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  1. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    Character’s names dilemma

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Quanta, May 5, 2017.

    In my story, my MC knows one character as Eli, and she only meets him in an alternate reality. She also knows of someone as Nathan, though she has never met him, and he resides in normal reality. Toward the end, she realizes that the two are one same person. From that point on, she is meeting him, in turns, in both aspects of reality.

    MC has a hard time reconciling with the fact that “they” are a single person, partly because they're so different from one another. I have explained, through her voice, that in alternate reality, he will always be Eli to her. And when she thinks about his predicament in normal life, the name Nathan sticks in her mind.

    My alpha reader thinks this may be confusing to the reader, and that MC should call him Eli/Nathan or Eli-Nathan. This looks odd to me and I’m not sure how to go on about this.

    I know this may be hard to judge without seeing the whole story, but I would appreciate any suggestions.
     
  2. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    I'm usually bad at names, but I don't think even I would be so hopeless I couldn't remember that Eli and Nathan are the same person since it seems to be a pretty big revelation, so no matter which one is mentioned, I'd know it's this specific character.

    Based on the information I have now about your story, to me this is just fine:
     
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  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I think your way sounds fine, and natural. But I would put more weight on the opinion of someone who's actually read it (preferably multiple people).

    Is she saying that she understood but thinks others might be confused, or was she confused?

    Either way I think I'd get at least one fresh reader and see if they have the same issue.
     
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  4. SethLoki

    SethLoki Retired Autodidact Contributor

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    I think the Eli/Nathan or Eli-Nathan thing would appear clunky to me. I kind of get it though as, without care, the alternatives could edge on being cheesy. If there was something different about their appearances maybe, something that they wear, or a physical attribute that invites a nickname for each. Would this make it easier to address? Or how about referencing where they reside...write in an affectation your protagonist applies to them and uses (abbreviated) for herself... Eli-T (this world) Eli-O (other world).
     
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  5. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    If the two identities/personas of the one person are as different as you say, I think the way you are doing it already makes sense. If Eli would do something Nathan would never dream of doing, and vice versa, then trying to express the very different behaviors and speech of one person with one name will get confusing. If I know that Eli belongs in one reality and Nathan in another, the name immediately becomes the flag to alert me to which persona and which reality I need to be in, in my head.

    I don't think you'd be gaining anything by calling him Eli-Nathan. Combining the names and referring to him by that hybrid name ever time renders the two-name thing moot and you may as well just choose and stick with one single name for both identities.

    If you are really worried about it, you could use two variants of the one name. In Reality A, he is Eli and in Reality B, he's Elijah. Or Nathan/Nathaniel.
     
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  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Not to get all quantum on this, it is going to happen anyway.
    He would have the same Name in ever multiverse as he does
    in the one that your character knows him in. To have them
    so completely different then the one in this verse is going
    to be highly opposite in a verse way down the line.
    If it is just the next verse over, they would be pretty similar
    so you have to move through more versions/verses to find
    the Eli/Nathan contrasts.

    Having settles that bit of a mess. Why would the same person
    that exists in multiple realities have two different names?
    If I met you in the next 50 universes, it would still be you
    except they would steadily become more and more different.
    But they would all have the same name. Perhaps one is the
    meta doppelganger of the other, and that is why they don't
    share a name to begin with. It is plausible as doppelgangers
    exist here on earth, so why not in alt-universes. But just
    because they look like each other, does not mean they would
    have anything in common what so ever beyond looking like
    identical twins with nothing else to tie them together.

    But if they are the same person as you say, then they would
    not have different names.
     
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  7. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    That's my feeling too, and aren't writers told to trust in their readers intelligence?
     
  8. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    What she said is that combining the two names makes it clearer to the reader that they have now become one person in MC's awareness. I'll have to double check that I have written it clearly enough. I trust her opinion, but as she reminds me from time to time, she is but one reader. She has been working with me on this since last October, a long time for a 47K story... Her perspective on it might be different when she get the finished manuscript to read again. I'll have a few beta-readers too.
     
  9. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    Early on in the story, the MC states that she doesn't like her name to be shortened to a nickname, so she wouldn't use nicknames for others (she's like me that way). Right after the revelation, which I hope I have hinted at in the right measure as the story unfolds, she is confused for a while, but then she comes to grips with the fact. I'll watch out for potential cheesiness, though.
     
  10. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    My purpose for the two names was to create ambiguity in the reader's mind. Are they the same person, or are they not? I'm not sure how well I have done it. I didn't want a big reveal that would make the readers feel cheated, nor do I want to make them feel like I think they're not smart enough to guess the whole thing early on... That's one question I'll have for my betas.
    I like the idea that the two names are one more tool I can use to signal the change in reality. BTW, Elijah is Nathan's middle name, a clue that comes at the beginning of the story, but that my MC doesn't pay much attention to.

    Cave Troll, I think I have misused the terms "alternate reality". In my story, I refer to non-ordinary reality, but I'm not sure yet that I'll be keeping that. This other aspect of reality is accessible through a change in consciousness. There aren't two versions of the same person in different worlds. Maybe it would be more akin astral projection.
    Nathan has no reasons to think that MC could link his two "identities", but someone else is looking for him and he doesn't want to be found, so he's not taking any chance and changes his name.
    -------------------------------

    I wasn't sure I'd have time to reply to all, that's why the many posts. Thanks everybody for your feedback:)
     
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  11. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    I think there's a difference between being intentionally cryptic, which can be annoying and confusing to readers, and then just having two names for one character, which doesn't feel all that challenging or difficult to remember. Maybe your alpha-reader could clarify why exactly this could be a deal-breaker, if that's what s/he's afraid. It's also possible s/he just wants to points out any potential problems in your MS, big or small.
     
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  12. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    I'm hoping to send her the final two chapters by the middle of next week. I will suggest that we discuss this again after she has read the whole edited manuscript and can better judge if there's a clarity issue or not.
     
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