In this classic example from Butler, we first know the name of the viewpoint character: Doro. Later in the novel we’ll learn that Doro has many names, but Butler gives us the name by which he thinks of himself—and whenever we’re in Doro’s viewpoint that’s the only name used for him. Lesser writers might have kept changing the name of that viewpoint character, thinking they’re helping us by telling us more information:
The starship captain walked onto the bridge. Bob glanced over and saw the lights were blinking. “What are you thinking of, Dilworth?” said the tall blond man.
Is Bob the starship captain? Or is Bob Dilworth? And is it Bob or the starship captain who is the tall blond man? One tag per character, please, at least until we know them better. Above all, don’t coyly begin with pronouns for the viewpoint character and make us wonder who “he” or “she” is—give us a name first, so we have a hook on which to hang all the information we learn about that character.
Second, we know that Doro will discover “the woman,” and we assume that this discovery will be important to the story. Because Butler is a first-rate writer, that assumption is correct—she would never mislead us by placing a trivial character so portentously in the opening sentence. Yet she doesn’t name the woman yet. In part this is because naming two characters immediately is often confusing. Too many names at once are hard to keep track of and may make it unclear who the viewpoint character is. Another reason for not naming “the woman,” however, is because at this exact moment in the story—as Doro goes to see what is left of a village—he doesn’t know her name. The narrator knows it, of course, but at this point Doro does not, and so it’s right not to give that information to the reader.

Leave a comment

Filed under Some advise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s