Introducing a character's name

J.D.Rajotte

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What is generally acceptable in terms of introducing a character's name? Is it ok for the Narrator to just say it when they first arrive? Ex: "Standing on the balcony above are the parents of *existing character*, Arthur and Maggie". Or should I just have the method of one character talking to another reference them by name. Is it ok for the narrator to be that descriptive? I don't want to utilize the dreaded "information dump", but in my current scene there's upwards of 14 characters. Some have been introduced the chapter prior while others are completely new. Trying not to make this a jumbled mess for the readers.
 

.matthew.

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I wouldn't go flat out narrator introduction bio myself, but you could easily mention the name and fill in the extra details in other ways.

*Existing character* glanced towards the balcony where his parents stood, and both Arthur and Maggie were proud to see their son on the stage.

Or you know, something good. The point is you can mix it up a little and throw the introduction directly into the events, rather than just saying who they are.

There's nothing wrong with having character dialogue introduce them either, so mix and match :)
 

tinkerdan

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It depends on the POV.
In my novels the POV is first person.
That ones harder than most because it almost has to be in dialogue.
In the first novel the character was alone so I had few choices and because I wanted the name pulled out somewhere in the first scene I contrived for the character to mumble their name to theirs self.
I have had them dressing in work clothes and scanning their name embroidered on the tunic.
I think that if you were being heavy handed with interiority(internal monologue)It might easily come up.

eg. I think sometimes I'm a bit too easy. But oh no, my mother would say, my Mary would never be that way.

In the second novel I had two characters in the scene and the non-POV character used the POV characters name.

In third POV and omniscient POV it's a bit simpler.
In the case of your example above you could say.

John's parents, Arthur and Maggie, stood above on the balcony.

If you are doing third POV or Omniscient, you want to get the MC's name out there as soon as possible.
Usually while they are doing something.

eg. John started the day with everything under control; however, the instant he stepped into the chaos of the office he realized his error .

As to the 14 characters.
Do you really need that many in the scene?
How many are already introduced to the reader and how many are new characters.?
How many interact with the MC. (Or POV)
I've had scenes where there were clearly over 100 people present, but I only introduced the ones that were important to the scene and only as the POV character was interacting with them. There might have been a dozen names; however they were all previously introduced.

I would only introduce them in the order of importance in moving that scene forward.
 

Wayne Mack

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With 14+ characters in the scene, I would first ask whether it is important for the POV to know all their names. As this is a later chapter, I would try to avoid introducing any more than 1-2 new names to the reader. I find I really can't keep the names straight if I get too many all at once.

Beyond having a large number of people in the setting, is there any reason for the POV to be aware of each one individually? Can you treat them as nothing more than background scenery at a party, on a crowded street, in a battle, or where ever?
 

Biskit

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I would echo the concerns of @tinkerdan and @Wayne Mack that 14+ characters in the scene is too many and that you ought to be identifying the ones who matter to the story. It's hard to really comment without knowing the detail, but it seems like this is where you need to develop one of the essential storyteller's skills which is picking out the things you need to tell the story without trying the tell the reader everything.

Even if you MC interacts with all of these people in some way that objectively could be called meaningful and significant to the story, this is the time to look at how books/scripts about real people and events tackle the day-to-day reality that lots of people might be involved, but an audience needs those compacted down to a small number. Peripheral characters get amalgamated into two or three minor characters, and perhaps even more significant players will be blended to deliver characters that make the story flow better around the main character(s).
 

Steve Harrison

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Whatever works is the best way to introduce characters.

I like to get character names in as quickly as possible when they are introduced, as I find it very irritating when reading if I don't who I am reading about. That's why I usually start third person narration with the character's name and my first person novel begins with, 'My name is...'

I certainly don't think of character names in the same way as info dumps, as I consider them essential reader information.
 

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