1. The Human Fallacy
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    The Human Fallacy New Member

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    Deferring naming the protagonist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by The Human Fallacy, Apr 26, 2014.

    Hello,

    I'm writing a science-fantasy novel in which I don't want to give the main character a proper name until about 15-25% of the way into the story. He's discovering his own identity as he goes along and will actually be given a name by some other characters at a specific point. My question is, how should I try and go about writing from a third person point of view while not using a name? I've considered using an assumed name that will be discarded when he acquires his final name later. Would that confuse the reader too much? Does anyone have any other suggestions? Thanks all!

    Drew
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Any substitute name will do. I take it you are going back later to insert the name you decide on?

    Names are hard for me because I have a hard time picking ones I like. When I wrote my sci-fi story for the contest I used the alphabet:

    Az
    By
    Cx

    and so on. When it came time to insert the actual names I decided to incorporate the letters into the names. Az became Azur, By became Blynn, Cx became Crexan and so on.


    Welcome to the forum, by the way. :)
     
  3. The Human Fallacy
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    The Human Fallacy New Member

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    Thanks for the welcome and help :) I've been using placeholder names up until recently but I do know what names I want to use now.

    I guess I wasn't quite precise enough in my description of my problem. I am not going to go back and insert the name in the story because him not knowing his own name is part of the story itself. In my final version of the story, I don't want to use the name of the character until say 25% of the way through. I'm trying to figure out a way to refer to the protagonist prior to that while either not using a name at all or by using a temporary name just so the reader will have some sort of anchoring. I've read that it's bad to rename a character during a story from a reader's perspective since it's confusing.

    Drew
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    In _The Midwife's Apprentice_, a children's book by Karen Cushman, the main character (an abandoned child) is called Brat until, late in the book, she renames herself Alyce. It seems to work just fine.

    Edited to correct: Hmm. I remembered the girl being named Beetle, for dung beetle, for her sleeping in the warmth of a decaying dung heap to survive the cold. The official review disagreed with me, and the customer reviews agree. Anyway, Brat or Beetle, they were both negative names created from a situation, replaced with a real name, which seems somewhat analogous to your problem.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like that idea, @ChickenFreak. A nickname, particularly a derogatory one that the character benefits from the name being replaced seems to fit with the story being described.
     
  6. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    I believe I mentioned in another thread that protagonists in stories are required by law to have full names. Do what you like, but do so at your own risk.
     
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  7. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    If we're with him when he wakes and doesn't know his name he will wonder who he is and where he is. And if we're in his POV we will to. So you refer to him as "he." but as soon as practical have someone ask for his name and have him choose one "on the fly." problem solved.

    If we're not, that will have happened already and he'll have a name already.
     
  8. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    From now on his name is Trent Steel. Problem solved.
     
  9. The Human Fallacy
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    The Human Fallacy New Member

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    @ChickenFreak, I really like that idea and I think I'll go with it. A good nickname, as long as it makes sense in the context, seems like it would work and I do have one in mind. Thanks all for the suggestions everyone.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, wasn't Aragorn called Strider when we first meet him? He isn't referred to as Aragorn until quite a bit later, if I remember correctly.

    So I think the nickname idea is a good one. It saves you from having to keep typing "the man in the bowler hat" or some such all the time.
     
  11. stanislav
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    stanislav Member

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    I do not see a problem. Further more, main character to be given a name by his deed seem to be an original idea. Is it one of the main ideas of your book?
     
  12. The Human Fallacy
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    The Human Fallacy New Member

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    It's one of the main ideas but the naming happens around the 25% mark and helps set the story off into the next act.
     
  13. Echoesian
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    Echoesian Member

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    In The Road (one of my favorite books) you never learn names. The characters are simply "The Man" and "The Boy."

    It wouldn't bother me if the name was deferred, especially in the context you described, as he learns more about himself as time goes by. It might make tagging his dialogue difficult, but the nickname suggestion seems like a good solution.
     

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