Monday, January 28, 2013

What's in a Name?

I received this question from a reader. I'll share my response with you all.
If I have a main character in a story and he lies about his name to a supporting character before we as the reader know his real name, how do we refer to him in type. Would you use quotations or apostrophes around his fake name? I would think that it changes depending on how much we as the reader know. Here are some of the scenarios that come up in this story.
1st Q
Our main character lies about his real name and gives a fake( let's say Sam). Second character doesn't know any different and calls him by Sam. We know that his name is not Sam but don't yet know his real name. When referring to him out of dialogue do we say something to the effect of;
The rain was making everyone tired, "I'm going to sleep." Sam said.
Or
The rain was making everyone tired, "I'm going to sleep." 'Sam' said.
I wouldn't use quotation marks around Sam's name. I might continue referring to him as "the man," or something along those lines until the reader knows his actual name.
 2nd Q
The Narrator gives us the main characters real name but the main character is still going by his fake name. Second character still doesn't know any different and so calls him by the fake. We know both names.
So how now do we refer to him. Such as;
Peter, for that was his true name, almost got hit with the mango thrown by the pauper.
"Hey, Sam! Over here" someone yelled
Peter turned around to see his friend Shilly beckoning him away from the crazy man and toward an alley hidden behind a wall of hanging carpets for sale.

If the reader already knows Peter's name, I wouldn't find it necessary to add your parenthetical statement. I would just call him Peter.

or would I have said
Peter, for that was his true name, almost got hit with the mango thrown by the pauper.


"Hey, Sam! Over here" someone yelled

'Peter' turned around to see his friend Shilly beckoning him away from the crazy man and toward an alley hidden behind a wall of hanging carpets for sale. 

I'm pretty sure the first one would be right for this question.
I'm not sure why you would want to put Peter in quotation marks since that's the man's real name. You're correct; use the first version.

Getting to the heart of the matter, there is no real wrong or right answer here. It's more a matter of style than of convention. Thanks for your question.

Feel free to ask the English Teacher a question at any time. Even more exciting, we're going to add a new feature: Ask The Hillbilly!
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