Don’t say my name!

Hello, my name is Sheryl. You probably already knew that, and if you didn’t then there it is for you. Names are important in writing. Choosing one is difficult and sometimes nerve-wracking. In writing the character name is used often in action and dialogue tags. It’s very important to identify the speaker or person involved.

But what about within dialogue? I thought about this a while. Like many things human, saying someones name while talking to them is a personal choice. Generally people will start a conversation with a greeting such as, “Hey Amber.” Some never say someones name… ever.  So how often does a person use the name of the person they are talking to, to the person they are talking to? Probably once, maybe twice and that second one would be. “It was great seeing you again Amber. Call me some time.”

Close friends might say each others name randomly during a conversation to make a point. “Seriously Amber you’re crazy.” Or “Wow Amber your hair has such a healthy shine.” or “Check it out Amber I got his number.”  There are people that really enjoy saying a name and will use them often. I have a character in BiaAtlas that will use a persons name regularly. He’s a teacher/instructor so it fits him a little better. He also speaks directly and often has a point to make. For him I make sure that he uses first names when in personal conversation and more often if he likes the person. I am also careful that others rarely address him by his name so it stands out.

Over use of a name within dialogue is not only superfluous but necessary. I do on occasion cheat and toss their name in to keep the flow of dialog for the reader to trip up the ‘action or dialogue tags’.

“Hey Amber you okay?” Dale stopped her in the hall, looked about to ensure they were alone and rubbed his hand on her arm.
She nodded with a frown. “Yes. I don’t know why I bother eating breakfast Dale. It’s such a waste of money.”
“How long does the morning sickness last Amber?”
“I don’t know Dale, forever?” She groaned and rolled her eyes.
“I left a present for you on your desk Amber.” He quickly kissed her forehead and continued down the hall.
She watched him go then made her way to her desk. A bottle of ginger-ale and a pack of soda crackers were in a small gift bag. Smiling she sat and cracked the bottle open.

That was definitely weird. Especially if read out loud. Now it was a short example so it was weirder than normal. I try to limit name use in dialogue, but even then I know I still over do it for realism.Now without the additives.

“Hey Amber you okay?” Dale stopped her in the hall, looked about to ensure they were alone and rubbed his hand on her arm.
She nodded with a frown. “Yes. I don’t know why I bother eating breakfast. It’s such a waste of money.”
“How long does the morning sickness last?”
“I don’t know, forever?” She groaned and rolled her eyes.
“I left a present for you on your desk.” Dale quickly kissed her forehead and continued down the hall.
She watched him go then made her way to her desk. A bottle of ginger-ale and a pack of soda crackers were in a small gift bag. Smiling Amber sat and cracked the bottle open.

Better. This wasn’t about word-count, just needed to be fixed.

I once knew a guy for 2 years. Spoke to him everyday on the way to work. After a while it was too weird to ask him his name even though he knew mine. I never ever knew his name.

My advice about Names in dialogue.
In dialogue use them sparingly and read the conversation out loud or have someone buddy read with you. If it sounds weird or unnecessary, it probably is.

-Sheryl

Other name related posts

What’s her name?

Who are you again?

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