1. Z. C. Bolger
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    Z. C. Bolger Member

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    When to use "father", "Dad" & "Mr. Smith"

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Z. C. Bolger, Apr 5, 2012.

    Hey guys,

    I'm working on a revision of my young adult/ childern's novel and I have come to a question I need some help on.

    I am wondering when I should use the term "father" as opposed to the term "dad" as opposed to "Mr. Smith" in narrative.

    i.e. - "Hi Dad," said Max. His father looked at him and smiled, "Hi Max." he replied.
    "Set the table, I'm going to go change for dinner," said Mr. Smith as he loosened his tie and made his way up stairs.

    Max calls his father "dad" so must he be referred to as dad in the narrative or can it be switched to father or even Mr. Smith. When is it okay to switch, if at all.

    Thanks
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say that "dad" and "father" are interchangeable, regardless of what Max calls him; "Mr Smith" seems too formal, at least when in a scene with family members.
     
  3. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    I would suspect in cases of more formality. I would thing it might be relative to situation or conversation. If the kid is asking the Dad to use the car or his girl friend is standing there he might be motivated to use father rather then dad. It's really up to the personality you've created for the character and the family dynamic you have. He may never call him father directly but might refer to him that way when talking to others. "My father is a moron when it comes to video games" Though today you rarely hear the term used. It's mostly just "Dad".
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I always interpreted 'father' to be used either when your mother is really pissed at him, "Your father is the biggest idiot I have ever had the misfortune to marry!!" or used by rich people, like, "My father owns a large tract of land."

    He would usually say 'dad', not his dad's last name.

    Now, I don't know if it's true or not, but I wouldn't think he'd call the man Mr. Smith unless he were adopted and just getting used to the idea of seeing this man as a dad instead of a grown man who is not related to him, but just happens to live in the same house as he.
     
  5. Z. C. Bolger
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    Z. C. Bolger Member

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    Thanks for those responses. I actually reread my question and realized I didn't form it correctly to communicate my query well enough.

    The change I'm talking about in "title" is only for narrative not address.

    So not what Max would call his father but the title he is given out of dialog.

    ... said his father
    ... said his dad
    ... said Mr. Smith
     
  6. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    It'd be driven by context, though you'd like to mix it up with 'replied','stated', 'commented', questioned, etc, etc, again based on the context.

    A long monolog with a physical description of action or setting example: ".... I don't understand what you want of me son" Mr. Smith finally confided as he leaned on the door frame with eyes pleading for his son to reach out.

    Since their is a reference to son the relationship doesn't have to be repeated so Mr. Smith could be used.
     
  7. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    You use "father" or "dad" when Max is speaking, period. Which one you use is your choice, depending on the level of formality in Max's family. You use "Mr. Smith" or "Smith" or whatever Smith's first name is when Max is not speaking, depending on the level of formality you've established with the reader. The term "when Max is speaking" includes "when Max is narrating," which may be the circumstance surrounding the entire book, in which case you never say anything but "father" or "dad" unless it's a quote from someone else.
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Adding too many names/titles for one character in a narrative is confusing, I'd recommend you avoid it. Just choose a name you'll call him and stick with it. In dialogue, however, the title will change depending who is addressing him; a son will call him "dad", a co-worker will call him Bill (for example) and a bank manager will refer to him as Mr Smith. But it all has to be consistent and only in dialogue.
     
  9. Z. C. Bolger
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    Z. C. Bolger Member

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    Yeah. The problem I was running into is that it's a third person narrative. So Max calls him "Dad" in dialog, Narrator calls him "Max's father" when the scene is between Max and father, and Narrator calls him "Mr. Smith" when the scene isn't directly between Max and his father. ... Wasn't sure if that was to much jumping around. Calling him "Max's dad" seemed to informal for Narrator but having Max call him father seemed to formal for the character. lol

    I'm sure I will work it out so I like it.
     
  10. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mr Smith, Max's farther, 'Dad' are all correct titles for this person, therefore they are all correct; just make sure the reader is aware of who you are refering to.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find that "his father" annoys me. It's rather like narrative in which the narrator feels that the character's name has been used too often, so they start saying "the teenager" or "the brown-eyed youth" or "the lanky young man" until you want to grab the author by the collar and shout, "Just use his name!"

    So I would pick one, probably "Mr. Smith." Or if the book is very tightly tied to the son's point of view, even though it is third person, "Dad." Using "his father" essentially explains, over and over and over, "This man is this character's father. Got it? I'm not sure I believe that you understand; I'll explain it again soon."

    Edited to add:

    So I'd write your example as:

    "Hi Dad," said Max.
    Mr. Smith looked at him and smiled, "Hi Max."
    "Set the table, I'm going to go change for dinner," said Mr. Smith as he loosened his tie and made his way up stairs.

    Well, actually, now that we're merging the references, we can merge the lines of dialogue:

    "Hi Dad," said Max.
    Mr. Smith smiled, "Hi Max." As he*loosened his tie and made his way up stairs, he added, "Set the table; I'm going to change for dinner."
     
  12. Z. C. Bolger
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    Z. C. Bolger Member

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    Interesting view on it Chicken. Thanks for the input.
     
  13. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I would use "Max's father" if Mr. Smith were a very very minor character, in which case he doesn't need a name, he's just there to be realistic. As far as narrative goes, you would use "Dad" or "Father" in a limited third person narrative and something else in an omniscient narrative, such as "Mr. Smith," and then for dialogue, like jazzabel said.

    And ChickenFreak, to the best of my knowledge, you always put all of a person's dialogue on the same line unless it's interrupted by a thought from the narrator of a line of dialogue from someone else. To start a new paragraph signals a change of who's speaking. And within one person's paragraph, you shouldn't need to keep repeating the name, but that's a looser rule.

    "Hi Dad," said Max.
    "Hi Max," said Mr. Smith, smiling. He loosened his tie. "Set the table; I'm going to change for dinner."
    As he made his way up the stairs, Max...
     
  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see what you mean; I agree with Chickenfreak and Erato in what they said.

    I had a similar issue, one of my protagonists has a friend and a boss who will feature occasionally so he is not unimportant but isn't someone we'll get to know a lot of personal info about. His full name is Colonel Jonathan Barbosa, so my protagonist calls him Jonathan, I introduced him as Colonel Barbosa, and refer to him mostly as Barbosa but sometimes the Colonel, depending on the situation. But all three names were joined together when he was first introduced so it's not confusing.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    do your homework... see how the most successful writers for the age range you're targeting do it... if it works for them, it'll work for you...
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm slightly confused--that's what I did in my final example, I think?
     
  17. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Yes, just wanted to clarify that the first one would be frowned upon.
     
  18. Z. C. Bolger
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    Z. C. Bolger Member

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    What do you mean by this?

    EDIT: OH! LOL, I totally read that wrong. Never mind. (And I do agree. Checking out how other authors do it would give me a good idea of what works.)
     
  19. Seashells
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    Seashells New Member

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    In my opinion, dad is a more relaxed title while father is more formal, but either way, they both mean the same thing. Unless the father wants the son to call him "Mr. Smith", I wouldn't see why Max would use the title.
     

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