1. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    Character to get their name midway along

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tella, Jan 30, 2016.

    My current novel WIP features a character that must remain nameless for the sake of it. Only in page 15 does he get a name. Note that by "get" I mean quite literally - it is not his actual name, but it is how he is referred to. That being said, the name he get will not be incorporated into the narrative until page 25, where he is referred to, as a character, by his given name.

    There are entire novels featuring characters in this form. The Alchemist features Santiago, whom from very first sentence is referred to as "the boy" until the very end final sentence. That is not the case in my book. It is only temporary, but until that moment when the character gets a name, simply calling him "the boy" feels off to me.

    It feels as if the usage of "the boy" does not last short enough to be overlooked, but neither does it last long enough to be pleasantly transitioned. It's as if for 200 pages we'll have "the boy" and then suddenly, for another 200 pages, we'll have "Joe". We already got used to "the boy", only here it's 25 pages.

    The only solution I can dig up off the bat is to give the character a distinct feature, say, "The boy with the black hat." and abridged 70% of its usage to just "the boy."

    Any thought? Well, of course there are. Spill 'em!
     
  2. AdalindRose
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    AdalindRose New Member

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    I totally get your concerns but ultimately I think if you do it correctly you can pull it off in a way that wont annoy/disrupt the reader. I have read books in the past where they have kept a character anonymous until a good few chapters in. If you don't want to refer to him as "the boy" is there anything else you could refer to him as? I'm not sure if I would go with "the boy with the black hat" as I feel like that might get a little bit too repetitive but it depends on how often you would be referencing him as that
     
  3. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    Thank you :)

    Yeah, it would be repetitive, that is what I meant by 70% - to shorten it most of the time to just "the boy". Tell me, how do I do it the right way? What does it entail?
     
  4. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I also think it's cool to use the boy. I say move forward doing it that way then revisit it during a later reading to see if it 'feels' right to you still. My guess is it will be fine.
     
  5. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Have you thought about using a pronoun mostly, only repeating the 'boy' moniker occasionally? That's how I would approach it. Pronouns are important to use correctly but if you pull it off it may solve your problem. What do you think?
     
  6. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I did something similar in one of my books, keeping one guy anonymous until he introduces himself because (obviously) until he introduces himself he's nameless to the girl he is talking to. His whole deal is that he's a nameless, invisible political operative quietly rigging democracy for his masters and keeping his name to himself until they've built up some trust is really in keeping with that.

    I think you're really over complicating how you think about this. Most of the time you just need to call him 'he'. That's your go to. You will occasionally need to tweak a sentence to make it clear who you are talking about but there's very few situations where you absolutely cannot make do without a more definitive noun. Since you don't need a name that often you really don't need to worry at all about it being long or short really; just making it feel characterful. That's what matters; for a while your readers will only have that to go on so give them something that will still make sense with his character later.

    Just write a scene and as you go pick up a few words of your natural description and run with it. In my book the girl sardonically calls this guy 'Shoe Polisher' because she notices that somehow he has perfectly unscuffed shoes in the midst of a hectic day of usurping people's freedoms. He's a very neat man, a man who leaves no marks on the world as he passes and always has a perfect external veneer in the face of doing mildly terrible things. Even at the end of the book calling him 'Shoe Polisher' would fit perfectly for him.
     
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  7. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have faced this problem. My issue with "the boy" is that is a common pronoun. So ir can be confusing in quite the same way.

    The only time I can think of that an artist got away with ths was Sherlock, because he always referred to Irene Adler as "The woman" but in this case it isn't to not invoke her name, but a sign of honor. Sherlock was intentionally referring to her as the woman because he didn't like women and he felt that for some reason she was a cut above her gender. Sherlock meant by "the woman" was "the only woman that matters" and that meaning is where I think saved it.

    In your case it sounds like you are holding a name for plot reasons. Which is fine. Personally, I think a name is needed, not a real name but a nickname, some name to cling too. In that sense "the boy" is a nickname, but you need it to have a special meaning in your case like Sherlock or I think it will not work the way you want it too.

    Because in my book some characters appear in different books. Revealing them by real names in different books would spoil things. So in my case I had them use fake names. Considering they are doing illegal things. I think it is complletely fair that a character will save in one book. "Oh, yeah that was me. I was a criminal, I didn't give out my real name" is a fair assumption. I think that is another good way, depending on your situation.
     
  8. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    Hey there :)


    So guys, I've seen all three comments I guess I'll mostly need to carry on with the same formula, as I am already doing the pronoun\tweaking thing. Perhaps I'll had the special meaning to the entire deal, although there is already some sort of complexion to "the boy", as the character is actually 19, technically still a boy, and yet already stepped into the adult world.

    Thanks guys.
     
  9. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    Have you seen my cartoon?
     
  10. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    Indeed, when I was a kid, though I don't remember much, only the general plot and some specific episodes.
     
  11. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    I might have been overly tired when my first reaction to not explicitly naming book characters is to bring up a cartoon. It's easy to say Samurai Jack or The Scotsman were never explicitly named when there are pictures.

    I can think of a dozen different ways what you want to do makes sense. He's the boy. He doesn't know his name, he doesn't feel like saying his name, you want another character to introduce the boy's name at a later point, there is no one to introduce him, he doesn't have a name, his name just isn't important... and none of that strikes me as absurd.
     
  12. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    Haruki Murikami's Hardboiled Wonderland at the End of the World doesn't name a single character. It was pretty cool.
     
  13. MockingJD
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    MockingJD Member

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    I agree with this. He can be "the boy" and then "he" until he is named. As long as you're clear on who everyone else is and develop him well, it'll be fine.
     
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  14. Tella
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    Sounds good. Alright people, thank you for the input.
     
  15. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    First, I assume it's not a POV character? If it is, then it doesn't matter too much.

    Second, why not just refer to him by a specific feature? In my current WIP I have a character who just doesn't connect with people, to the point where she doesn't think in terms of names, but merely by "the big woman", "the tall girl" "the woman in blue", etc. even with people she knows reasonably well.
     

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