1. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    Writing about parents in the third person

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Jade, Oct 4, 2008.

    In the novel I am writing, I am having trouble writing the actions of the MC's mother.

    Should I use her name, or 'her mother' each time?

    For example:

    'That would be wonderful!' her mother said.

    Or

    'That would be wonderful!' Patricia said.

    Also, it's not just the use in conversation thats bugging me. Which of these sounds better?

    Patricia positively beamed.

    Or

    Her mother beamed.

    Using 'her mother' gets irritating and looks tacky, but using her name also feels strange, as I'm trying to keep the perspective close to the MC, and she wouldn't call her mother by her actual name.

    Help/advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Use the noun and pronoun. For example, you can try to use "her mother" around the MC, but when there are other characters around you may use the mother's name instead.
     
  3. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    How about, "Mrs. (Patricia's Surname)"?
     
  4. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    Personally, I'd just use her name.
     
  5. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd always use her name for omniscient third, but it can get complicated in limited.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on whose POV is being used, especially in third person limited.

    Terry
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on how important the mother is to the story. If she only shows up here and there as an ancillary character, then there is no need to develop her persona. Just refer to her as "her mother". On the other hand, if the mother plays a significant role in the story, then you need multiple ways to reference her..."her mother", "Mrs. so-and-so", "momma", first name (depending on how you develop the mother's character - some adults allow kids to call them by their first name, others prefer more formal title like Mrs. last-name).
     
  8. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice everyone :).
     
  9. DavidGil
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    DavidGil Senior Member

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    It might sound unusual and it is in a way I guess, but there is another solution:

    Since it's from the daughter's point of view, you could simply use Mother. So:

    'That's wonderful!' said Mother.

    Yes, like I said, it's unusual, but I reckon you'll get away with it. It's done in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire anyway.
     
  10. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I would use in first person... not so sure of third limited. I wish the OP had been more clear about the POV.
     
  11. DavidGil
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    DavidGil Senior Member

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    I'm not that sure of it either, if I'm honest Etan. Martin's work is the only one I've noted it in and it's limited third so... really, it might just be something that slipped through editing. I know it struck me as odd while reading it.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Saulty on this one. It would depend on with whom the Mother character was interacting at the time. Choose the appropriate form of address, just like in real life for the people who are interacting with her.

    And my perennial advice, be careful with too much flagging and tagging, he said - she said. Often it is quite obvious who is speaking and a tag isn't required. Just jump into an action or description after the dialogue. This will cut down on the number of times you have to choose between, Mother, mom, Mrs. Character, Jane Character, Jane, and the like. :)
     
  13. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    I'm not quite sure what you mean. How can I clarify?
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    POV: Who is telling the story?

    Is it the main MC in the story? First Person.

    Is it someone from outside the story, but perhaps an actual person? (Someone who saw the events take place.) Third person, limited.

    Is it a God-like, all knowing outer entity who is not a character in the story? Third person, omniscient.
     
  15. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    First Person then. My character is the main one.
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, then. You are running into a small example of the difficulties faced with a first person piece. It is difficult to express yourself in various ways knowing that you are using the POV of just one person. We (the greater we) are not really walking thesauruses in our everyday lives. We each have a tendency to gravitate to a particular subset of commonly used words and thought processes that make us the individuals we each are.

    This can make for repetitious writing, though. :redface:

    Have you thought of perhaps taking your story into a third person omniscient direction? It is overwhelmingly the more common of routes to take because it offers you so much more freedom in your manner of expression and in what you can actually tell the reader. In a first person piece, you can only tell the reader what is known to the person narrating the story.
     
  17. Azrael
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    Azrael New Member

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    When writing in the first person, I tend to refer to the MC's parents as 'mother', 'father', 'mum' or 'dad'. When writing in the third person I would say her mother, Mrs. So-and-so, etc. I generally never use the parents' first names, unless the character in question is used to calling them by their first names.
     
  18. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    I am incredibly bad at writing in the third person :( Every sentence is 'she did this' and 'her foot hurt' or something similar. I was trying Third Person with the story which triggered the initial parent question, but I couldn't write any more. Going back and realizing how repetitious and predictable the writing was was depressing.

    Soon, I'm planning to take an exerpt of something into the critique forum to let you all tear apart.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The issue you mention here is not one of POV, but of tell vs show. Just as dialogue is often quite self evident as to its origin and does not always require a tag, action can be just as self evident. Example:

    She heard a knock at the door. She answered the door. She saw that it was mother waiting with groceries in hand.

    "Thank goodness you're home. I was about to drop all of this on the floor," said Mother.

    "Here, let me take some of those bags," offered Tammy.

    "Thanks, hun. You're the best," replied Mother

    VS

    There was a knock at the door. Through the side window she could see mother trying to fish for her keys while her hands were filled with groceries. As the door opened, Mother's face flushed with relief.

    "Thank goodness you're home. I was about to drop all of this on the floor."

    "Here, let me take some of those bags."

    "Thanks, hun. You're the best."


    We know that she heard the knock at the door, otherwise why mention it. We also know from the fact that Mother had been desperately trying to get to her keys and then is flushed with relief, that it was not Mother who opened the door. Someone (the other character in the scene) had come to her rescue. Notice also that none of the dialogue required any he said, she said. It was only too obvious from the descriptions given earlier who would be delivering the appropriate lines.
     

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