refering to military characters

by Trilok
(birmingham , u.k.)

Question: I am currently rewriting my science fiction/naval novel. My question is how do you refer to the officer characters. For example, one of my characters is Captain Christopher Blackwell. Should I refer to him only as Capt. Blackwell when describing him or his actions and at his speech tags, or can you use captain, or Blackwell, or Christopher or any combination of these, the only rule of thumb being as long as you do not confuse the read (or your prospective publisher!). I suspect that you can use any one or combinations (though captain Christopher may not strike the right note). However, I feel that calling him just captain makes him a bit generic, calling him just Blackwell strips him of his rank, making him a civilian.


Answer: Your narrative voice should probably refer to him as Blackwell. Captain Blackwell might work, but only if he is a minor character. Captain Christopher is improper, and using his full name would be a little unwieldy.

Of course, characters in the novel may have their own ways of referring to him. His friends may call him "Chris." Sailors serving under him might address him as "Captain" and refer to him as "the Captain," especially if he were in command of a ship. His superior might address him as "Blackwell." Obviously, if he were stationed on land in a facility where there were several Captains, most people would refer to him as "Blackwell" or "Captain Blackwell" to avoid confusion.

At any rate, your narrative voice needs to use a consistent name, and referring to people by last names is quite standard in the military.

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