Monday, August 15, 2016

No Names

When I received my current work-in-progress back from my writing group, I noticed that one of the minor critiques by a writing mate concerned my use of names in dialogue.

"It's not natural," she wrote, "to use names that often."

So instead of writing, "Sadie, I know how distressing and probably exhausting that admission was for you to say those words," my partner wanted me to simply remove Sadie. It should be clear, if the piece is written well, who is speaking. (I'm not saying that sentence is either profound or exceptionally well-written; I simply use it as an example.)

I found multiple other places in the manuscript where names were to be eliminated, too, and in the midst of revising, I started to slash them all.

You can find a patch like this here.
But as I went about taking out the names, I realized WHY I'd written my manuscript in that manner. I have names in my dialogue because...(drumroll)...that's how I talk around my house.

Yes, I use names ALL THE TIME HERE, for what I think boils down to three reasons:
  1. I have first-born identical twins who spend a large amount of time together. I have always had to use a name in our conversations so that it was clear to whom I was speaking. Otherwise, I'm grouping Zoe and Talia together, all the time, and that goes against the Twin Parenting Code of Conduct.
  2. In a house with four children and multiple animals, for clarity's sake, we often use names. "Do you want rice or potatoes?" doesn't work in this house. You must add a name to the dialogue because yes, sometimes the animals answer. And any time I want to address Tim, I start off with, "Timmy!" (Ask him, it's true.)
  3. When I'm talking to a friend or a child or a colleague who really needs me to listen and dispense advice, I purposefully say the name several times. I feel more connected to that person and I hope they hear me better and understand that I'm truly trying to listen and help. 
However, I can appreciate my friend's point, and so in the interest of making my piece that much better, I'll weigh each time a name comes up and decide what to do with it. And at least no one can accuse me of making up excuses.


S.B. House said...

Thanks for sharing this. I think, in general, your friend is right. In most situations people don't talk that way, and it won't sound natural to read. But I like knowing that it is natural in certain situations. I'm going to file this bit of info away.

Also, I appreciate the Twin Parenting Code of Conduct of not grouping the two together. I am not a twin, but that's how I was raised with my older sister. We shared a room, a toy box, the only clothes I ever got were hand-downs from her, Christmas gifts were given to Joanna & Susanna, our names were often replaced and we were referred to us as 'the girls' got old in a hurry, and I know how much I yearned for my own identity; I can only guess how much more important that is for twins.

T said...

You never say my name :(

Christina said...

Funny you should mention how you were grouped, S.B. People did that to me and my sister, who is two years older. It didn't last too long, thankfully. Maybe that's why I'm so careful.

And T, I can start saying your name, more often, but I know that you hear me. That's the difference.