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?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Shine

Paint a desperate picture

There comes a point in writing when we need to induce stress in our readers by making our characters live it. Whether it’s a timeline crunch or a race to stop something horrible from happening. Showing the reader how the characters react and handle these situations will establish them further in their mind and hearts.  After as a writer I want people to love and hate my characters as much as I do. Making someone desperate and afraid is a great way to induce stress. 

Some sources of stress

Work/co-workers
Work deadlines
Family
Friends
Money – usually the lack of
Peer pressure
Self degradation
Illness
Threats
Blackmail/Extortion/Bribery
Holidays
Politics
Impending Danger
Active danger
I’m sure there are many more but I just wanted to suggest a few. Now, building tension and or stress is important. These are the moments, the foreshadows for something fantastic or important to the story. This is where I try to set my readers on the edge of their seats or at least be less willing to set the book down. Just one more page… The holy grail of writing, hooking the reader. This is important for many reasons. Good story telling, keeping the reader interested and dazzling the reader so they go and talk about the book to/with others and again, there are more reasons, but these are my primaries.
Stress can go hand and hand with desperation. The more stressful the situation, the more desperate a person can become. Whether the stress is real or mythical doesn’t matter, as long as I express it well. 
To do this I select a moment before the proverbial shit hits the fans. I start to ramp up the tension. This doesn’t necessarily have to be done through the protagonist. It can be anyone in the story thus far. I don’t suggest introducing a new character to create tension at this point, use someone established that has a report with the protagonist or even antagonist. If the reader likes my characters enough then they will be invested to find out what’s going to happen next. 
Cal dropped the keys, cursed and fumbled to retrieve them from the car floor in the dark. With seat-belt on and car finally started he sped out of the parking lot. 
“Dammit.” Sasha wasn’t answering her phone. His cell rang and he answered with his hands free. 
“Thorn.”
Thorn it’s Deputy Chief Jones. Miller filled me in. I have some bad news. Baylor Crowen lost his tail too.
“What!” Cal gripped the steering wheel tight as he stopped at a red light. All he asked was for eyes on both Baylor and Sasha.
The judge ruled him low risk, nobody believes he’s the guy disfiguring those women.
That was no excuse for lax officers. Cal took a deep breath avoiding a string of expletives that would get him reprimanded. “I’m on my way now to check on Miss Parsons.”
Thorn, if he’s not the guy then she’s in no danger.”
The muscles in Cal’s neck went taught as his stomach jumped. “I know it’s him. I’m going to check on her anyway.”
Do what you need to Detective. I agree with you, I think Crowen is guilty.
Cal pushed the speed limit. The Chief’s wishy-washy stance annoyed him as much now as it did earlier. A million scenarios played out in Cal’s mind. All of them berating him for not insisting Sasha have better protection. His gut and logic told him that Baylor was the guy. Sasha pissed Baylor off and he could easily get to her. She wasn’t taking this seriously enough and thought that being followed by a police cruiser was enough. 
“Thanks Chief. I’ll report in if I find anything out of the ordinary. It wouldn’t make sense for Crowen to try anything now.”
I agree. I’ll send the cruiser over to her place as well.”
“I’m almost there Chief.”
Okay then, keep me posted.” The call ended, Cal pursed his lips and flexed his white knuckled fingers. What a mess.  
The oncoming car approached too fast with their high-beams on. Cal would have to let them go by, he had more pressing matters than a car speeding. When the car swerved into his lane he steered to avoid. 
“Son of a.” Cal held his breath as the car righted at the last moment. He watched in his rear view as it careened into the ditch hard. “Of all the dammed, stupid things.” He u-turned his car around, drove closer to the ditched car and pulled over. He put his four-ways on, shook his head and got out of his car. He had to check on the idiot driver and probably arrest them. He took his phone out of his pocket to call it in and for back up. Now he was delayed for checking on Sasha who was just down the road. As he got a closer look at the vehicle, his heart skipped a beat.
“I know that car.” Cal moved fast toward the car as the driver got out.
With Cal’s nervousness, frustration and anger muddled with regret, he paints a desperate picture. Sometimes lack of judgement or complacency can lead to some pretty fantastic situations imagined or real.  The trick here is to use what I call anxious words or movements, nothing calming or ordinary. 
My advice about inducing stress.
Watch the trigger words, keep it tight and avoid filler words and wordiness. Less is more and will generate a better sense of urgency if the reader isn’t lost in a sea of description or narrative.
-Sheryl
Other stressful posts
Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Mythical