1. Dominique Parker
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    Dominique Parker Member

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    Using alternative names or titles for characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Dominique Parker, Oct 17, 2016.

    One of the main characters in a project I'm working on is a very facially unattractive albino girl. She lives in a world in which Albinism is frowned upon, those with albinism are considered abominations and are treated terribly. She is very much aware of the way other people react to her and throughout most of this story her personality is shaped by the bigotry she experiences during her interactions with other people.

    I was thinking about a few different names for her and then I thought, maybe it would be a better idea to just not give her an actual name until she moves past her hangups about her physical appearance. I'd use titles like "The Ugly White Girl" or "The Albino" or "The Abomination" throughout most of the story. I think this a pretty good idea but I don't see it a whole of the time. Perhaps it would create a bit of a disconnect between my audience and this character? What do you guys think?
     
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  2. SmashedPumpkin
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    SmashedPumpkin New Member

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    I think your voice might come across as being bigoted along with the world this unfortunate girl lives in and in turn encourage the reader to share that opinion. Less severe but still negative names might work and allow for a more sympathetic opinion of her.
     
  3. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I agree, it could create a negative relationship with the reader, either towards you or your character.

    It's an interesting idea to not allow her a name until she accepts herself, but I'd also use something a tad less severe. Is this story told in first or third person perspective? Does she ever have to introduce herself?
     
  4. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    I actually really like this idea because ultimately, if people hear something enough, their attitude will change about it. Take Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, for example. The main character is so despicable in every way, but since you're only subjected to his opinions, throughout the book you start to sympathize with him, and his horrible actions seem less and less severe. It's a wonderfully detestable read, and it says a lot about society.
    I think you could have a similar reader experience with your idea. It sounds like at first your readers would be appalled that your character is being called such mean names, but if your character is numb to these, then eventually your reader will be, too.
     
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  5. Dominique Parker
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    Dominique Parker Member

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    This is a very good point. I was attempting to illustrate how bleak and harsh the world she inhabits is through these titles. I didn't really consider how this could work to turn the audience against her. I wouldn't want that since she'll be with the readers for quite a long time.

    I'm considering telling the story in a third person POV format. I've been working on the world lore for this story for years so, I have a lot of characters. I think this is a pretty decent and straight forward way to make sure the reader understands who the main characters are. At the moment I don't think there is ever really a time where she will have to introduce herself. Most of the people she interacts already know of her with are fine with using "Albino" or "Girl" when referring to her.

    Yeah this is why I liked the idea. I'd most likely change whatever it is I decide to call her each time she changes as a character but, they would all be relatively similar. Then once she grows into who she truly is, I would start using her true name. This is going to take a very long time though so, I think it is a good idea to give a great amount of consideration to the titles I decide to give her. I wouldn't want the readers to hate the girl, she's going to have deal with quite a bit as it is.
     
  6. G. Anderson
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    G. Anderson Senior Member

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    Initially, I also find your idea interesting. I don't think I would find it racist because I had the opposite impression from your synopsis: that you are trying to put focus on racism and that the moral would be anti racism.

    However, I agree with some of the others that without a name the reader might not care for her so much. But I also think it should be considered what age group you are writing for. Of course age is often just a number and you have some 14-year old with way more maturity than some 40-year old people. However, for an older audience (30+), I think it could be considered. But if you are writing for children, young adult or new adult, I think it's best not to not name the character, as it might impress someone in the wrong way too (though the risks is there with older adults too).
     
  7. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    What about White or Shiro (acceptable Japanese name)? Something that means to lack in color? This can act as a sharp contradiction to her personality if you give her a bigger than life personality. I love those stories where the character takes what is perceived as a negative characteristic and make it their defining point of strength or a trademark of theirs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
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  8. Dominique Parker
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    Dominique Parker Member

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    Its definitely more of something meant for a young adult to adult readers. If I had kids I probably wouldn't want them reading something like this.

    Yeah I thought about a few names kind of like that. For example at one point in the story she is sold to a nomadic tribe as a slave. The herdsman who tends the slaves is a pretty awful individual and refers to those under his watch as "maggots" "dogs" etc. The night that she is sold he remarks that the gods made her to be looked upon, something like, "Not even the cover of darkness can spare a man the sight of your radiant "beauty." I was thinking of having him call her "Glow Worm" for the duration of her time as a slave and using that as each chapter title.
     
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  9. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    Here is a thought, the opposite of light from a scientific point of view is the absolute lack of light, not black, or darkness, but the absolute lack of light. So yes maybe Glow worm or Glow (as she may refer to herself) is set up to resist or won't let herself fall down that spiral of 'darkness' i.e. immorality or hate etc. etc.

    Or maybe you can take her name a step forward in the negative direction, but have it so that she can turn it into a positive.

    Eidolon means spector or phantom. It can be derogatory for her in the sense that she should not exist or trying to invalidate her existence however, in world where hate and prejudice are living and breathing, then maybe being a phantom isn't so bad.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  10. Dominique Parker
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    Dominique Parker Member

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    I didn't get to say this earlier. Sorry, I work a ton I'm still at work right now actually. Thank all of you guys for your awesome suggestions and advice.
     
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  11. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Okay, after reading through the various replies and your explanations, I actually think I like your original idea. She is so programmed to think of herself as worthless, she just accepts whatever name of derision is hurled at her. Ugly Ghost Girl or Glow Worm, Albino, whatever people call her. That makes sense. If executed correctly, I think the reader will sympathize with this.

    If the story is 3rd, it is easier to keep her self-reference fluid, as long as there is a common reference tying her parts together so that when you switch the narrative back to her, people know who you're talking about. I keep wondering what she'd answer, though, if someone directly asked what her name was. What would she say? Until she embraces herself and a real name, I imagine her answer would be pretty confused.
     
  12. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I too have done this title standing in for a name, or a quick ref to them in a simplistic fashion. Didn't have a name for the
    character till the end of the first book. As long as it is not something that will be too off-putting to the reader a title can
    work, but I think eventually they need to be given a 'proper' name.

    Good luck with your writings. :p
     
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  13. SardonicWriter
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    SardonicWriter Member

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    Giving her a name that further cements her status as an undesirable in your society, and then having this main character shed her own
    self-image and her given name would disappear as well. This would be a great idea!

    But I have to add that the names you proposed were a bit too harsh for this MC, perhaps creating an even bigger disconnect than intended. She
    could still be given a negative moniker and still be synonymous with the color of her skin. Instead of "The Ugly White Girl", why not just "The White Girl".
    A bit subtler, if you ask me. Names like that. Abomination really doesn't sound good. ​
     
  14. EnginEsq
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    EnginEsq Senior Member

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    My suggestion would be to have her called "blank," lower case only, from "blanco" or "blanched." It's a name tied to her appearance, but one I think indicates she's regarded as a nothing, and doesn't even merit a name. Oppressors often dehumanize the oppressed, to justify their actions to themselves.
     

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