Character Names

#writetip Do you refer to your character the same way throughout your novel or short story? Does this change depending on who has the POV in a particular scene?

I’m wondering if this matters.

I have a character, let’s call him Mike Chambers.

When Mike has the POV or his girlfriend has the POV, I refer to him as Mike.

When a cop who is interviewing him has the POV, I refer to him as Chambers.

I think it’s more personal to use Mike in his POV scene or his girlfriends POV scene.

When it’s the cops POV, I think the cop should be more distant from Mike and I refer to him as Chambers.

The question is: is this okay or does it confuse the reader?

My solution to answering this question. I ask my readers what they think after they’ve read the scenes. If the reader is not confused as to who the character is, I think using first and last names allows me to indicate closeness of a relationship. If the reader is confused, maybe it’s better to use either the first or the last name, but not both.

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4 thoughts on “Character Names

  1. I’m not sure – I need to look at some of the books I have. My initial thought is that unless Mike Chambers is called “Chambers” by friends or other folks other than his girlfriend it might get confusing, especially if there are a lot of characters to coordinate.

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  2. I think it makes sense to use both. Having the cops refer to someone by their last name sounds pretty standard to me – and makes it feel like the person is somewhat questionable. The only question I have is, ‘does it work for both male and female characters?’ For a cop to refer to a male suspect as Chambers seems normal, but I would expect that if it was Marie Chambers, they’d use Ms. Chambers. I know, double standards, but that’s just my thought on the matter!

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  3. I change depending on POV. For instance, I have a King in my novel. In his POV, I say “Erick said”. However, in another’s POV, it is “This King said” becuase they wouldn’t “think” or refer to him by his first name.

    I also use a shortened “familiar” version of my MC’s name. Sometimes, in another’s POV I use that shortened name, but in the MC’s POV I don’t use the shortened version.

    If it makes sense to the way the POV character “thinks” I believe it works (until a publisher tells me differently, and then, of course, I will let everyone know.)

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