Monday, April 14, 2008

Names

Oh, and I wanted to pose a few questions. How would you handle these situations?

1) Judy is undercover and pretending her name is Paula. What name would you use for her under what circumstances?
2) We're in Chapter 4. We the readers know that this guy is named Rich (because there has been a scene in his POV), but the heroine doesn't know him or his name. Again, how would you handle this?
3) Annie is Annie to her friends, Anne to her mother, and Mom to her son. She thinks of herself (when she thinks of herself by name) as her maiden name, Jones. What would you call her in the narrative?
Alicia

12 comments:

Ian Thomas Healy said...

1. She should always be Judy. If the author establishes that she is undercover as Paula, readers shouldn't be confused about it. Unless the undercover involves hypnosis, mind-altering drugs, or total cybernetic reprogramming...then it's okay to call her Paula. :)

2. Rich should have some kind of obvious defining physical characteristic - like horn-rimmed glasses or a white streak in his otherwise black hair. Then the author can describe him from the heroine's perspective and make mention of said characteristic, and then we all go "Oh, it's Rich, that bastard." Or whatever. :)

3. It probably depends on who deals with her the most besides herself. I'd say "Mom" is out, and so is "Jones," except when she's talking to herself ("Jones, you eediot!"). If the relationships with her friends take precedence in the narrative over the relationship with her mother, she should be Annie. Otherwise, Anne. :)

Three questions, three answers, three smiles. Which is tough considering we've had three overtime games now and lost the last two. Go Avalanche.

Ian

green_knight said...

Read any good Russian novels lately? ;-)

1) Depends entirely about when we meet her. If we meet her as Judy, she ought to be Judy from the start. If the mission is a short one, I'd keep her Judy throughout; but if she's living under another name as Paula, I'd probably switch her through Paula, with the usual not quite reacting to her new name, perking up when her old one is called, 'Paula,' she told herself. Maybe she ought to tattoo it on her forearm' inbetween, and of course 'it was great to be plain old Judy again' at the switch back. *Really* depends on the structure of the book and the times covered.

2) Descriptors and habits that make the reader at least wonder whether this is the same guy as before. You can't call him by name, but if he refers to his pet iguana, that's a pretty good hint.

3) In third person, definitely Annie. That's how she's known to the world. 'Anne' is pretty self-explanatory, as is 'Mom' coming from her son, so no further inclueing necessary. In first I'd go in *this* particular case with 'Annie' because referring to one person by last name would be awkward; if she doesn't come out and introduces herself as 'Hi, I'm Jones' then it's merely a self-address, not an identify.

I think for clarity I would stick with the name that will turn up most often.

Writer & Cat said...

1) If it was in her POV or omniscient POV I'd use Judy. Otherwise, Paula, if the POV character knew her by her disguise.

2) If it's the heroine's POV, and I assume it is, I'd definitely find a way to work in the phrase "that poor man" so he could be poor man, Rich man.

3) In the narrative I would call her Anne or Annie, depending on the narrator or primary POV character of the book or scene. Even if it was her -- unless it was first person.

Dave Shaw said...

1) In most forms of the story, I'd probably call her Judy throughout, although the characters that think she's Paula would call her that and she would respond to it, of course. If there's a sharp enough contrast between Judy and the 'Paula persona', though, it would certainly work to call her Paula when she's in character. I'd tell the story quite differently in that case.

2) If we're in the heroine's POV, I'd have to use whatever terms she uses to identify him. In his POV, he'd be Rich, of course. If neither, I'd go with whatever fits best. (I'm a computer programmer - if you want a more definite answer, you'll have to give me more detailed requirements. ;-) )

3) Unless the story's told from the son's POV, Mom doesn't fly. Jones would only work for me if it's told in her POV with such a tight focus that we spend the whole thing in her thoughts. As for choosing between Anne and Annie, does she think of herself as her mother's daughter or as the friend of her friends? I think that's how I'd decide that one. Consider the implications of calling her Anne, because that's who she thinks she is, if the person she wants to be is Annie; does she call herself Jones because she thinks she's a failure at both, or because she can't decide whether to change from one to the other, or because she really doesn't give a darn? It all depends on the story...

My kids hate it when I answer questions with 'it depends...'. LOL

Patricia W. said...

1) She's Judy in the narrative and to anyone outside of the undercover situation, unless there's danger to her cover being blown. She's Paula if we're in the POV of a character who only knows her in the undercover situation.

2) If in the heroine's POV, he has no name and shouldn't get one, although she might subscribe a description that becomes a nickname almost, e.g. Bearded Guy. Outside of her POV, he's Rich.

3) Definitely Annie, which is how she's known to the outside world. Not uncommon for mothers to call their children by their formal, given names. Her mother refering to her as Anne will distinguish the mother's voice, and Annie's response, if any, will tell us something about the relationship between mother and daughter. What kid doesn't call their mother "Mom" or some variation? Again, will distinguish his voice.

Unhinged said...

Wow, so many names for so few characters.

1. If I was a Paula and wanted to go undercover, I'd use a name like Jane or something really common and therefore, forgettable. My undercover girl uses initials and a striking last name, but it goes along with her undercover persona.

2. Well, I hope the heroine DOES have some sort of name for Rich--and that there's a good reason why she doesn't yet know his name.

3. If she thinks of herself as Jones and it's her narrative being shared, I'd use Jones.

LOL! You poor editors.

Renee said...

1. I think this is too broad of a question actually. But, I tend to agree she should always be Judy, unless we get into someone else's POV who only knows her as Paula. Then it gets tricky, because you don't want to confuse the reader, which tends to happen way too often in these undercover scenarios.

2. Introduce Rich and the heroine right off.

3. In narrative, I'd call Anne how she thinks of herself, Jones.

Thanks, Alicia, now my head is spinning around all kinds of delicious undercover operations. ;)

Renee

writtenwyrdd said...

1. It depends on how you structure the story. I've seen them flip back and forth and seen it work and seen it fail. My guess would be that the best choice would be to stick with her real name in referencing Judy when she's in the role of Paula, and leave Paula just for dialog. But it might be a useful device to have her be Paula if you open with Paula. It depends upon what you are trying to accomplish. The danger with the latter choice is pissing off the readers because you pulled a fast one on them when you introduce Paula as Judy.

2. It always depends on your rationale as a writer. That said, I'd probably have Rich recognizable to the readers even without a 'formal' introduction. Readers like feeling smart and 'getting it' before the character does, anyhow, so this would be an effective choice in most situations.

3. I would mix it up a little bit in dialog only. The rest of the time, stick to the name Annie uses for herself. However, if you use someone else's pov, you'd want to use their name for Annie while in their pov. The biggest danger in books I've read that do this seems to be that it's not done well and the reader has to stop and figure out to whom you refer. And with Annie's last name issue, I'd make sure to clarify this to the reader by having her talk to herself along the lines of, "Annie Jones, don't you do something that stupid."

I can think up a lot of different reasons for trying alternative strategies, depending on my purpose and needs of the moment, though. I suppose like the other 'rules' of writing, your mileage will vary depending on skill and purpose.

Aredendra said...

1) To my mind, this is somewhat dependant on genre. I've seen authors happily and successfully use 'Judy/Paula' instead of choosing. However, if we were being more serious than that, I think Judy would be used (with the obvious exception of dialogue). Ian makes a good point here about possible alternative situations, however.

2) Well, if it's the heroine's point of view, the heroine calls him 'that guy'. Again, Ian steals my thunder here.

3) If Annie's the POV character, she's calling herself Jones in the narrative--I think it only makes sense to be true to the character's tendencies when they're 'speaking'. Any nicknames should only come up in dialogue with the respective nicknamer.

Alice Audrey said...

I'm dealing with an undercover character using two names right now on a piece of fiction I post every Friday. So far I have only used her fake name, even when she thinks of herself, but have hinted there is another name she goes by. It's even more twisted because both names belong to a real person who asked me to write her into the story as an undercover agent.

I try to limit the number of names I use for any character to cut down on confusion, but I don't count titles like "Mom" as a separate name.

jwhit said...

I'll try without reading the other comments. It's a fun exercise.

I'm assuming tight 3rd for this.

1. She would be Paula in dialog. If the scene is her POV, she would be Judy to herself in the prose and internal thought. If the scene is someone else's POV, if the POV person knows her as Paula, she's thought of as Paula. If the POV knows her in real identity, say a handler or a police supervisor, assuming she's a cop, then she's Judy to that person.

2. Rich also depends on POV. If the herione doesn't know him and it's her POV, he won't have a name -- just a description of how she interprets him: looks [clothing, handsome, fat], behaviour [insulting jerk, gentleman], or role [bank clerk, waiter].

3. If the POV is Annie's, then I would use Jones in the narrative. If the POV is one of the others, I'd match to that character's name for her. Dialog would always match whoever is speaking to her or about her.

In one WIP, seems like each of our characters goes through this shift. In our rewrite, we've been quite conscious of keeping the names appropriate. Detective Taylor Franke goes through: Detective, Detective Franke, Franke, Frank-ee [his close cop friends], and Taylor when he's home where everyone is a Franke.

orbis-writings.com said...

I go with what green_knight said. Makes perfect sense. Although for #1 it would be beneficial to the reader to introduce Judy as being herself prior to the undercover gig.

If the undercover gig is going to be long, couldn't you do this.

Paula, aka Judy, walks through the door.
"Eh Paula," the evil doer says.
"Eh, back at ya," answer Paula, aka Judy.
"Judy," a voice came through Paula's, aka Judy's, earpiece. "Be careful."

It's subconscious enough that the reader would automatically pick-up on the "aka Judy" as a reminder and doesn't affect the narrative.