perfectworry: meet me in the door with the desert in the morning I am there (crystal splinters city skies)
([personal profile] perfectworry posting in [community profile] writerstorm Mar. 30th, 2013 09:45 am)
There's a trope that I really like in manga where two characters share a name, or one character has taken another character's name. (Since it's old enough that this shouldn't be a spoiler any more: in Weiß Kreuz, Aya's real name is Ren and Aya is actually his sister's name. There are other examples.) This is pretty easy to show in a visual medium, but is it even possible to do in writing? How?
More specifically, to my story… I really enjoy this particular trope, and ones like it, and it's wormed it's way into one of my current projects. One character (we'll call him Little Jude) is a six-year-old poltergeist. The other (let's say, Big Jude) is a twentysomething interdimensional bounty hunter. (It's that kind of story.)
I don't want to change either character's name, because they are the same person, but from different worlds. In one Little Jude's world, he was either stillborn or died shortly after birth, while his twin survived. In Big Jude's world, it was the other way around, and he survived while his twin died. (This is a plot point. It is arguably the plot point of this character arc.)
Unfortunately, the name Jude doesn't lend itself to alternate spellings or variations (Juda(h), or Judas (which would be a little heavy handed, considering things that happen later)), so…
I guess I could change their name(s), if someone suggested one that would lend itself easily to two versions, but what I'm really looking for is advice on how to distinguish them in the narrative. (Their actions are pretty distinct, one of them being an incorporeal child and the other one being an embodied adult.) The characters talk about "Big Jude" and "Little Jude" to differentiate, but I think that would sound strange in the narrative?

xposted to [ profile] wv_bookclub
zana16: The Beatles with text "All you need is love" (Default)

From: [personal profile] zana16

Alternate spelling off the top of my head: Juud, Jeud, Jewde
brigid: (Default)

From: [personal profile] brigid

What if the adult has a nickname? You can mention/reveal his real name (he has to show id, people in authority/family members call him Jude while others call him something else). It could be obvious that his name is Jude, and also make it more clear who's being referred to. Additionally, nicknames usually have a story behind them, and can help reinforce that he's a person with a life and a history and interactions with others. Even if people just refer to him as J or Jay.
lynnoconnacht: (Default)

From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht

The characters talk about "Big Jude" and "Little Jude" to differentiate, but I think that would sound strange in the narrative?

Not that strange. It's a method people actually use in everyday life. I know about six different Marias and your story uses the same method we use to distinguish between them in discussions. [personal profile] brigid's idea of using a nickname would work exceptionally well, though, if you do want a clearer way to differentiate.

I'd suggest seeing a distinct nickname over alternate spellings or versions because readers will be less likely to balk at you for that choice. They use names as one of their primary ways to tell characters apart (quickly), so the more similar your names are the harder your reader needs to work to follow the story. Many, if not most, readers don't like that extra work, so a nickname strikes me as your best compromise: you can clue your readers in on the fact that both characters are called Jude, but you'll not be asking them to refer to them with the same name. Just to know and believe that some of the other characters'll do it in certain situations.
lynnoconnacht: (Default)

From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht

I've had people balk at me for giving principal characters names that started with the same letter. >> Personally, I love it when characters have similar names because it's an added little dash of realism and vitality to a world. It's just hard to pull off well.

Mmm... Looking at what you've said about the story, I'd guess Big Jude's your most likely nickname candidate. He's out hunting bounties across the dimensions. I'd guess that means he needs cover personas and has a reputation. Either of those lends itself well to creating a nickname. Is he known for any particular feat or skill?
theoretical_cat: Two metal faces erected in a field, targets in their eyes, lights from a distant structure forming a communication. (Division Bell)

From: [personal profile] theoretical_cat

The only good reason I've heard is that if too many characters have similar names, it gets confusing. I've even been guilty (as a reader) of mixing up characters for this reason.

That said, if there's a good reason for names to be similar, I don't see anything wrong with it; it just adds a challenge to the writer to make it clear who we're talking about.
brigid: (Default)

From: [personal profile] brigid

Unless Little Jude's nickname is Baby Boy or Punkin or something, he as a stillborn baby/small child hasn't had as many opportunities to acquire nicknames as Big Jude has. It's possible that people he's haunted have given him nicknames, sure. But Big Jude has interacted with more people and done more stuff, right? He's got more life, more experiences.

Alternately, you could give them both nicknames. :D
magycmyste: Summer Glau (pretty summer)

From: [personal profile] magycmyste

I love this trope, too - I really like to play with names a lot. But it can definitely get a little complicated. It's great to see it well done.

To me, it sounds like your best option, as Brigid and Lynn said, would be to give Big Jude a nickname to differentiate him from Little Jude. Maybe based on his skills or an event or something.

But I was wondering - if big Jude and little Jude are the same person, but in different worlds, are their worlds meeting or crossing over for some reason? Did one of them cause this? Or is this a story where you're following the same person in parallel timelines or something?

I suspect you're doing the first, but the reason I ask is that if the two entities are still in separate worlds from one another, you may be able to distinguish them more just by making sure your settings are distinctive enough. If your bounty hunter is chasing someone across Europe and your ghost is sitting pretty haunting a Chinese palace, I think it would be clear from your setting, and the action going on, which of the two you're talking about.

That said, I tend to have less trouble distinguishing names and characters than some, so it's probably a good idea to go the nickname route as well. That way, if their paths cross, you still have that distinction.
Edited Date: 2013-03-30 11:17 pm (UTC)
magycmyste: (Default)

From: [personal profile] magycmyste

Oh, cool. Definitely sounds like a nickname's the way to go, then. :)

Good luck!


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