1. Stephen Gazzard
    Offline

    Stephen Gazzard Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2014
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    9

    Character names from different view points

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Stephen Gazzard, Jul 11, 2015.

    My novel features view points from several different characters, and during the course of the story they meet some of the same characters under different circumstances, and may not know them by the same name.

    For example, in one scene, Georgina (the main character) will interact with a character and call him 'Bertrand', because she knows his name. In another, Marylise (a child POV character) will call him 'the bad man' because she does not know his name, but saw him do something bad.

    These two scenes happen back to back and the reader is meant to know that 'the bad man' and 'Bertrand' are the same character. Of course I am including cues and in no way being subtle about who 'the bad man' is - it's not meant to be a mystery, just a stylistic thing from telling the point of view from this characters view point.

    The thing is that it feels strange to me to be typing "The bad man" all over the place, for one it's cute once or twice but it kind of loses it charm as it's repeated, and for another, I know his name and my reader will know his name. I have been trying to establish a semi-omniscient third person narrator, hinting at things the character might not know without straying too far from their point of view, as below:

    “So, she got you, eh, Uncle Walter? All these years you’ve been after me and in the end it just took one beautiful woman to take you down.”

    He chuckled to himself while she blushed to realise that he thought she was beautiful; the thought never entered her head that he might think she was listening. ​

    With that in mind, "playing dumb" and always referring to the character as "the bad man" instead of Bertrand feels like it goes against that.

    As a reader, what do you think would make more sense, reading about 'the bad man' or Bertrand?

    (Worth noting - even in the quoted scene, "He" is never referred to by name as his name is not know yet, either to the reader or the character - so maybe this establishes some precedence?)
     
  2. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,504
    Likes Received:
    1,337
    1/To the OP, once we (the reader) know, from Georgina's POV, that the character's name is Bertrand, it seems disingenuous to conceal him behind Marylise's conception of him as 'the bad man'. I think that you should call him Bertrand, even thought Marylise doesn't know his name - we do.

    2/ The extract you quoted seemed pretty confusing...1/ she teases him that one beatiful woman took him down (and that it's NOT the speaker). 2/ He chuckles, hinting that he agreed that she was beautiful.3/ She (the speaker) blushes because she now realises that he thought her beautiful.

    What gives the speaker the impression that He thought that She (the speaker) was beautiful, rather than She (the beautiful woman who took him down)?
     
  3. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,921
    Likes Received:
    5,453
    I too am confused by your example; I read it three times before I got it.

    I realize that's only tangentially related to your question, but I feel that it keeps me from fully understanding how this POV can work.
     
  4. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    With the omniscient POV you're apparently portraying/using (being in both characters' thoughts--providing internal responses that would not be obvious to the other character in the same paragraph), using 'the bad man' doesn't make as much sense. If you were writing in third person limited, then possibly it would make more sense.

    Letting the reader know that the girl thinks of him as 'the bad man' is fine, but constant reference to him that way, may not be necessary--probably is not necessary. Nevertheless, it's a stylistic issue, and there isn't a 100% right answer, other than what works best for you and the story's telling to the reader.
     
  5. Stephen Gazzard
    Offline

    Stephen Gazzard Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2014
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thanks for the feedback so far ... I ended up completing the scene using 'the bad man' for consistency, I'll have to see how that sounds as far as consistency.

    RE: the excerpt, yeah I definitely cut out too much context ... was trying to highlight that one part rather than a whole scene.The speech is supposed to be a man talking that the POV character is eavesdropping on but that wasn't obvious from my original snippet. Here it is again with a bit more context:

    "
    Just as she got back on the street, she saw the man who had knocked her over before. He was talking to a woman and so his back was turned, but she knew why he was here. He had come back for the paper. She quickly went back into the alley. She stopped at the dead man, pulled his neck back, and pulled her knife out (she had planned on buying a real, metal one with the money, but now she suspected that she might need one before then), then turned around a corner and hid in a doorway.


    Sure enough, a moment later she heard footsteps coming down the alley. They stopped for a moment, then a voice laughed,


    “So, she got you, eh, Uncle Walter? All these years you’ve been after me and in the end it just took one beautiful woman to take you down.”


    He chuckled to himself while she blushed to realise that he thought she was beautiful; the thought never entered her head that he might think she was listening. A moment later she heard a loud whump! sound as the body of Uncle Walter was turned over. No laughter this time; “She’s a smart one, too.”"
     
  6. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,921
    Likes Received:
    5,453
    I am once again addressing a question you didn't ask. This:

    feeds the reader something that should, it seem to me, end up being a surprise. Is there a reason why the reader needs to know that he spoke those words to mislead her?
     
  7. Stephen Gazzard
    Offline

    Stephen Gazzard Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2014
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    9
    There are a few reasons for it, yes, although thank you for asking (I figure if you can't come up with an answer for why you did something, may as well not do it). The reasons why I think it makes sense, in the context of this tale

    1. He is not so much deceiving her as sugar-ing her up, so it's not really meant to be a surprise that maybe he doesn't think she is beautiful. (They are actually allies through most of the book, even though he annoys her a lot). I think this little sentence speaks a lot to his potential character, giving the reader at least something to grasp at when he shows up again later (as this is his first appearance)

    2. I really enjoy the tension when, as a reader, I suspect the opposite of what the character I am reading is thinking - and I think this helps create the tension in this scene.

    3. In this case, it's a light hint - it doesn't actually say that he is deceiving, just implies she doesn't consider it a possibility. So as a reader, I am left to wonder, is the author trying to tell me about this guy and how he is sugaring her up, or this woman and how she isn't perceiving a possible nuance? Which of these will be important later on? Maybe both?
     
  8. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,921
    Likes Received:
    5,453
    I guess that's my issue--I'm getting it as a stronger hint that I suspect you intended. I realize that your literal words aren't stating it as a fact, but I am reading it as a fact.

    Edited to add: And that is, I think, because I'm more accustomed to third person limited. When you break in with the omniscient observation, that gives the observation EXTRA VOLUME, to my reading ear.
     
  9. Stephen Gazzard
    Offline

    Stephen Gazzard Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2014
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hmm, interesting that you are reading it that way - but, honestly, I think that's a perfectly ok interpretation for a reader to make of that phrase. Being suspicious of this character matches the MC's feelings towards him for the next while, and will add additional tension to a few of the scenes that come up.
     
  10. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    Looking at this I feel the need to ask whether you're meaning to write this in Third Person Limited or Third Person Omniscient.

    If you're in the traditional Third Person Limited - you can only be in one character's head per scene. If you're doing Third Person Limited with multiple POV characters, you need to include scene breaks when the point of view shifts - and I know in my case thise usually involves not just a shift in knowledge and terminology, but a shift in the ENTIRE AUTHORIAL VOICE. If I do a scene break and jump from my investigative journalist main character (Nina) into her evil boss's secretary (Sinead), everything about the way things are. Nina thinks in relatively simple sentences and is pretty straightforward in how she things, but she's very perceptive about when people are hiding something and sometimes will diverge into mental logic-chains breaking down what she thinks the person she's talking to is thinking. Sinead, on the other hand, is not quite as socially perceptive but is far more intelligent, far more educated, and deeply jaded and sarcastic. When I'm writing her, the vocabulary gets more elevated, the authorial voice starts getting judgmental about everything around her, and there are a lot more run-on sentences because her brain is moving so fast that it's out of control.

    The reason I bring this up is that if you're doing this with an adult character and a child character, you'd probably have even more dramatic changes in narration. If you jump into the child's head for a scene, it's not just switching to "the bad man" rather than "Bertrand", it's shifting your entire thought process, sentence structure, and vocabulary to suit the POV character. If she's young enough to be referring to someone as "the bad man" (which to me makes me think she's under ten), she needs to have a simpler authorial voice that indicates a childlike point of view, making us buy into repeated references to "the bad man" and such. I'm not going to be good with examples here because I don't write child characters.

    On the other hand, if you're writing Third Person Omniscient, that gives you access to everybody's head, but that doesn't just mean you can head-hop. It means your narrator is a separate (unseen) character with a distinctive voice that does NOT mirror the characters emotions or thought processes. If you're writing in Omniscient, the pronouns and tone of voice are not going to be determined by how the characters see the world, but how the omniscient narrator sees the world, and what that narrator thinks of all the people he/she is looking down on.
     
  11. Stephen Gazzard
    Offline

    Stephen Gazzard Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2014
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    9
    ^I honestly think you just hit the head on the nail with why I am having difficulty figuring this scene out and why, in some cases, I get really frustrated with my writing and why in others I think it's coming across exactly as I intend.

    The short answer - Third Person Omniscient (even if I am trying to be very 'close' to the characters)

    But. I think in the scene in question, I slipped into Third Person Limited, and confused myself. I am certain I have done this in many other places as well as Third Person Limited is usually what I fall into first these days (I think because that's what most of the books I've been reading of late have been - although not what I was reading when I started this story).

    Thank you for asking that. I know what I need to do now.
     
    Commandante Lemming likes this.
  12. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    Glad it helped. Also one author I've heard cited as an example of a really close in Omniscient POV - or alternatively one of the few examples of head-hopping actually working - is (of all people) Jane Austen.

    I have not actually read any Austen, nor frankly do I plan to, so I can't vouch for the scene construction in Pride and Prejudice - but since I've heard it cited, I'll pass that on.

    But if you think you have something to go on, definitely run with it.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,921
    Likes Received:
    5,453
    Robert Barnard's Death of a Mystery Writer dances between omniscient and head hopping close third, IMO.
     
  14. Stephen Gazzard
    Offline

    Stephen Gazzard Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2014
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thanks - I will look into those!
     

Share This Page