1. WhenIt'sDark
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    WhenIt'sDark Member

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    First mentioning a name

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by WhenIt'sDark, Mar 31, 2013.

    Hi,

    The MC in my novel is called Alice and I just realized that I do not mention her name until the start second chapter (I use first-person narrative throughout the story). This mainly because she does not talk to anyone during chapter one. Would this be a problem and if so, are there any ways for me to mention her name earlier?

    Thank you
     
  2. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    If its in first person as you say and if she doesn't talk to anyone I don't see why not. But if you want her name to be known to the reader you could get someone to talk to her, call out her name perhaps.

    I'm doing something similar in my novel. I don't give a description of my MC until the second chapter. I personally didn't see any need for it as the dialogue between her and her parent gave the reader a fair idea of who she is. I dislike a descriptive list. This is how I describe my MC in the second chapter:

     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you should drop the name in somewhere during Chapter One, preferably early on. I once started a book where the first scene was a dialogue between the MC and a businessman or a lawyer or some kind. In the entire chapter, there was not a single mention of the character's name. I found myself flipping through the pages after a while, not even caring what's going on, because I just needed to know what on earth the MC was called! I wasn't even entirely sure if it was a man or a woman! The character was so smug with herself/himself too that I really needed to know what she did that warranted that sort of arrogance, with the other character dismissing the MC talking about working together. And all the way through I'm left mystified as to what they're working on, why they don't like each other, why they're therefore working with each other, and WHO THE HECK ARE THESE PEOPLE.

    I got so annoyed, I stopped reading before I reached the end of Chapter One. And that's kinda a stupid reason to lose a reader, imo.
     
  4. doghouse
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    doghouse Member

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    It really depends on the story.

    In general, I do like to know the identity of the MC, the gender. I care not for what the character may look like, unless it's important to the story.

    There are plenty of ways to slip a name in, when in 1st. Nothing wrong with opening a scene with narration/setting, which may include the character, and then move in close. Perhaps the MC is giving a story, so name slipping is easy -- "I, Henry, sit in my car, and I have an hour to live."

    Through action?! "The post was waiting on the hallway mat. I knew who the letter was from, they always misspell Penolope Trower."

    Dialogue is another one. Easy too.

    Sometimes, perhaps it's just not important to know a name. But getting feedback on your work itself -- a reader's reaction -- may help.
     
  5. Charlie J
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    Charlie J New Member

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    If mentioning the name in the first chapter doesn't come naturally I doubt it does any harm to not mention it before needed. I honestly prefer it when the name isn't given out in the beginning. I know this is out of the topic but have you read the Virgin Suicides ? The story tellers name ( well nor pretty much anything else about him ) isn't told at all. But then again he can't be called as the main character.
     
  6. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Start right off with your character introducing themselves. It's just easier on you to write, and it avoids an awkward scene insertion just to introduce the character to the readers. It has to happen at some point anyway, so sooner is probably better.
     
  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you are unpublished and want to push your ms to agents or publishers at some point, you'll have to submit first pages. If your character's name is not mentioned on the first page, your query and ms might fly from the slushpile to junkpile more easily. But this is something that some agents and other writers have said. I've got no first-hand experience.

    We (I and T.Trian) didn't mention our protag's name in the first chapter of our WIP. When enough betas complained about it, we put it there 'cause it didn't exactly make or break the novel. With first person you might get away with not mentioning it, but I think you kinda need a good reason for that.
     
  8. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    I think it largely depends on the content of your first chapter. For example, if it's quite a mysterious chapter, then not revealing the name would be fine, effective even. However, if it's more of a descriptive, set-the-scene chapter, you may want to have second thoughts about not doing so.
     
  9. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I am in no way the final authority on the matter, but there are many ways to introduce the MC in first person in the first chapter. If she ever addresses the audience then there is room in the first 2 pages. If it is all thought, and she is mostly introverted and doesn't talk to anyone, there is room for her to think of her name, or even hear or see her name, within the context of the story.

    How you introduce her depends on the tense of the writing. If it is past tense, you may take a different style or approach than you would if it is present tense. My best recommendation is that the MC is given a name as early as possible once we are aware of their presence within the story. It is hard to care about a character with no name. Even if it is a mystery chapter, the MC should be called something to identify her.
     
  10. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    It is assumed that first person is speaking directly to the reader so there is no reason why you shouldn't introduce your character to the readers within the first 500 words: it is of course, much better if you do that in the first paragraph, however. .
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's best to mention a name straight away, opening paragraph if possible. Otherwise, the author is writing introspectively, and the reader will have trouble caring for this character who is talking but they don't even know her name. Unless the name is plot-important (like she is a secret agent or something) it's best to identify her early.
     
  12. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    I think it adds a bit of mystery to her character. Unless it's humorous and you start with "I, Alice (whatever her surname is) think this....etc", you do not need to say her name.
     
  13. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    The first thing a publisher or agent will say to that is, "Who is this person talking...?"

    That is if they bother asking at all.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway doesn't mention the name of the protagonist until the second chapter.
     
  15. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Yes, and Stevenson didn't 'til the fourth in one of his. But this day and age publishers will want an introduction before the second chapter. In the first paragraph preferably. I was told this by a publishing rep and a few agents at the Santa Barbara writers conference about 5 years ago.
     
  16. ANightDude
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    ANightDude New Member

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    Maybe you can have a scene with dialogue inside her head?

    For example, she's thinking about how people treat her badly.
    (This is totally just an example off the top of my head).

    "They don't know anything about me. All they can think of is how I'm that weird girl. 'Hey everyone, look at Alice! She's so weird!' And all I want to to is crawl into a hole and away from this world. This world has always hated me."

    Something like that. Just an idea.
     
  17. Sue Almond
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    Sue Almond Member

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    What´s in a name...?

    I think that it would be perfectly ok not to mention the name of the character if she is alone during the first chapter. There are books where characters are not named at all, usually for a reason, eg the character themselves or others see this person as a nonentity, treats the character so dismissively that the lack of a known name is just one more devise to emphasize this. Maybe the character's identity is meant to be a mystery, Like Inspector Goole in 'An Inspector calls'? On the other hand there are one or two points in other replies about why it is a good idea. There are simple ways to do it eg: She thought about what her father would have said, 'Alice,' he always used her name at the start when he was about to say something portentous, 'I want you to think about....'
    Or: My mother was enchanted by Alice in Wonderland from an early age,and never grew out of it; hence my name, Alice.
     

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