1. aimi_aiko
    Offline

    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2011
    Messages:
    340
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Kentucky

    Does your character HAVE to have a surname?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by aimi_aiko, Dec 26, 2013.

    ...specifically, does it have to be mentioned in the story? Can you go without introducing their full name?
     
  2. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    You can indeed. There have been plenty of novels I have read where the MC is referred to by first name only.
     
  3. aimi_aiko
    Offline

    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2011
    Messages:
    340
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Kentucky
    Thanks, because I am currently developing my MC and I only wanted her to go by her first name. Just needed clarification. Much appreciated.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I don't have any surnames in my novel right now and I'm leaning toward keeping it that way.
     
  5. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    When it comes to names, it isn't necessary for your character to have a surname, but you might want to think of the naming conventions if you are creating a fictional world or a family name if the family is present in the story. Only the first name is needed to tell the story (really you could use a title or something), but a full name adds detail that can help a character feel more full. My name is Andrae, and I could write an entire story with just that. But you might feel like you know me more if you know I am Andrae Smith, or better yet Andrae Smith Jr. as opposed to Andrae Smith Sr. (who is my father). Every bit of detail should add something to the story, but something as trivial as a surname is nothing to think too heavily on if it has next to no role in the story. Personally, I always think of full names for my characters because it helps me to visualize and identify with them, even flesh them out some.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013
  6. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,892
    Location:
    Boston
    Names are just identifiers. So like the others have said, you don't need a surname. In fact, you don't need to have any name at all. You could just as easily refer to a character as "the man" or "the doctor" or something like that. As long as the reader can distinguish between multiple characters, it doesn't matter what method of identification you use.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    But it does matter, @thirdwind. As Andrae says, the name can tell you something about the character if you want to use it to do that. His post has made me reconsider, because I might want to use some surnames people might recognize. But I'm not sure.
     
  8. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,892
    Location:
    Boston
    I agree there are times when a full name is necessary (like when you have multiple characters with similar names). But if there's no good reason to use a full name, it's up to the writer to decide which method to use. It becomes pretty much arbitrary at that point.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Why arbitrary vs a conscious choice?
     
  10. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,892
    Location:
    Boston
    If there's no good reason, then I don't see how it can be anything other than an arbitrary choice. (I suppose the phrase "good reason" is a bit ambiguous here, but whatever.)
     
  11. Faust
    Offline

    Faust Contributing Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2010
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Amongst the Populace [Michigan]
    I'd only be concerned with surnames if they are important. If family names play an important role or are at least something that the reader needs to be aware of. For example, a family drama might want to include them just so the readers can sort of tell who is all related to who, unless it's about a specific or small family group then it probably wouldn't be as necessary.

    If you're doing something like Elmer, son of Grover of the House Wolfsbane then surnames might be important. But otherwise, I don't see any reason for them to be 'required'.
     
  12. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,826
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    No surnames at all? If your character is an adult, at some point a child or someone that has some type of hospitality position would more than likely call them Mr. Jones or Mrs. Jones, as it wouldn't be proper etiquette to call them by their first name. By using a surname it also gives you a wider range of name tags to use verses just their name or pronouns all the time. I even try to throw in a nickname in my stories here and there as well.
     
  13. Albirich
    Offline

    Albirich Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2013
    Messages:
    182
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Norway
    Heh, my type of novel in a feudal society requires more than one surname. I think I'm at like....100 houses... and counting :D

    edit: just to clarify, I have created over a 100 houses and counting, lesser houses etc etc, not all (but quite a few) will be presented in the novels. The rest will be heard of, most likely.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Titles and formal addresses can be used with first names: Ms Daisy, Mr Bill.
     
  15. lex
    Offline

    lex Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2012
    Messages:
    525
    Likes Received:
    32
    Easily.

    You can even go without naming the main character at all (as Michael Dibdin sometimes did).
     
  16. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,097
    Likes Received:
    5,310
    Location:
    California, US
    Yes. It doesn't take too much looking through published books to see that you can certainly go without ever disclosing a surname over the course of a novel. There may be reasons in any given story why you'd want to have a surname, and to provide it to the reader, but if the question is whether it is possible to have a perfectly good novel where the surname is never given, the answer is 'of course.'
     
  17. MLM
    Offline

    MLM Banned for trolling

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2013
    Messages:
    548
    Likes Received:
    171
    Location:
    Kansas City
    I think the roberts supreme court recently upheld an old prohibition era law requiring that all fictional characters have surnames. So, it's up to you if you want to risk breaking federal law.
     
    GingerCoffee, Whedonesque and jannert like this.
  18. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    Even if I never mention it in print, Allison's last name is Connor, so I'm not worried :p
     
  19. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    Surnames are fun but useless in most fiction.
    They're there to be there.

    In some cases, surnames wouldn't make sense (ie: writing about the past) or perhaps small groups of people never needed to use surnames so they go unused and forgotten.
     
  20. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Oh, Gilligan!
     
    jannert likes this.
  21. I. R. Writer.
    Offline

    I. R. Writer. New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2013
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    1
    Published author Craig Russell goes through his whole Lennox series without mentioning his MC's surname.
     
  22. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    I certainly hope last names aren't required, as my current project is set in a time period before last names were invented (or so the reader thinks...). That said, aside from this special case, I've always given my characters last names, simply because they're set in the modern day real world and have uses for them. If the surname never had reason to come up, however, I'd have no qualms about leaving it out.
     
  23. Cailinfios
    Offline

    Cailinfios Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Pretoria, South Africa
    Of course not. I do, however, think it is necessary that you KNOW the characters full name. about seven years ago I read a tip that said, "Know everything about your character, whether it comes out in the story or not. The little details count." This advice has helped me countless times since then. Even if your characters full name never comes out in the story, personally knowing what it is can make the character much more real

    ...if that made sense. *crawls away into a hole.*
     
  24. Dazen
    Offline

    Dazen Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2013
    Messages:
    243
    Likes Received:
    19
    While I completely agree that surnames CAN add a layer of depth to a character, I feel that they are not absolutely necessary, and sometimes they don't even add anything to the character at all.
    Indeed, if you look at the Hunger Games Trilogy, you, or at least me, might feel connected with Katniss' mother, who is NEVER, in the whole trilogy, mentioned by her FIRST NAME. And yet, this doesn't take away from her character. Putting a name on her might do the opposite, and this leads me to stand by the statement I made in the first sentence :)
     
  25. Cailinfios
    Offline

    Cailinfios Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Pretoria, South Africa
    yes, but the wirter (her name has escaped my mind at the moment) probably knew what her name was, even if she never mentioned it.
     

Share This Page