Naming my character?

by Holly
(Winston Salem)

Question: My protagonist has a first name, a nickname that only his wife and friends use, and an army title used by the guys in his force. I'm struggling with which name I should use at what time and if it would be too confusing for the readers. If I were to only use his first name in the actual writing, and use the other two only in dialogue when he is being addressed, would this be okay?

Answer: Yes, I think you are on the right track. It's important that the narrator consistently refer to a character by the same name so that the reader doesn't get confused.

Generally, the narrator (or narrative voice) will use a character's name far more often than it will appear in dialogue, so if another character occasionally refers to your protagonist by his proper name or title, the reader should be able to deduce what's going on (but do provide sufficient clues).

The name the narrator chooses to use for the protagonist does make a difference. If it's the first name, that helps to put the reader a little bit further into the protagonist's point of view (as in third person limited narration). The surname, on the other hand, is a little step closer to an omniscient point of view. It's more like the narrator is looking at the protagonist from a slightly greater distance.

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