Calling a character by name

Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by deadrats, May 27, 2018.

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  1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Shouldn't that be more like:

    :D
     
  2. Night Herald

    Night Herald Crisp, minty chap Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I suppose that is good advice for stories meant for publication, unless there's a compelling in-story reason to leave it out. If I may once again use my own stories as examples:

    One of them was framed as part of a diary, where I can't see a good reason for the character's name to appear. In the other, the narrator was a mostly-passive observer. The story wasn't really about him, but the strange events going on around him. I think both of those stories work well as is, and don't suffer for the lack of named narrators.

    I can't really say why, just that it doesn't bother me at all in such cases as I've encountered. As long as I have a good picture of who the character is, I can take or leave the name. But that's just me, and generally only in short fiction. I will say that naming your character will never hurt your story (disregarding the "compelling in-story reason" referenced above) and in many cases will enhance it. A name is a useful tag, and a good one can make a character infinitely more memorable. So, generally speaking, I advocate naming your narrator, even if it doesn't make much of a difference to me personally.
     
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  3. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    He, you say? Cute.
    :bigmeh:
     
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  4. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Anyway, thread hijack over.

    In short stories I rarely name my characters. In longer stuff there are many methods, none of which should sound forced. I won't bother repeating these as they've already been given. Go with any of them and you'll be fine.
     
  5. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Oops. I see Lemie (spelt differently, I know) and think of a wart-infested heavy metal icon.

    Sorry.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2018
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  6. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure why I never write fiction in first. It just doesn't ever occur to me to do that, although I like reading stories in first. But the only time I ever tried writing a piece of fiction in first person, it felt very awkward and I didn't bother finishing it. I let somebody else read what I'd written (somebody familiar with my other story) and they thought it was weird as well. Maybe it's the same reason I really can't role-play. I can put myself in somebody else's shoes and imagine what they're thinking and feeling—I think all fiction writers can do that, to some extent. But to actually pretend to 'be' that person, even for the purposes of a game? I find that doesn't work for me at all.

    It used to get me in trouble when I was a child. I remember being 'shot' during a game of cowboys and bad guys, and lying on the ground and laughing my head off, and my friend saying, 'You can't laugh, you're dead.' And me saying, 'No I'm not dead. If I was dead would I be talking to you?' It's that kind of thing. I would make a lousy actor.

    Actually, I have read first person stories where the narrator comes out of the story to say, "Call me Ishmael." And other stuff as well, giving a personal history, or filling the reader in on some background stuff, etc. In fact, I think it's quite a common approach. It doesn't bother me, but obviously you probably wouldn't do that with every story. But you can do it.

    I think one of the problems I always have with first person is this: how can 'you' be telling me this? Unless you make it clear at the start that you're writing about events that happened in the past, events that you survived and now want to tell 'us' about, there is a difficult leap of faith that I have to make. For example, if the narrator is dead. Not dead as in historically-dead-and -somebody-has-found-the-diary, but actually dead-while-narrating. It's not a deal breaker for me, but it can come close.

    Third person seems a natural way to tell a story that's not a personal anecdote. It just seems more 'story' to me. Once upon a time there was a... Not: Once upon a time I went to...
     
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  7. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    This is quite interesting (honestly, it is). Whether I write in first or third I am, indeed, playing the part of that character. I never write from the perspective of simply imagining how the character would behave in a given situation. In fact I'd argue you have to inhabit that character if you want to get under their skin. That's not to say they should reflect you the writer, but I still can't write them as anything other than a role I've adopted.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, but many many authors who write in third person can 'get under the skin' of their characters, no bother. It doesn't actually have anything to do with the imagining. It has to do with the perspective of the storytelling itself. I can feel a lot of empathy with my third person characters, but when I try to tell their story in first person, I clam up! Whenever I say 'I,' I know it's not me and it bugs me. When I say 'they', I can believe what's happening to them and how they feel.

    I constantly made up stories when I was a child, long before I started writing them down. And they were never about 'me.' I always think about how I would feel if these events were happening to me (given whatever characteristics my character has) but I never cross over to pretending they are happening to me. I'm always the observer, even when I'm observing what's inside my characters' heads and hearts.
     
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  9. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd actually love that paragraph, but I'm writing in a noir voice right now, so it fits perfectly.

    Exactly the example I was thinking of, and if I recall correctly, that's the only time "Ishmael" is mentioned in all however many hundred pages.
     
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  10. irite

    irite Member

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    I hear a female voice call Jonothan. (turn round/she goes past him to someone else/emotional reaction in internal monologue) Only my mum called me by full name, all I've been Jon for nearlly 40 years now.
     
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  11. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I fully understand that, and it's a good argument for writing in third.

    I think my liking for the first stems from my reading habits; Kerouac, Bukowski, Thomson, who while writing 'fiction', feature MC who are essentially them, so first makes perfect sense. At least that's how I see their writing.
     
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  12. Shoshin Samurai

    Shoshin Samurai Member

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    Would you say John Corey of Nelson Demille's novels (The Lion's Game and The Lion) does well as a narrator?
     
  13. Shoshin Samurai

    Shoshin Samurai Member

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    And this:
    Lol, I used to feel this strongly about present-tense narratives. I would be like, "Wait..., are you doing that or are you telling me you are doing that?", but I am digressing. Well, I see your point about the narrator shoving down the story forcefully in first person, but then again, the narrator -- first or third -- is always presumptuous enough to believe the reader would like the narration, is he/she not? A first-person lover could also say, "Hey, narrator! Don't pry into others' lives! Don't be a perv!" lol

    Interesting! That made me wonder: when the story is said in a first-person narrative by the MC, say, a male, will the female readers or readers of other sexual orientation feel a certain disconnect with the story or the narration? And what happens in case the story is written in third-limited? Will the reader associate the narrator's gender to that of the character's gender? Hmm...
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    From my reading perspective, no. I enjoy reading first person stories, and as long as the writer has identified the narrator to some extent, I can get right into the story, no bother—whoever this character might be.

    My problem comes from trying to WRITE fiction in first person. It just doesn't work for me. I become very stilted and self-conscious, and I don't enjoy it at all. This doesn't happen when I write fiction in third. So third is where I'll stay, for story purposes! :)
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I wouldn’t write it that way, though. If we’re in close third, the one I prefer, there is no “wondering”, there’s just “Would the rain ever stop?”

    Simon picked up the last of the croissants and eyed it. Stale. He should get some more, but he just couldn’t face the ritual of assembling raincoat, umbrella, waterproof shopping bag, and then finding places for them to drip harmlessly when he got back to the hotel. Of course, he could call for room service, but the service charge was just too galling. He’d rather get wet. But he’d rather not get wet. Would the rain ever stop?
     
  16. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    +1 I agree.

    I don’t like “I wondered,” anymore than, “I saw,” or, “I felt,” for every description.
     
  17. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Well just before I get labelled a crap writer, my example was meant as an illustration to stress a point.

    That said, close third also seems weird to me - maybe even more so than omnipresent. It's almost as though the writer wants the convenience and logic of first, but with a third-person voice.
     
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  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well...yeah. :)

    It also gives you the option to step back for more distance, and it lets you more easily change your POV character.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2018
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  19. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    You’re one of the last people I’d suspect of being crappy. I just have my taste, and was supporting exactly what was said in Chicken’s post without really looking at yours.
     
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  20. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry, didn't mean to imply as much. After reading your post it just struck me that a novel littered with these tags would indeed be very crappy.
     
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  21. Shoshin Samurai

    Shoshin Samurai Member

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    Err... Shouldn't the last sentence be in italics? :)
     
  22. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    New member has either done their homework or just stepped on a landmine. The smiley face makes me think the former :)
     
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  23. Shoshin Samurai

    Shoshin Samurai Member

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    Oh, boy. Maybe both! Brrr...
    Wait... here's the smiley again! :)
     
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  24. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    :)

    Or maybe neither. I understand italics for thoughts is a preference, not a rule.
     
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  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Nope. Zero need for either italics or a thought tag there.
     
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