1. Mr B
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    Mr B New Member

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    How to refer to main character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mr B, Aug 6, 2009.

    Hey everyone,

    I'm not sure if this is the right section to post this in.

    Basically, I've started writing my first story, I've not really planned a lot out and I'm just seeing how it unfolds as I go. The first problem I've run in to is this:

    The main character starts off with no memory of who he is etc. so I've just been referring to him as 'him' and 'he' in the story. I've since introduced some other characters and I've found it gets really confusing telling who's doing what. So, I'm trying to think of something I could refer to my main character as that will distinguish him from everyone else.

    Does anyone have any ideas, or possibly stories where a similar thing has happened?


    Thanks,
    Matt
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Normally, a hospital or police department will apply the name John Doe (Jane Doe if a woman), at least in the USA, until another identity can be established. Or he can select an interim name for himself, or someone who befriend him can give him a nickname ("I think I'll call you Mac. You look like a Mac to me. That ok with you? Gotta be better than 'Hey, you'.")
     
  3. Mr B
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    Mr B New Member

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    Yeah but the trouble is in the story he's on his own for a long time in the beginning, then when he does come in to contact with other people it's not exactly a friendly encounter.

    He wakes up in a post apocalyptic-ish world and for a while he's wondering around trying to make sense of whats going on. I guess maybe when he's doing that he could decide to give himself a name to give him a sense of normality?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yup. Maybe he decides to call himself Enigma, Or Mr. E. for short. If he has an innate sense of humor.
     
  5. Mr B
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    Mr B New Member

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    :D

    Thanks, I'll get thinking of something to call him. Something slightly better than 'Main Protagonist A'.
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    If you're in first-person, which I assume you're not, not having a name for the MC is not a problem at all.
    In third-person, you can get away with generic names. In The Road, which is also post-apocalyptic in setting, btw, the characters are unnamed, and simply referred to variously as "he" or "the man"/"the boy". There are relatively few encounters with other people so names are not of as much import, which is an interesting thing to consider in post-apocalyptic novels.
     
  7. Mr B
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    Mr B New Member

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    Yeah it's in third person. Naming them like that never actually occured to me so thanks, it could work as a temporary thing for my character as I think most of the other characters will have names.
     
  8. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    I believe tabula rasa means 'blank slate' and it's often used to refer to someone with amnesia in fiction because it does sound pretty cool.

    And that was all I was going to say but I got thinking while I was writing that sentence and decided that 'Mr Slate' sounds pretty cool too. And it kind of fits, at least to my way of thinking, in a world that's descended into hell.

    EDIT: If you want more information on tabula rasa, have a look at the Wikipedia page - I just wanted to check the exact meaning but there's plenty of interesting stuff there. Might be a name or two for your MC... :)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    arron suggested what i was going to... that's the easiest/best way to handle it, imo...
     
  10. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ceud mile failte,

    Anyone in that situation would think of a name for themselves. Think of nicknames - those aren't even necessary, but some people use them for anything but official documents! There's no need to refer to him as anything but the name he gives himself.

    But his choice of name must be logical - maybe he sees something that he takes the name of, such as a railway line, so he calls himself...well, something to do with railway lines. You should not use a name before that event, but afterwards ;)
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I don't think I'd create a name for myself if I was in that situation, I'd feel like a jackass introducing myself to people. But then again, I'm not your character.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Compared to introducing yourself as "Umm. I don't have a name. Leastways not one I can remember."
     
  13. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, I think that is pretty much what I'd do.
    "Who are you?"
    "I...don't remember."
    I'm sure they'd be quick enough to make up a name for me after that (provided they don't like eat me or something). Maybe if I was wearing sneakers they'd call me Converse. That would be the coolest name ever. Might save that one for my kid :D

    EDIT: Whoa. CON-verse, con-VERSE. I never noticed it. Why would you name a shoe brand that??
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see why he'd use a nickname for himself... makes no sense to me...
     
  15. Ice
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    In The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne is called "the patient" until he learns his name (his alias, to be fair). I think you give him some objective label like "the amnesiac" until he learns his name or somehow grows into one. He could lie and make up a name whenever he needs to.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are out there in the world, people expect you to have a name. Amnesiacs do take names after a while, even knowing that with any luck, someday tey will discover who they really are.

    It doesn't come up often, because most amnesiacs are known to someone locally. They get identified through missing person reports, or were never missing to begin with. But those few who may go weeks or years with no knowledge of who they are don't keep names like "John Doe #13" (The other John Does are mostly unidentified corpses). So they "borrow" a name. Maybe a surname of someone who helped him after the amnesia event, a first name from another benefactor, whatever.

    Nicknames come later, as anyone else's nickname does.

    An amnesiac does not know when, or even if, he will discover his past. Waiting is not really an option, he needs a name, one that will be "good enough" indefinitely.
     
  17. Ice
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    No, you wouldn't. It'd be perfectly reasonable given your situation.

    Yup, but that doesn't necessarily mean the impersonal narrator should call him anything other than something like "the patient."
     
  18. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Might be perfectly reasonable to you, but not to me. Please don't tell me what I would or would not do. :)
     
  19. Mr B
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    Mr B New Member

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    Thanks everyone, your posts are really helpful.
     
  20. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    You can refer to him/her as "the man," or "the woman." I would use the Dark Tower Book 1: the Gunslinger as reference for this, as King refers to the main character (who we later find out is titled Roland) as "the gunslinger." So if the person has any specific traits, feel free to nick-name him/her by that also. :)
     
  21. 0rchid
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    0rchid New Member

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    If it fit into your story, perhaps you could tweak it a little. In an environment like what your character is in it would be somewhat acceptable for him to be a little...er...mental? derranged? confused?.... Does your character talk to himself? Perhaps it could add something if for the time he is wandering around trying to figure out what happen he's not really cognitive of himself...perhaps seeing himself as an entirely different person, and having conversations with that person. He could give that person (still himself) a name.

    I hope that makes senese...it made more sense to me before I started typing...heh!
     
  22. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I was about to quote that myself, one hell of a read too. I started something myself with an amnesiac two years.

    To keep things simple the character had dog tags or some kind of ID card on him so the people that found him at least knew his name and profession. The story was basically him finding the friends that where with him before the accident rather than learning who he was.
     

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