Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Un-named Characters?

A few months ago I participated in an on-line critique with 10 other authors. One of the comments I got, repeatedly, was to name my character. The piece was a narrative from an unknown pov in a prologue type of setting. I recieved fabulous feedback on the details of the sceen, the spark of interest the piece generated and the interesting storyline.However,  everybody wanted the character to have a name.
I didn't want the reader to know who the pov was. I wanted him to remain anonymous until later in the story. Here's what I learned.
What do you do if your character isn't known or named at the beginning of their appearance in the story?
What if their name is known, but you don't want to have to use it repeatedly?
This is where a deep understanding of your character, his/her appearance and or personality can help.
Instead of using the name, use a prominent feature, a quirk, a comparison, or a descriptor unique to the character. Mix them up within the body of the work along with pronouns, a name if you have one and the structure of the sentence to make it flow.
Here's an example-
1- His blond hair drifted over silver gray eyes as he stared through darkened windows. He shifted away from the glass, keeping his distance from the frosty pane. He didn't shiver, although drifting flakes of white dampened his coat and jeans.
1 a. The blond man peered through frosty panes of glass. Darkened windows didn't dissuade his prying silver gray eyes. He stepped back from the glass, shaking drifts of white from his damp coat and jeans.
From now on this character can be; the blond, the blond man, silver eyes, he, his and he has a distinct name.
2. The taller man shuffled his feet, while running his hand through scraggly hair. The shorter one stepped back, wiping his dirty hands over his bulbous nose.
2 a- His long, skinny limbs as if he were a scarecrow, shifted in a nervous tangle. As if he tossed back tufts of straw instead of his scraggly hair. His pudgy friend wiped grubby hands over a clownish nose. The movement should have sent the swollen thing honking.
Two characters who are now; Scarecrow, clown face, scraggly hair, tall man, short friend, etc.
3. Brandon's muscled bicep closed around Oscar's tatooed neck. Brandon squeezed. Oscar stiffened. Brandon tightened his hold while oscar's face turned purple.
3 a- Brandon's arm clamped down over a tattooed neck. His muscled bicep choked the breath from the shorter man. "Oscar" he hissed. "Back away from the lady." His muscles choked the other  man's response from purple lips as he tightened his grip.
The scene moves between the two male characters without having to name every step to keep the movement in the scene straight.
Check your manuscript for too much use of a characters name. I never notice it until it becomes so obvious it can't be ignored. If you can use other names, types and descriptions to name your characters, your writing will be cleaner, prettier and more fun to read.
In the meantime keep writing and finding whatever tricks make your work  even better.

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