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

Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

What’s her name?

Blog nameWhat’s her name?

I thought naming my baby was difficult. This is worse!

They are people, but with a twist. I formed every aspect of them, their history their likes and dislikes. Personality and flaws. Physical appearance and even emotional state. I get to play with their development or regression in the storyline and yes, I can even play God and make them fall in love or snuff them out. *insert evil laugh here*

I found controlling a person in every way made me feel responsible for them and attached. Therefore, a fitting name is important and I needed to get it right.

The thing I discovered with a name is that it can be a well of opportunity for humour, banter and even ridicule between characters and in dialogue. To my surprise, I also found it could shape how a person develops or stays stagnant. People need to grow and change, good or bad it doesn’t matter as long as they learn something along the way.

How do I pick a name? It depends if I have a character already in mind (This is harder) or if I’m creating someone new that I just added because the story demanded it. Minor and sub minor characters get the close your eyes and pick from a list method. (Baby name books work great for this.) I was joking the other day about using scrabble pieces or boggle to create names.

I sometimes go for cheesy and name people things like Rose Thorny or I just look around, pick an object, and go with it. I’ve struggled with names and often I’ve asked someone what their favorite name for a girl is, or a boy. Or what name they think is sexy or annoying. Catch my drift? Ooh. Catt Drift. Nice. Except I like the 1-2 or 2-1 syllable rule for names. That would make her, Catelyn Drift or Catt Drifter. If the first name is one syllable then the last should be two or more and vice versa.

I actually used a placeholder for two characters until I found the right names for them. One was AAA and the other was SSS for no reason other than they would be easy to search and find and replace. They were my two main characters.

I wrote six chapters, hated someone’s name so much I changed it. It’s my story I can do what I please. That’s the beauty of being the all-powerful creator behind the Curtin pulling the strings and blowing smoke.

The thing about naming a character is that I tend to pull from experience and history. So if a name seems too familiar, I sometimes google it to see if it pops up in something recent, such as a movie or book. I’ll also say the name out loud a few times to see if it sounds good or not. “Hello, my name is Catt Drifter.”
My advice about naming your beloved creations.

If you don’t like it or you’re having a hard time visualizing your character because of the name, change it. Baby name books, baby name websites and ‘popular’ name websites are great. But don’t forget the old outdated names, I have found they make for great nicknames, shortened names or fantastic humor. Ironic names are fun if you know where the character is going or if their past is significant work it in.

-Sheryl

 

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