1. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    How to write something reader knows is inaccurate...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BayView, Jan 21, 2016.

    Kind of a vague, title - sorry.

    I'm just looking for opinions... I have a character (Zack) who, for stupid reasons, claims another character (Micah) is an old friend. But Zack doesn't even really know Micah's name, and the readers do (previous scene was from Micah's perspective).

    So, I'm left with either having the POV character for the current scene referring to Micah as Michael, or having the POV character not use Micah's name at all. I've written it, below, with the POV character calling him Michael, but I wonder if this is weird? I could try to use "the guy" or something more often, but maybe that would feel weird, too?

    “Hey, man,” Zack said with a too-bright smile. “This is Michael. Old friend of mine from way back. I just ran into him, and he’s looking for work. I said you might be able to hook him up.”

    Of course Zack had said that. Jake looked at Michael, took in the dark, serious eyes, wondered if he caught a glimpse of something impish, something that suggested a sense of humor, then completed his inspection with a quick look down his body. Seemed fit enough. “It’s pretty hard work. If Zack told you it was easy, he was lying, and if he keeps acting like it’s easy and goofing off like he has been, he’s gonna get his ass fired, brother or no brother. So if your plan is to get paid for sitting around like he thinks he’s going to do, then you should find somewhere else to work.”

    “Hard work is fine,” Michael said.

    “You got any experience?”

    “Landscaping? Not really. Used to mow my parents’ lawn. My mom gardened, so I picked up a bit from her. But nothing professional.”

    Jake appreciated the honesty, he supposed. “Where you living?”

    “Halfway house over on Military Road.”

    “Damn, you’re getting the deluxe treatment, huh?” Zack interrupted. “Ninety day rehab, counselling, a halfway house—who’s paying for all that?”

    “My parents,” Michael said. He didn’t sound too thrilled about it. “My college fund, I guess.”

    Well, that would shut Zack up, at least. He and Jake really didn’t discuss their parents. “You have a car?” Jake asked into the silence.

    “No.”

    “So I’ll give you somewhere to be, a bus stop or a Link station or whatever, and you’ll be there on time for me to pick you up. You aren’t there on time? I keep driving and you’re fired. If I’m on my way to a job and I think I’m maybe going to be short a guy, I can’t sit around waiting for you to maybe show up.”

    Michael nodded his understanding, so Jake shrugged. If the guy didn’t work out, he didn’t work out. He dug out his phone and took down Michael’s number. “What’s your last name?”

    “Porter. And the first name’s actually Micah.” He glanced over at Zack, and Jake knew the two weren’t old friends. Still, Micah tried to cover. “Sometimes people call me Michael. Like a nickname.”​
     
  2. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    If you've told part of the story from Micah's perspective already, then I think it'd make sense for you to just keep referring to him as Micah. If you'd rather keep it as Michael for this section, I'd put it in quote marks- since both he and the reader know that's not really his name.

    Now when a name actually changes... that's my question (I've a character who's name changes 6x throughout the course of his life)
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. I read it twice. I don't think it's bad at all, and not confusing either, if we already know this situation and that "Michael's" name is really Micah.

    However, on the second read-through, I wonder if it might make Jake's attitude more ...impersonal? if that's the tone you're going for ...at the very start, if you changed the first time he thinks of the guy as Michael via the POV to something like this instead:

    “Hey, man,” Zack said with a too-bright smile. “This is Michael. Old friend of mine from way back. I just ran into him, and he’s looking for work. I said you might be able to hook him up.”

    Of course Zack had said that. Jake looked at this old friend Michael guy, took in the dark, serious eyes, wondered if he caught a glimpse of something impish, something that suggested a sense of humor, then completed his inspection with a quick look down his body. Seemed fit enough.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't quite understand your backstory after reading the excerpt. If Micah knows that Zach is pretending to know him, why use the wrong name at all?

    Perhaps you might let the reader know Zack is lying some other way. But if there's more to the story that makes the wrong name make sense, the dialogue tag should use Micah, not Michael.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not Micah's POV, it's Jake's. So from Jake's POV - he's just been introduced to a guy named Michael. The reader (and Micah) know that's the wrong name, but the POV character, Jake, doesn't know.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    OK, I see. That makes the dialogue tag tricky. I'll have to think about it.
     
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like, emphasizing the re-naming, kind of... that might work!
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    For what it's worth, a brief scan of some web discussions of using a fake name for a character suggest using the fake name in dialogue but the correct name in the narrative. If the readers know the correct name that might be less confusing.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it were omniscient I'd agree, but it's kind of difficult because it's close third. I really don't think I can have Jake thinking of the guy as Micah when he's got no idea that's his name... It would be like if the readers knew a first person narrator was in a spaceship, but the narrator didn't know, and still the first person narration used terms like "portal" and "deck" instead of "window" and "floor".

    Hmmm....
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    The POV of the narrator is a good point. One of the discussions mentioned using other cues to tell the reader that Michael was Micah just to keep the reader up with what you are doing. The suggestion was to give Micah an identifiable quirk (physical or spoken) that you could reference. You would then use the fake name in the dialogue tag but it wouldn't be as confusing.
     
  11. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I would say just go with what the POV character would think his name is. It's his perspective and as far as he knows, the guy's name is Michael. Since it's not omniscient, using 'Micah' in narrative would definitely seem weird to me, and avoiding using his name could get awkward and weird - and Jake has no reason to avoid thinking of his name.
     
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