What's My Name Again?

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What's My Name Again?

Postby dios4vida » 02 Aug 2011, 10:05

My new WIP is different from all of my others. It's in first person. I've never written in first person before, but when this story started taking shape it just came out from my protag's mouth. I'm very happy with the decision and I think it's the best way for this story to be told.

However, I'm having a rather strange worry about it. (I worry a lot, so most of the time they're strange.) How can I be sure my readers remember my protaganist's name? In third person you have to identify which character is doing what action, so each of their names gets regular use. But in first person, I can't exactly say "I, Qeerith, walked through the Underground" because that's just stupid. I have him "introduced" by another character but after that there aren't a whole lot of instances where I've used his name. The times I have have all been in conversation ("Shut up, Qeerith!" etc.) but one of the blogs I've recently read said that using character names in dialogue is tricky because people don't normally speak like that. It sounds like writing which is something we should avoid.

Is this something worth worrying about? (Seriously, if I'm just being stupid, please tell me. I won't be offended.) How can I make sure my readers remember my protaganist's name without using it repeatedly or stupidly? How would I use it repeatedly if I need to do that?
Brenda :)

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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby CharleeVale » 02 Aug 2011, 10:45

Work it into dialogue. We use people's name when we're talking to them.

Examples: When we're trying to get their attention, when we're angry, when we're in love, when we want them to stop doing something annoying. You get the picture...a person's name imbued with an emotion can almost be more powerful than dialogue sometimes.

My WIP is the same first person deal, here's a little something I wrote last night where I use the MC's name:

I bite my lip. “Do you remember the day you first kissed me?”

“Of course I do, Calista.” He rolls his eyes.


I'm sure you can work it in!

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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby Writecastlesinthesky » 02 Aug 2011, 10:51

Odd question. What is in a name? In my history as a reader it is much more often that I remember an impression or an act of a character than I remember their name. Even in films I have that 'problem' What'shisface who kisses so and so five seconds after they met. Who does that? At least in the beginning I'm not sure I'd worry about a name unless it said volumes more about your MC than your MC's voice itself.
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby polymath » 02 Aug 2011, 11:33

Is it important to the plot that a name be memorable? Is the name used in a character characterizing way, by others and by the self? Is the name reflective of and influential to the setting? The theme? The events? The discourse? SPICED.

First person narrator Ishmael refers to himself by name in introspection mode seventeen times and once in dialogue out of twenty instances in Melville's Moby Dick. The two other instances he's named in dialogue by Peleg. How memorable is Ishmael's name? Memorable but open to individual interpretation. It does spice things up, right from the opening line. "Call me Ishmael." That's discourse that characterizes Ishmael.

Ahab and Queegueg are named more than a hundred times. Peleg, seventy-four times.

If Ishmael's name were Perlmutter, Stede, or Crispus instead, I don't think they would be as memorable. Ishmael has scriptural significance and thematic relevance, meaning God hears. They are all exotic names, fitting for mariners. Ishmael seems carefully chosen.

There are many ways to keep a name fresh and memorable in readers' minds. Melville uses three. A carefully chosen name is likely to be more memorable than another chosen by happenstance. I believe a name's significance is what makes it memorable. Significance meaning its meanings, its characterizing characteristics, personality influences, as well as its other correlations to SPICED.
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby MattLarkin » 02 Aug 2011, 11:37

One of the best first person series I've read recently is the Kingkiller Chroniclers by Patrick Rothfuss. If you like fantasy at all, you might check that out. I never worried about forgetting the main character's name. I think in 1P it's okay for the hero to introduce him or herself, and be frequently refered to by name by other characters.
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby sierramcconnell » 02 Aug 2011, 14:38

You know, one of my favorite series, Hush Hush, is written first person (I think, if I remember correctly, SEE HOW BAD MY BRAIN IS). It took me a moment but I remembered it, and I'm terrible at names.

Nora. Her name is Nora. Because Patch says her name all the time. At first, often teasingly. And THAT is how you get a name to stick. Make a reader fall in love with someone else other than your main protag as well. Then you have it where they remember because THAT GUY or THAT GIRL remembers.
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby CharleeVale » 02 Aug 2011, 14:51

sierramcconnell wrote:You know, one of my favorite series, Hush Hush, is written first person (I think, if I remember correctly, SEE HOW BAD MY BRAIN IS). It took me a moment but I remembered it, and I'm terrible at names.

Nora. Her name is Nora. Because Patch says her name all the time. At first, often teasingly. And THAT is how you get a name to stick. Make a reader fall in love with someone else other than your main protag as well. Then you have it where they remember because THAT GUY or THAT GIRL remembers.


Excuse me as I momentarily hijack the post. I love those books, and I can't wait, because the last one comes out the day after my birthday! What a great present!

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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby sierramcconnell » 02 Aug 2011, 15:04

CharleeVale wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:You know, one of my favorite series, Hush Hush, is written first person (I think, if I remember correctly, SEE HOW BAD MY BRAIN IS). It took me a moment but I remembered it, and I'm terrible at names.

Nora. Her name is Nora. Because Patch says her name all the time. At first, often teasingly. And THAT is how you get a name to stick. Make a reader fall in love with someone else other than your main protag as well. Then you have it where they remember because THAT GUY or THAT GIRL remembers.


Excuse me as I momentarily hijack the post. I love those books, and I can't wait, because the last one comes out the day after my birthday! What a great present!

CV


OMG it's October, isn't it? I remember I read the first one in December only because I read it the day I had a surgery, and while waiting for it I read the book all the way through. XD God, the things I do remember...

My mom was teasing me that maybe I should save a little of the book for later and I was all, "No! I want to finish this in case the nurses come for me and I don't wake up."

"...that's terrible."

"Eh, it's only the...sixth time I've been under. I'm sure I'll be fine." XD

I've actually been under eight total. XD

But yes, I can't wait for the third one. That last left at such a cliffie.

/OT
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby Cookie » 02 Aug 2011, 17:01

sierramcconnell wrote:
CharleeVale wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:You know, one of my favorite series, Hush Hush, is written first person (I think, if I remember correctly, SEE HOW BAD MY BRAIN IS). It took me a moment but I remembered it, and I'm terrible at names.

Nora. Her name is Nora. Because Patch says her name all the time. At first, often teasingly. And THAT is how you get a name to stick. Make a reader fall in love with someone else other than your main protag as well. Then you have it where they remember because THAT GUY or THAT GIRL remembers.


Excuse me as I momentarily hijack the post. I love those books, and I can't wait, because the last one comes out the day after my birthday! What a great present!

CV


OMG it's October, isn't it? I remember I read the first one in December only because I read it the day I had a surgery, and while waiting for it I read the book all the way through. XD God, the things I do remember...

My mom was teasing me that maybe I should save a little of the book for later and I was all, "No! I want to finish this in case the nurses come for me and I don't wake up."

"...that's terrible."

"Eh, it's only the...sixth time I've been under. I'm sure I'll be fine." XD

I've actually been under eight total. XD

But yes, I can't wait for the third one. That last left at such a cliffie.

/OT


Gah! Hush Hush has been in my TBR pile since I bought it last year. I keep meaning to get to it, but I always end up taking way too many books out of the library. I may have to make it a priority.
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby Sanderling » 02 Aug 2011, 18:04

Brenda: I don't personally think that the protagonist's name really matters too much for first-person, not enough to need to emphasize to the reader what it is. Because of the way the story is told, it's always clear when it's the protagonist involved. Even in the odd instance when the character's name is used by another in dialogue hopefully you've written your dialogue clearly enough that you could drop the name and it would still be evident who the comment is directed toward such that the name itself is simply for emphasis, the way Charlee said. You're not going to confuse the reader even if they'd momentarily forgotten the name in between. And truthfully, give your reader some credit - in all probability, they won't have forgotten the protagonist's name even if you only use it in the opening pages.

I just did a quick scan of my current WIP - in 11,000 words I've used her name 11 times, every single instance of which was in dialogue, and usually to strengthen a statement. For instance: “Oh right, the eyes. Cat, you’re a dork. Tomorrow after English I’ll grab him and show you there’s nothing wrong with his eyes.” Using "Cat, you're a dork" is more powerful than simply using "You're a dork." I would guess I probably have a similar name:word count ratio for my other first-person manuscript, too.


And now, to carry on the hijacking, I devoured Hush, Hush when I read it, too. I came to YA only recently, so Crescendo had just come out at the time I read Hush, Hush, and I went and got it the very next time I was at the library after finishing the first. It was one of the first YA books I'd read where the primary story tension stemmed from the male protagonist pulling the girl close, pushing her away, pulling her close, pushing her away. I've since grown a little tired of that as a tension device, and if I read Hush, Hush now I might not be quite as enthralled with it for that reason, but it was still an unputdownable book and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on Silence.
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby polymath » 02 Aug 2011, 18:45

Sanderling wrote:It was one of the first YA books I'd read where the primary story tension stemmed from the male protagonist pulling the girl close, pushing her away, pulling her close, pushing her away. I've since grown a little tired of that as a tension device, and if I read Hush, Hush now I might not be quite as enthralled with it for that reason.

I'm not too fond of yo-yoing sexual tension either, not when it's one on one. A sexual tension triangle yo-yo isn't quite as outworn. It takes two to tango, and three's a party, you know. Four? Now we're talking tennis doubles. Serving love-love with live handgrenades. Sexual tension, by any number greater than one, one of romance premises and genre's principal conventions.
Last edited by polymath on 02 Aug 2011, 21:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby dios4vida » 02 Aug 2011, 20:27

Sanderling wrote:Brenda: I don't personally think that the protagonist's name really matters too much for first-person, not enough to need to emphasize to the reader what it is. Because of the way the story is told, it's always clear when it's the protagonist involved. Even in the odd instance when the character's name is used by another in dialogue hopefully you've written your dialogue clearly enough that you could drop the name and it would still be evident who the comment is directed toward such that the name itself is simply for emphasis, the way Charlee said. You're not going to confuse the reader even if they'd momentarily forgotten the name in between. And truthfully, give your reader some credit - in all probability, they won't have forgotten the protagonist's name even if you only use it in the opening pages.

I just did a quick scan of my current WIP - in 11,000 words I've used her name 11 times, every single instance of which was in dialogue, and usually to strengthen a statement. For instance: “Oh right, the eyes. Cat, you’re a dork. Tomorrow after English I’ll grab him and show you there’s nothing wrong with his eyes.” Using "Cat, you're a dork" is more powerful than simply using "You're a dork." I would guess I probably have a similar name:word count ratio for my other first-person manuscript, too.


Thanks everyone! Sanderling, you summarized perfectly. Charlee's point that you reiterated about using the name for emphasis is exactly what I've been doing. Sometimes it just seems necessary to throw it in, just like Charlee's instance with Calista and your example with Cat. And yeah, I guess I have to make sure to give my reader some more credit. (I guess I assume that everyone's as bad with names as my husband. It took him four months to remember my name! And since I'm really good with names I kinda assumed that my always wanting to know and always remembering names is freakish.)

You guys are fantastic as always! Now I know I'm doing things okay and I can continue on without worry. Thank you so much!!
Brenda :)

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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby Sanderling » 02 Aug 2011, 21:08

polymath wrote:It takes two to tango, and three's a party, you know. Four? Now were talking tennis doubles.Serving love-love with live handgrenades.


Haha. I got a kick out of that, polymath.

dios4vida wrote:Charlee's point that you reiterated about using the name for emphasis is exactly what I've been doing. Sometimes it just seems necessary to throw it in, just like Charlee's instance with Calista and your example with Cat.


Trust your intuition! If it feels right to put a name in that spot, do it; and don't try to force a name in where it doesn't naturally come to you. It sounds like you've got a good handle on it, though. Good luck and happy writing! :)
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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby CharleeVale » 02 Aug 2011, 21:23

*High-Fives Sanderling* Way to go partner!

Tag teaming for the win! haha.

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Re: What's My Name Again?

Postby bcomet » 03 Aug 2011, 10:32

Such an interesting thread.

When I chose a name for a character, I really try to let it form and fit the character.
I want it to portray in how it sounds and writes and I research ethnicity and meaning as well.
It's a really fun part of the writing process for me.
And then, when I use a name, that's fun too. Names can be delicious.

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