :P) POV should it go like this: Bloggs hated grocery shopping. It was one of those essential things that she couldn't get out of the way quick enough.

Or could i write it by saying: Nellie blah, blah, blah?

Yeah i know it sounds like a dumb question, but my current WIP has me juggling POV's from seven different characters and it suddenly hit me that in narrative from their respective POV's i refer to some by first name and some by last name. Do i need to be consistent or is it okay to jump around like that?

MoonWriter
03-16-2008, 07:38 PM
Incidentally, the highlighted section below is not written from the POV of Bloggs. It's an omniscient observation from the narrator.

Bloggs hated grocery shopping. It was one of those essential things that she couldn't get out of the way quick enough.

This sounds like a type of statement that I would make although I'm writing in 3rd person limited, which leads me to question (once again) my understanding of 3rd person vs. omniscient.

Should statements like the one above be avoided if writing in 3rd person limited?

Devil Ledbetter
03-16-2008, 07:59 PM
Right, i figure this is a fairly basic writing question - hence why i'm asking it in this forum...:)

I know it's never a good idea to refer to a character by first name in some places and last name or other names in other places - very confusing for poor Mr Reader.

However, if i have several characters sharing a lot of page space is it best to use the same naming convention for all of them?...e.g. Joe Smith is always referred to as Smith. Does that mean that Nellie Bloggs should always be referred to as Bloggs? Or if i think that it sounds better can i refer to her as Nellie instead but still refer to Joe Smith as Smith?

I'm thinking that for consistency i should always use the same naming convention for all characters, but i'm not one hundred percent sure...Invariably, I refer to a character using the name the POV character would use, even if that name changes when I switch POV characters. So my character who thinks of herself as "Rebecca" is always called "Rebecca" when the story is in her POV, but switches to "Becca" in her husband's POV, because that's what he calls her and how he thinks of her.

If my readers can't follow that, then I haven't made the story clear enough or engaging enough.

What I'd avoid is switching between first and last names (or nicknames) in a single POV just for the sake of "variety." But I don't see any reason at all to call every last character by the same kind of name, i.e., only last names (Smith, Jones) or honorific + last name (Mr. Smith, Mrs. Jones) or only first names (Dave, Candy). The only reason to do this is if you were writing from the POV of a character (or narrator) who had some weird, anal compulsion about referring to everyone by their last name, or something.

Bufty
03-16-2008, 08:13 PM
I don't think a categoric 'No' is right here, because if it were an opening statement, say, prior to popping me into Blogg's experiences I wouldn't mind.

But if the quoted statement appeared in the middle of a true Blogg's POV paragraph it would give the reader a jolt because it's obviously the writer giving information about Bloggs directly to the reader and not the reader learning something through Blogg's actions and/or thoughts/reactions.

So think before using is the answer I would give. I'm sure someone else will answer you better -we'll see.


Bloggs hated grocery shopping. It was one of those essential things that she couldn't get out of the way quick enough.

This sounds like a type of statement that I would make although I'm writing in 3rd person limited, which leads me to question (once again) my understanding of 3rd person vs. omniscient.

Should statements like the one above be avoided if writing in 3rd person limited?

Expanding Ink
03-16-2008, 09:48 PM
Invariably, I refer to a character using the name the POV character would use, even if that name changes when I switch POV characters. So my character who thinks of herself as "Rebecca" is always called "Rebecca" when the story is in her POV, but switches to "Becca" in her husband's POV, because that's what he calls her and how he thinks of her.

Couldn't have said it better myself. IMHO, this draws the reader further into the head of the POV character and can reveal a great deal about the relationships between characters.

Linda Adams
03-16-2008, 10:19 PM
I'd suggest staying consistent with a name in the narrative throughout the entire book. I've had books where it lost me because the narrative switched names for a POV, and I couldn't figure out who that was. Of course, in dialogue, the characters can call either other by whatever other preferences because the narrative will tie it together.

This thread reminded me of a fan fiction writer I knew ages ago. She thought it was terribly repetitive to use the names, and so she would have one section of a few pages where a character might be referred to in narrative multiple ways (i.e., the captain, the skipper, John, Smith). Some readers thought they were four different characters!

dpaterso
03-16-2008, 10:47 PM
This thread reminded me of a fan fiction writer I knew ages ago. She thought it was terribly repetitive to use the names, and so she would have one section of a few pages where a character might be referred to in narrative multiple ways (i.e., the captain, the skipper, John, Smith). Some readers thought they were four different characters!

"Burly Detective" Syndrome

This useful term is taken from SF's cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne's proper name, preferring such euphemisms as "the burly detective" or "the red-headed sleuth." This syndrome arises from a wrong-headed conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as "vertiginous." Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.

~from the Turkey City Lexicon (http://www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html) on the SFWA (http://www.sfwa.org/) website

-Derek