1. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    First name or Last Name?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by carsun1000, Jun 2, 2011.

    Hello all,

    I have read a lot of novels (the pattersons, the connellys, Grishams etc) and I found out that every author is different when referring to their characters. some prefer to use first name while other prefer the last name (with title or not)

    I always get torn between this. So what I have been doing lately is to introduce my character by his/her full name in the begining of the chapter. That way, I can refer back to using just the first name afterwards.
    Anyone else has this problem?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Like a lot of other choices in writing, there is no right or wrong. In my current work, I am referring to the mc and a couple of supporting characters by their first names in order to promote a sense of intimacy with the reader, and most other characters by their last names.
     
  3. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    As an Author, you should pick one name and stick to it; obviously its going to be slightly different with character dialogue, or writing from the P.O.V of a different character. For example, my MC is called Commander Lucia Rozenhart. When writing from her POV (3rd person), I always refer to her as Lucia, though most characters refer to her as Commander, or Rozenhart - which I would reflect in their POV.

    :) Hope that helps.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting to note that the great Russian writers (and some not-so-great, probably) routinely used two or three different names to refer to their characters, and used them interchangably based on who was addressing the character. It was one of the things one had to get used to in order to follow Tolstoy.
     
  5. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Thank you for your input. I just wanted to make sure I have been doing right by myself. I don't feel like going through 300 pages of work just for the simple reason that I have been doing it wrong all along.
     
  6. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    What would the character call themselves? This is what I use in description.
    How would the character call other people? This is what I'd use when talking about them.

    Eg, for one of my side characters: Jarred Armstrong.

    If the novel was written from his POV he'd be referred to as Jarred.
    If the novel was written from his family, his partner or a close friend's POV he'd be Jarred in description but "J" in dialogue.
    If it was written from the POV of an acquaintance then he would be Armstrong.
    If it was written from the POV of his house staff or chauffeur then he would be Mr Armstrong.​
     
  7. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I typically use the first name unless the character goes by the last name more often. Since it's common in life for people to do both, I don't see why I gotta settle on any particular way. As long as it's clear who it is I am referring to, I don't see an issue.
     
  8. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    I think referring to a character by first name, last name, nickname, title or rank; has to convey a meaning. Last names are more formal than first names, and titles/ranks are more formal than nicknames.

    If the sentence is about formality - I'd prefer to use a last name / rank / title. Whereas if the sentence talks about something more personal I'd use a first name or a nickname.

    For instance, consider this:
    While also:
    Sometimes you can use a full reference, including title, rank, first name and last name to emphasis the importance of the action:
    That's just my thoughts.

    Cheers.
     
  9. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    It's completely up to you. Some books refer to characters by their last names (Malfoy in Harry Potter, instead of Draco) and others use first names, and it works well either way.
     
  10. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    My MC is a detective. his partner calls him by his first name but everyone else calls him detective or Det. ----. i think i am on the general track here when i read all the contributions so far. thank you all
     
  11. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    For the sake of variety in wording, I'll refer to the same character by either first or last name, depending on what sounds appropriate with the surrounding text. Several of my characters also have nicknames, which my narrator will not hesitate to use, especially when he's being sarcastic. But if my hypothetical audience doesn't already know what a certain character's last name/nickname is, I'll only do it when it's obvious who's being referred to.

    For example, I may call a character named Jonathan by that name, or I may call him Mr. Hendricks, Jonny Boy, or "the enormous lump sitting next to me."

    Although I'm sure such things are much easier to get away with in first person, what with the narrator having a personality (ideally, anyway).
     
  12. TyUnglebower
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    TyUnglebower New Member

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    Depending on the tone of the piece, I would say. I have done both. I tend to lean towards first names when I want the reader to relate to the characters, and use last names when I want more distance, or more focus on the setting on the plot. But it can work either way or both ways.

    In both cases, I introduce characters for the very first time, with both names usually.
     
  13. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    After you introduce them by their full name, readers will know who they are, so it doesn't matter if you vary or not IMO.
     
  14. Forest Girl
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    Forest Girl Member

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    Exactly.

    In my novels, I introduced the female and male MCs by their first names. However, shortly after I found a way to describe them further and used their full names.

    Depending on how I introduced them, I did something similar with the other characters.

    Throughout the story I used their first names, nicknames, etc depending on the scene and who was involved in their interactions.
     
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  15. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    It depends on the situation. If the opportunity arises, I like to introduce them by full name but most of my introductions are by dialog and I write United States style characters so they are always referred to by first name. When ever I can, I try to use formal greeting but they come up so little in United States culture, that it is hard to do.
     
  16. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    This is what I do as well.
     

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