1. SwampDog

    SwampDog Contributing Member

    Mar 5, 2013
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    Back in Blighty

    Referencing/addressing characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SwampDog, Mar 19, 2013.

    Currently reading a Douglas Reeman book. Each sentence that begins with a character's name, it's the surname that's used e.g. Bullard drew his cutlass and charged up the bridge ladder... Whether that's Reeman's preference, or what's expected in an armed forces setting, I'm not sure, but I suspect the latter in this case.

    In other novels, surnames are used to start sentences, or forenames - particularly if the narrator is referring to a female. Or they're totally mixed.

    My MC is introduced by forename and surname, thereafter by forename. His partner always by her forename. Villains and other toughies (good or bad), I refer to by surname.

    So what criteria do others use in deciding how the narrator (3rd person omnicient) refers to/addresses characters for the reader?

  2. Thornesque

    Thornesque Contributing Member

    Jul 31, 2012
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    Michigan, USA
    Typically, there are a few things that I look at:

    1. How do I think of the character in my own head? So, if I have a character named Sally Smith, and when she occurred in my head, I thought of her as just Sally, she'll likely be Sally in my writing.

    2. How do the vast majority of characters refer to the character? In a work setting, where everyone refers to the character as "Hoffman," I will probably call him Hoffman in the narration, given that he's most often referred to that in dialogue.

    3. How does the main character refer to the character? Even in a third person omniscient POV, there's often times one particular person that the entire novel follows. If that person refers to George Samson as "Georgey," then that's a good reason to refer to him as Georgey throughout the narration.

    The three criteria usually go dependent on what kind of story it is. If the character isn't often referred to in dialogue, I'll just go with the first. If they are, I'll go with either the second or the third, whichever seems more natural to me, assuming that they are, in fact, different names.

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