Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: Who's Talking?

The question I have struggled with is how often do I use the name of my character? Is there a formula? When I was pre-published I had a wonderful critique group through my local RWA chapter and I learned a lot from them. When we first started everyone in the critique group was pre-published, but quite a few of us were able to step over that line and are now published. In the beginning we needed to learn the craft. Each of us had our strong points and we shared what we knew to make each of us a better writer.

At one of these critiques I was told that I didn't use my character's names enough, and when I asked how often I should use them I got an ambiguous answer. No one really knew, they just knew I should have used them more to keep the character's name in their heads.

My thought was great, so how am I supposed to figure this out? Someone did recommend I use them after I used the word she/he six times and I latched onto that. If I used she six times then I used my character's name. I didn't take into consideration that in dialogue I might be using the character's name as well, or that I might have used a pet name to identify the character.

So I continued to learn my craft. I read books on writing, studied other writer's work. I strengthened my writing skills. Then I sold. Happy dancing commenced.

It took an editor telling me I used my character's names too many times in one of my manuscripts  for me to relook at my little formula. By this time I have learned a little more and started looking at how I was using my formula. How many sentences do I start with she or he? Maybe I need to rewrite the sentence so I'm not beating my reader in the head with their name. Do I have a lot of characters in the scene or just two? Am I being very clear in the dialogue? Does it clearly show who is talking?

I still don't have a tried and true way. I don't think there is one, but as I go through a manuscript I do focus on how many people I have in the scene. The more people the more often I'll use their name. Does my characters have pet names for each other that I use to help identify who's in the scene. Does the description help tell who's speaking? Is there other things I'm using to show who's talking or thinking?

What I do is more of a feel now. If the sentence sounds like it needs their name then I use it. I wish there was a perfect formula for this. You need to study, read books on writing, study your fellow authors and see how they are doing it. Keep trying different ways to let your reader know who is talking, and if you do ever come up with a formula let the rest of us know.

1 comment:

  1. I go by feel, too. I also go by whether using the character's name in certain situations, distances the reader by putting them outside of the character. Again, that's using my "sense" of things.
    A compelling topic, anyway.
    Sonya

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