Using different names for the same character in the narrative depending on the POV... writing in 3rd

FibonacciEddie

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#1
Can I successfully use different names for the same character in the narrative
depending on the POV... writing in 3rd

Novel; written in 3rd Person Close POV
~10 Characters but only 3 get their own POV

Jim Smith (Hero)
Sally Jones (Heroine)
Phil Mean (Baddy)

Chapter 1 (Jim's POV)
The day started badly for Jim, he'd expected an email from Sally overnight.
'Ah well Jim,' he said to himself. 'Maybe tomorrow...'
etc.

Chapter 2 (Sally's POV)
Sally had meant to send an email to Jim the previous day, she really had but life got in the way. Reaching for keyboard she started to type.
The phone rang.
Phil Mean.
'Hello Phil,' said Sally.
'Good morning, Miss Jones.'
Sally sighed to herself, Phil was always so formal.


Chapter 3 (Phil's POV)
Those idiots couldn't even arrange a car boot sale. How in the world was Huntering Hall going to get the new Jacuzzi required for a four star listing. Phil Mean slammed the phone down on his desk a second time, then called for his butler.
'Hanks, take the bric-a-brac around to Miss Jones' house.'
Phil decide that if Jones couldn't sell it this week then the dogs would have to go. Jones was a total failure and her boyfriend Smith was no better.
The screech of brakes from outside indicated that Smith had arrived.
I'm going to enjoy this thought Phil standing up and reaching for his walking cane.


***
so you see...
Obviously in direct speech '....' the character says what they say

but when in indirect thought, or simple narrative... if for Chapter 3 I had used the characters first names - the ones they use themselves in their POV, then it would have softened the chapter...

***

is this a valid question
any thoughts?

thanks
 

Mr Orange

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#4
I think i would get taken out of the story a bit by someone referring to another character in a way that didn't fit with the POV's voice. as long as the reader isn't likely to forget who is being talked about. for example, making occaional reference to the name others know them by:

Chapter 3 (Phil's POV)
Those idiots couldn't even arrange a car boot sale. How in the world was Huntering Hall going to get the new Jacuzzi required for a four star listing. Phil Mean slammed the phone down on his desk a second time, then called for his butler.
'Hanks, take the bric-a-brac around to Miss Jones' house.'
Phil decide that if Jones couldn't sell it this week then the dogs would have to go. Sally Jones was a total failure and her boyfriend Jim Smith was no better.
The screech of brakes from outside indicated that Smith had arrived.
I'm going to enjoy this thought Phil standing up and reaching for his walking cane.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#5
I seem to recall being on the other side of that argument. :)
Oh I fought like hell about it. I thought Carter would only ever think of himself as Henry. But it does work and it keeps internal consistency. IC only has a tiny cast so the reader would have kept up, I’m sure - but in a bigger novel? Additional names to remember who is who and how they’re linked? Confusion beckons....
 

The Judge

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#8
It can be confusing to use different names, which means you've got to ensure you write it in such a way that you reduce the likelihood of confusion.

Here, I'd get on OK with Mean referring to "Jones" once I've seen/heard him refer to her as Miss Jones when we've seen her as Sally -- as long as that reference wasn't an isolated occurrence buried several pages back that I've now forgotten -- but as Mr O says, once in Mean's POV you need to refer to her as Sally Jones the first or second time he mentions her and then repeat it once in a while to reinforce the name. However, referring to "her boyfriend, Smith" in Mean's POV was confusing because we've no idea if he's talking about Jim or another man altogether -- we don't actually know Jim is Sally's boyfriend and we don't know his surname.

So I'm quite prepared to have different names used in the different POVs. We all present different aspects of ourselves to different people after all, so if I were writing about my family I'd speak of "Mum" and "Dad" but if they'd been writing their own stories they'd not think of themselves that way, and if my niece were writing they would be "Nanny" and "Grandpa". I'd never have referred to one of my old bosses by his first name, not even in thought, but his partners would have spoken of him in that way; my friend is "Ruth" to me but she was "Miss" to her pupils when she was teaching.

But it's imperative that when you come to a new POV using a new version of the name, you make it immediately clear that eg Dad = Jim, or Ruth = Miss O'Neill and vice versa.
 

Toby Frost

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#9
I agree with Brian that this sounds like a good way to confuse the reader! I think I'd stick to one or some variant that clearly refers to the "real" name - so "Dave" for "David" rather than "Mr Smith" for "David". In the work in progress, the human lead is called "Cleaver" in his own POV and "Mr Cleaver" from a robot's, which suggests a difference of attitude but doesn't confuse things.
 

AnyaKimlin

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#10
So far none of my beta readers have complained.

One of my characters is genderqueer so sometimes he calls himself Matthew and other times Matilda. Everyone else calls him Matt.


My MC calls himself Ian whereas in other POVs he is Dad or Grandpa or sometimes Greatpa.

If we know Sally is Sally Jones etc it shouldn't be confusing confusing.

I am currently reading the Lavender Keeper which is a spy thriller and the author uses a variety of names for each character and it isn't confusing.
 

Phyrebrat

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#11
I think it comes down to how important it is to the character that they refer to themselves and/or others differently. If it breaks the plot that they don't, then obviously it's important to keep it, but if it's not so important to the plot, then I'd probably err on the side of @Jo Zebedee's caution and go with consistency.

If not, and you still want the different names, then I think it's crucial you do as @The Judge says and tip the reader off early on to the full name.

pH
 

HareBrain

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#12
Generally I'd try to stick to one, but where a character has been referred to for a while as "Smith", it would seem a bit strange for his lover's close-third POV to refer to him in the same way. (Depending on their relationship, I guess.)
 

Overread

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#13
A few thoughts

1) Different names for the same character is not actually that "rare" in books as we think, but when it is done its often done via a title or such or in a limited way where its not the main focus. Many a character can often have secret past with a different name. Others might have their own name and also a few nicknames as well and other characters might well call them something different.


2) A said any information you present or change to the reader has to be reinforced through the story. You have to balance it so that you reinforce but don't repeat all the time. If you find yourself repeating who is who all the time (or find yourself needing too) then something is going wrong as you are shifting from informing and reinforcing into constant info dumping.

3) It can appear very odd if the wrong words are used at the wrong time. Eg King John might well be called John by his friends and family; Jonny by close friends, Your Highness by the lower born and "The King" in an impersonal manner when described. That's several different names for the same character that most of us would be happy and wouldn't be confused over; however we'd kind of get a bit questioning if all the serfs and such were all calling the King Jonny to his face.

4) If you've got a very large cast you might want to cut back on it; a large cast of active characters has to be handled a little differently since otherwise you run a far higher chance of confusing the reader since they will have a lot of point of view shifts and a lot of characters to remember. Indeed many times they might more latch into a characters description, actions or even how others act around them as a rough means to keep up without having to flick to a glossary page (even then it often only takes a line or two to remind most readers).



Personally I think so long as there is a good reason for doing it and so long as you make the transition clear then it should be fine. Done in the right place at the right time and in the right manner your readers should keep up and fly through without a problem.
 

The Big Peat

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#14
I want the answer to this to be "Yes, its fine" very badly. Because that's how normal life works, and using it shows a good level of thoughtfulness from the author, and switching from using one name to another can be a useful tool, and because I've never been confused by such a thing and don't understand how anyone else could be.

But I could be wrong.

But... I've just opened up The Fifth Elephant

Right away, Sergeant Colon is referred to as such (or just Colon) in the narrative text, but the character talking to him is calling him Fred. Oh no, he's referred to as Fred in the narrative text too. The Patrician is referred to in the dialogue as The Patrician, Lord Vetinari, and His Lordship.

Sam Vimes is Sam Vimes or Vimes in the narrative text; Vimes to the Patrician, who also draws a distinction between him as the Commander of the City Watch and as the Duke of Ankh (the Patrician calls him "Your Grace" when he draws that distinction; Sir to all the watchmen; Sam to his wife; Commander Vimes of the Watch to another character.

Carrot is Carrot to Vimes, but Captain or Captain Carrot to Vetinari. Both Carrot and Vimes call Vetinari 'sir'.

And that's just 35 pages in.

I'll grant that this is book... I can't count that high right now of an established series (City Watch, not Discworld), with all the familiarity that grants to a fanbase and latitude said established fanbase grants to an author. It's easier to take risks when they're not risks for most of your potential audience. Plus, the rules are different for books dealing with organisations dealing with ranks, because ranks automatically cause some wonkiness.

But, caveats aside, I think that right there is proof that using different names is perfectly doable in popular fiction.
 

Edward M. Grant

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#15
It's common in literature, and a way to distinguish the PoV characters and give them a voice. For a start, the name they use for another character tells the reader a lot about how well they know that character, and what they think of them.

Just stick to the name the PoV character first uses, unless there's a reason to change it. If they think of a character as Mr Bloggs at the start of the story, they shouldn't be thinking of him as Bill later, unless they've got to know the character much better during the course of the story.
 

tinkerdan

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#16
I don't see a real problem with using alternate names, but sparingly.

And in the case of your third example it would seem that you might need some clarity to establish that the Smiths and Jones in that section are the same as those above them--of course these are out of context--but if in context they are just Smith and Jones then...Well there are a lot of Smith and Jones running around.

Brings to mind the movie Buckaroo Banzai and all the aliens named John.
 

M. Robert Gibson

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#17
Have you seen Greyhame recently?

Who?

You know, Stormcrow.

Who?

You know, Láthspell.

Who?

You know, Olórin.

Who?

You know, Incánus.

Who?

You know, Tharkûn.

Who?

You know, the Grey Pilgrim.

Who?

You know, the White Rider.

Who?

You know, Mithrandir.

Who?

You know, Gandalf.

Oh Gandalf! No, I've not seen him for a few months.

-----
What's my point? Not sure really. Perhaps it's if one the best did it, maybe it's not something to worry about and you can rely on the intelligence of the reader.

Now, as for using the same name for multiple characters... Walder Frey anyone?
 

FibonacciEddie

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#18
A BIG thank-you to everyone who contributed to this post. It has given me the confidence to try to write using names true to the Character POV.

Whilst being sparing and careful not to confuse the reader...

good luck me!

I'm sure I will reverse it all in the next draft...
 

Joshua Jones

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#19
I have found it nearly impossible to write mil SF in a close 3rd without doing this. Few people refer to themselves as their family name, but most militaries use family names for identification. So, I have a character named Damion Fitz. Having the narrator call him Fitz would move it away from a close 3rd, but having his squadmates call him Damion would be unrealistic. So, I introduced him with his full name, and while the narrator calls him Damion, his squadmates call him Fitz.
 

Cory Swanson

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#20
I think what you’re doing is fine, but maybe I’m just enabling myself because I never bothered to ask.

I’m about 55k into a WIP that jumps between two POVs. In one, the main character is known as Steven, but the other character speaks another language and can’t quite pronounce his name, so he is referred to Staefen from that point of view.

I feel I did a good job setting it up when they met, and I’ve been consistent about it, feeling it serves as a good indicator of who’s head we’re in.

Thoughts?
 

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