1. Dauracul
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    Dauracul Member

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    Introducing your character's name...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Dauracul, Feb 16, 2011.

    I'm sitting here, working on a draft of my first chapter for this new novel. I have a scene where, out of nowhere, one of the characters turns around and abruptly asks, "By the way, what's your name?"

    It's horribly out of place in the context of the chapter, and frankly a lazy way to introduce my character's name. His name is important, because he's an important character, so I'm not sure how to go about revealing it. I don't want to spend the entire chapter referring to him as a "mysterious figure" or "enigmatic individual" or anything else in that box, so I was wondering:

    How do you introduce your characters' names?

    I suppose I could easily just mention his name in passing as I introduce him, like I've seen in various other novels, to give the impression his name is "already known" by the reader. I prefer to give the introduction of a name some spotlight though, to help give a feel of a character's importance.

    I could have someone mention the character's name who isn't supposed to know him, for example, for the somewhat cliche "how do you know my name!?" scenario. That's a bad example, but its the concept I'm getting at.

    I'm considering changing around the chapter to a situation where my main character is alone, though, and I'm having some trouble thinking of a clever way to reveal his name in that situation.

    What do you all think?
     
  2. Warrior Poet
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    Warrior Poet Member

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    That's a tough one. It's a problem I have too, and I'm really particular with names. How about you PM me what you have so far and I'll look at it in context? I try to make all my stories different, although they tend to have the same type of message. Names are always important - in a 100-pager I wrote in September, I usually just mentioned each name like the reader already knew it. The narrator, whoever he is, seems to have knowledge beyond that of the other characters anyway. In others, I've started off in first person with the MC reading her own diary. The diary format is overused, so I mix it up a lot later on. I've had some where another character greets the MC, where he names himself, and one where he actually asks someone else what his name is.

    It's tough to do. If the name has significance in the story - a magical word or a namesake or something - you can work that in there. If it's just a name, you can be a little more generic. Honestly the reader won't mind a subtle throwing-in of the name if you've hooked them with your exposition.

    Hope I helped!
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    The "what's your name" thing and not knowing after a while can work just fine if you can get away with just saying "he" and having it sound totally natural, or if it's in first-person. I agree though - "the mysterious one" and phrases like that are BS and just sound stupid.

    You can mention in passing the character's name as you introduce him - heck you can even do it in the first sentence. "Icy wind bit into Kevin's face as he slammed his rickety front door behind him on the way to work" or something. All my characters' names show up in the first sentence.
     
  4. hawky94
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    hawky94 Active Member

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    This is something that I've been wondering as well, if you've read what I've posted about my novel-in-progress then you will realise as I have done that my character's name is not present. I'm thinking that I may add it to the back of the book. Like on the back cover where you see a sort of introduction. Or to the front cover, with the title, I'm unsure.

    Normally when I've written third person I tend to start with their name. "My name is.... and I do..." but in first person (my current format) I find it difficult to introduce my character.
     
  5. Dauracul
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    Dauracul Member

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    No need for a PM, Warrior Poet, but thanks for the offer. I suppose I'll lay down the outlines I was working with here in this thread:

    Idea 1: This is the current draft that I'm working on re-writing. My main character, garbed in "cloak and dagger" attire with a heavy cowled hood and dark robes, is dealing with a noble house lord to trade him a magical artifact. His true purpose here, though, is to instead assassinate a sorceror. As he's speaking with the noble, the noble casually asks, "By the way, what's your name?" and his name is introduced.

    Idea 2: I'm leaning more towards this one for a number of reasons, but the introduction of the name is the focus here. My main character, in this scene, is alone and discovers an ancient, otherworldly temple that has abruptly appeared in a location that never had such a structure in it before. Keeping with the former idea, he is still a mage-killer, and he was sent here to hunt down any sorcerors who may have summoned the temple, but otherwise he is alone. Aside from musing to himself, I don't really have many options yet to introduce his name.
     
  6. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I would say don't overthink it. Just make it smooth and keep writing.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Do you mean starting out with their name in first person? If you say "My name is ___ and I _____" then the character referes to him/herself in the first person.

    Third limited is when you refer to the character by name instead of writing through their POV, but we're still limited to what your MC experiences. Third omniscient is when you write like God and readers can see into everyone's head.

    I'm not trying to nitpick or anything. :)
     
  8. Quorum1
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    Quorum1 Member

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    I would suggest using the character's name the first time you refer to him. Unless you're writing about someone specific (like say, Hitler, for example), your reader isn't going to be blown away by revealing the name in a 'surprise' kind-of way.
     
  9. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    First of all, I thought your first idea sounded cool and fine how it was as long as you re-write it over and over again until it sounds smooth.

    Secondly, if a character and his name is important, then people will figure that out over time as they read your book and the plot. It will reveal itself. No need for you to try to find a way to emphasize it before all that happens or state it. The actions will speak for themselves.

    They don't need to know who will be important in the beginning. In fact, the less your readers know and the more questions they ask, the more interested they will be. It's just important that they figure this out by the end.

    What I'm trying to get at is, it's fine if you find a way to emphasize his name, but hardly necessary. In fact, I like to sneak information that seems like it doesn't matter in the beginning of my story that people will smack their heads over later wondering why they didn't notice how important that was before and just let their eyes pass over it.

    And I agree with Quorum. They won't be impressed by his name being revealed until they know WHY its important and they can't know that until they read more of the plot.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I try to introduce their first name in the first lines preferrably the first word of the book lol I engineer a situatuion where someone calls them by it. When reading nothing annoys me more than not having something to call a character I am supposed to be investing in. My first few books begin:

    1)
    'Angus!' My father's angry holler disturbs my afternoon nap. 'Angus! get out here right now this instant.' Damn! He must've found out I didn't go to school today. (by the end of the first chapter you cannot miss the fact my MC is called Angus lol)

    2)
    My partner Nate is laying a fire. A few quick peeks over the top of my newspaper allow me to admire his shapely rear. As the logs start to glow, I whistle softly. He turns and waggles his finger at me, 'Tut tut what are we going to do with you?' He is trying not to laugh.

    I grin, 'I am sure you can think of something.'

    He starts to approach me, bowing and holding out his hand. Helping me up he says, 'May I have this dance Socrates Lorenzo.'

    'Why Mr Nathaniel Smith I would be delighted.' I let him sweep me up and guide me round the room.

    'Soc, Nate, Help!' Outside our small cottage is an almighty clatter. We rush to the door, flinging it open to find my younger brother Angus sitting in a puddle. The rain is lashing his face but I swear he is crying. 'They took Bea,' he wails.

    3)
    'Socrates ... What the?' I roll over in bed to see an incredibly handsome man with funny ears standing at the end of the bed. He is holding my alarm clock.

    'Sorry about that Fy. Hope it didn't hit you, its a reflex action.'

    4)
    The seven year old prince places his cap on his head. Looks good, he admires the rest of his new school uniform.

    - I write the rest of the first few scenes in novellla with him as The Prince/Your Highness or The small/young prince as that is what everyone calls Socrates until he meets Nate
     
  11. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I agree with this. If you have a name for your char, let the readers know it immediately, preferably before you let him do things. You don't lose anything if you introduce his name in the passing, as you said, most novels do it, and guess what, they do it because it works.

    Anyway, since your story concerns nobles and such, why don't you make a guard announced his name as he visits the noble's home?
     
  12. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    For the main character I include it in the description right from one of the opening paragraphs. Or, if the story opens with dialogue, then I'll insert it there.
     
  13. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I think it depends on the flow of the story.

    If the person is introducing themselves in the beginning it works, but if they are long time friends the char would not introduce themselves.

    I have introduced peoples names in introductions, I have used the name in describing the scene, I have just dropped it in when they speak if dialog happens near enough to the entrance of a character.

    Like most things in the story, it must flow.
     
  14. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I try to introduce it fairly quickly. But sometimes the first line is a tad forced.

    I write a lot of cops so they often introduce themselves when they go to a crime scene. Sometimes a character is mentioned before they appear, in which case they've already been named by the first time you "see" them.
     
  15. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Generally I don't worry about it. If it's third person I slip the name in early on, usually the first time I'd mention the character, whether it's the first character or any side character. As the narrator you're admitting a weakness, bias and unreliability by not knowing the name any sooner than the reader. If you're genuinely going to have a narrator who's discovering the story as they go along, play up to it. If they're going to report with any confidence, they should know the names as soon as any other detail. You wouldn't walk your 3rd person narrator up to some place and be like:

    [twenty pages of opening] "Hmm, so now there's this big building, looks kinda medieval. I guess it's a castle? Don't know who it belongs to, but the mysterious shadowy figure we've been following for a few pages is now walking across its bridge with a confidence of suggesting it's his home. Oh, who's this? Some sort of gangly creature is approaching him... Hmm. I guess it's the servant because he said, "Can I take your coat, Mr Jones? Castle Spooky has had its central heating on all day, so let's get you out of this rain and wind..."
    "Thank you, Smith," Mr Jones (Oh sweet Jesus! I finally know his name! Thank you, servant whose name I also just found out!) said..."

    Now, in first person, if the narrator was a ninja who'd stalked Mr Jones all that way, then the above piece would be totally valid, if a little silly. If, however, a much more serious third person piece hangs onto character without naming them and acting totally unconfident in their ability to do so, however serious they're attempting to be, it will end up reading like that.
     

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