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Name dropping: Taking names out of dialogue

Monday, May 23, 2011

I keep chipping away at this manuscript, trying to carve it until only the very best remains. I want it so tight I can bounce a quarter off it (my new favorite bad writing joke -- get used to it, kids!).

I'm just about there, but one thing I've been super vigilant about throughout this edit are names in dialogue. I think there's a tendency to make characters say names a lot, because it just helps establish rhythm and pacing and who has the line while you're writing. It's helpful, actually.

But... who says names in real life? I've probably said my boyfriend's name to him a total of four times
over the 11 years we've been a thing, and that's only to get his attention in, like, a crowded Target or whatever. You use humiliating pet names, or you don't use any name at all. You just... say what the frick you want to say. You don't go:

"Hi, Jim, how was your day?"

And he doesn't go:

"It was great, Steph, how was your day?"

And you don't go:

"You know, Jim, I could really go for a huge Winghouse sandwich with ranch tonight."

And he doesn't go:

"I totally agree, Steph. Let's go postal on that buffalo chicken like whoa, Steph."

So that's what I've been doing lately. Deleting names. I don't want to get too crazy about it, or make it unclear who's speaking. Once in a while it's fine. But I've found most of them were really unnecessary. The sentences read fine (dare I say, BETTER) without them.


  1. Uh, wait, Steph. People don't talk like that, Steph?


    I was not aware that you liked Kristin Hannah. I am a fan as well, although I find her plots to be a tad repetitive and now that I'm a mom some of the stories tug at me in a totally different way.

  2. I liked Firefly Lane, though it was quite long. I have more on my list, but I'm all backlogged, as ushe.

  3. So true. Chris and I also never say each other's names. I did once in an argument and it was really weird for both of us. I wish I could go back and delete it.

  4. "Listen here, CHRIS."
    "No, you listen here, EMILY."
    *awkward silence*

  5. That's pretty much how it went.