December 8, 2014 / 2 Comments

There Are Those Who Call Me…

            So very sorry about missing last week.  I was juggling a few things, time slipped away from me, and suddenly it was Saturday and somebody hadn’t updated things here.  Past me, I’ve discovered, can be a real lazy bastard sometimes.
            To make up for this, I’m going to do two shorter posts and put them both up this week.  Just some quick, easy tips.  I’m sure future me won’t mind writing them.
Not this Doug
            I read a book a while ago about a character named Doug.  Good solid name.  That’s how the book referred to him.  Doug.
            Except to his parents.  They were only in the first two chapters, and they called him Douglas.  But even then, he thought of himself as Doug and that’s what he was called for the rest of the book.
            Although every now and then he was “the short guy” or “the short man” to break things up a bit.  Which is understandable.  Using someone’s name over and over and over again gets boring fast.  So once or twice on a page he’d be the short guy.  Or the short man.
            Except… there was a character, Jay, who’d been friends with Doug for years, and whenever they spoke Jay would always refer to Doug as “wingman.”  “Hey, wingman, grab me a drink while you’re up.” 
            Except… there was another character, an older one, who had met Doug briefly years ago (a friend of his parents).  At the time, Doug had been four and playing in a mud puddle.  So this guy kept referring to Doug as “the dirty kid.”  “Hey, dirty kid, what’s up?”  “The dirty kid said you might stop by.”
            Now, it’s understandable why people do this.  Over the course of our lives, most of us accumulate a number of names and nicknames and titles.  Most of my friends call me Pete, but I have a fair amount who call me Peter, as do most folks who don’t know me as well.  There’s also a bunch of family terms (son, brother, uncle, cousin) that different people use for me.  There’s also a number of folks who just refer to me by my last name.  For almost fifteen years I was regularly called Peter Props.  An early experiment with facial hair had a few mindless jocks referring to me as Goat-boy for a year of high school.  Heck, a woman in my college fencing class started calling me Hamlet and stuck with it for the whole time I knew her. 
            And there are more names past that.  We all end up with them.  That’s just life.
            But we’re not talking about real life.  We’re talking about fiction.  Two different animals.  I’d never use all these names consistently for myself, or for a character in one of my stories.  This is a variation on a problem I’ve mentioned before, usually in regards to screenwriting–the dump truck.  It’s a ton of names that I’m throwing at the reader for no real reason.  That’s just going to get confusing, and confusion breaks the flow.
            Think of Agents of SHIELD, where many characters have codenames (the Cavalry, Mockingbird, Hawkeye).  Nine times out of ten, though, if a name is used, it’s just their given one (Melinda May, Bobbi, Clint).  Because it’s less confusing that way.  It’s the same in my Ex-Heroes books, where everyone has secret identities
            Y’see, Timmy, it’s okay to reference some of these things, but they shouldn’t be fighting with the name I’ve chosen to use for my character.  I may have a rich history written up for my character Eli, which includes a few names he’s collected, but I’m only going to use what’s relevant for my story.
            Next time, this Thursday, I shall continue things at this fast clip.

            Until then… well, come on.  You should know by now.

0 replies on “There Are Those Who Call Me…”

it's odd (and unfair) how some stories seem to be able to get away with this. Like in Monsters Inc, Sully has four different names (Sully, Sullivan, James, Kitty) depending on who's talking to him. I'm fairly sure there should be a "Pixar Exception" rule – "you should avoid doing this… unless you work for Pixar." 🙂

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