Writing Tips & Help: Name Usage

A lot of times when I am reading something from an amateur writer, such as on a roleplaying forum or even a fanfiction (I don’t read many of the latter), there is a tendency for the writer to overuse either the character’s name or pronouns to describe a character. Instead of constantly referring to a character by name, think of other ways to refer to them.

For instance, I have a character I’ve created that I’ll use for an example. I’ll provide a brief bio for him and then get into the various ways I refer to him in my writing.

Name: Kane

Occupation: Pirate Captain

Hair: Dark Red

Eyes: Ocean Blue

Build: Slender but muscular

Character Traits: Naive, Optimistic & Energetic

 Instead of constantly saying sentences like this:

Kane took a look at the newspaper. Turning the page, he began to skim the sentences. When Kane was finished reading, he set the newspaper down on the counter.

This is just an example, but in these sentences I used Kane’s name and the pronoun, he, twice.

If we jazz it up a little, the sentences would sound like this:

The Pirate Captain took a look at the newspaper. Turning the page, blue eyes began to skim the sentences. When the red head was finished reading, he set the newspaper down on the counter.

I didn’t even have to refer to my character one time by his actual name and at the same time, I’m paining a more vivid picture for the reader of what my character looks like. I don’t to write out a long, descriptive paragraph either of how they behave or what they look like, since I scatter these pieces throughout my writing for the reader to pick up on.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ways to refer to your character while writing, maybe take a moment to pause and brainstorm them all on a sheet of paper, while thinking about your character. If you have a handy list, you might be more inclined to use these instead of repeating their name over and over. You can do this with all of the characters involved in what you are writing as well, but make sure that you are consistent and don’t refer to more than one character with the same reference or you could cause the reader to ultimately become confused.

Do you write? If so, what methods do you use to distinguish your character?

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