Years and years ago, when I wrote my first novel, I handed it over to my wife to read and comment on. Can you imagine my shock when she advised me that I’d repeatedly made the same easily fixable flaw?
Yes, it seemed I’d overdone having characters refer to one another by name when addressing one another in dialogue. Huh?
Sure enough, in writing contemporary fiction, the author should be very stingy in using names in direct address. Even though that’s a convenient way to show who’s talking without saying, “Mary said,” we authors should rely on other methods–more creative ones–to accomplish that goal.
Why was I so shocked to be called on my misuse of names in direct address, then? (Other than the fact I hadn’t yet learned that was a no-no.)
Because I was copying real life. MY real life. I like to call people by name. It makes them feel important.
At least it makes me feel important when other people do it to me.
When we started attending our current church (we’ve been there at least ten years), a female member of the church staff who hadn’t gotten my name down yet kept addressing me as “Buddy.” Yuck! I’d rather not have been addressed as anything. Fortunately that changed quickly, and she calls me by name frequently. (And never “Buddy”.)
I became even more conscious of my feelings on this subject during the three years I worked at Target before retiring to write full-time. I had a number of African-American–is “Black” in or out of fashion now?–co-workers, and I was pleasantly amazed at how many of them, especially the older ones, addressed me as “Mr. Roger.” It made me feel respected.
Even though I retired eight years ago, those same people continue to address me that way. I would feel artificial if I were to address them that way, and I’d like to believe I give them just as much respect addressing them by first name (I’ve never known their last names, and they probably don’t know mine) as they give me.
I’ve mentioned from time to time that I walk at the mall in the mornings. I can only think of two fellow walkers I actually know (or have known) except at the mall. One from church and one from our former church.
But over a period of time, I’ve exchanged names with some of them. Chris. Grady. John. Sam. Margaret. Dolores. We all call one another by name the first time we meet while walking, and–as strange as it might sound–it makes me feel good to have at least that small bit of familiarity with people I’m not apt to have a chance to really get to know in “real life.”
What about you? Are you conscious of addressing or being addressed by name? (Not necessarily by first name.) What are your feelings on this subject? How about leaving a comment?
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