View Full Version : Multiple ways of adressing my character, how to prevent confusion?

June 4th, 2020, 05:56 AM
So, I'm rewriting a story where a pianist learns with the great composers. At chapter 4, it starts to take a dramatic turn for Mozart. Beethoven hears the news of Mozart being in the hospital and runs towards Mozart, only to realize he has to tell Haydn about it and turns on a dime. One thing I'm having a bit of a problem with is that different characters address Mozart in my story differently. The doctors address him as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at first and then as Wolfgang Amadeus afterwards, Haydn calls him Amadeus, Lydia, the young pianist, calls him Mozart, and Anna Maria and Leopold, his parents, often address him as either Wolfgang or Wolfgang Amadeus. That's 5 different ways that the same character is being addressed. I'm worried that with 5 ways of addressing the same character, the reader will be confused.

Now, you might think that these 5 ways of addressing the character won't be confusing because it is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But, I think there is a significant number of people that don't know that the W.A. in W.A. Mozart stands for Wolfgang Amadeus. And even if there isn't, that doesn't mean that there hasn't been a different person with Wolfgang Amadeus in the name that isn't related to arguably the most well known of the composers, but is still known of for some other reason.

Here are examples of the different ways my Mozart character is addressed with who is talking to him or about him next to the part in quotation marks:

“Well if it isn't my famous Wolfgang. And who is this little girl with you?” - Anna Maria

“Mozart, are you okay? You don't look well.” - Lydia

“Son, you call yourself Wolfgang Amadeus all the time. Sometimes, when you are being humorous, you just call yourself Amadeus. It isn't often that I hear you say your full name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I have even heard of some people that admire you changing their name so that it has Amadeus in it, because of you.” - Leopold

“Where is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Haydn and I want to see him. I would never abandon an ill friend, especially one as famous as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” - Beethoven

“Believe me Ludwig, I know. But your Scherzi are dramatic. This one is humorous and should cheer Amadeus right up.” - Haydn

You see why I'm wondering about how to prevent confusion amongst the readers? So, how can I prevent confusion amongst the readers while still keeping the multiple ways that my Mozart character is being addressed? Or will it not be that confusing, despite 5 ways of the same character being addressed?

June 4th, 2020, 06:49 AM
So long the full name has been told earlier, then nobody would get confused, I'm sure. Even if you called him as Wolfie / Amie / Mozie.

Ralph Rotten
June 5th, 2020, 03:00 PM
Once you establish his full name in the beginning, using subcomponents of that name will not be confusing.
Also, you have a narrator who can help define who is being addressed.

June 8th, 2020, 07:45 PM
I agree with you, it's a potential problem, I would not minimize it -- the only mistake you can make here is assume it's no problem.

You must be a reader. I remember reading in a book last week a reference to Liv and wondering who it was. (Olivia). I think there's a problem just using a last name I haven't heard in a while, as if I can remember the full names of twenty characters even though I am not reading the book in one sitting.

And I know the usefulness of having people use different names. Try to minimize that unless you need it? When you do, have the context more strongly suggest who is being talked about?

He looked at Olivia. "Livvie! What are you doing?"

June 9th, 2020, 06:37 AM
I sometimes find a similar issue in certain scenes, usually when I have two or more different characters who are both the same gender interacting with one another. Referring to either of them as "she" or "her" doesn't indicate which one it is so to avoid using the name you have to find more creative ways to identify them.

I see this as a problem that exists more inside the author's head, though. So long as the flow of the conversation works and the characters are differentiated through their personalities, emotions, actions and placement within the scene, a lot of the time attribution becomes unnecessary because we can tell through the way something is being said, the emotional dynamics in the scene, the kind of vocabulary, which character owns what.

Essentially, the idea is to make a character more than a name and to give them a sense of identity so acute that through simply writing what they are saying the reader would know it is them and not some other character saying it. An example that comes easily to mind is a character like Hagrid in Harry Potter who in addition to his name has such a distinctive manner of speech that it is possible to identify him within the text without almost any reference to his name, etc at all.

June 11th, 2020, 10:48 AM
But, I think there is a significant number of people that don't know that the W.A. in W.A. Mozart stands for Wolfgang Amadeus.

This is why you make sure the reader knows the name, who the story is about. Though I'd guess most people know Mozart's full name. In general, I'd say that it's best to restrict the number of nicknames/variations that get used, but in this specific case, it's how it was, so you'd want to follow along with that.

If I have a character named Sara Nichole Jones, I'd decide what name she herself goes by. Is she Sara, or Nichole? Or Sally? Or Nicki/Nikki/Nic? Does her mother call her Sugar? Then when her mother is speaking, she'd be Sugar. When her boss is talking to her, she'd be Ms. Jones. When her boyfriend calls, he might call her Babe most of the time. But it's clear to the reader that they are reading about the same character. In narration, I'd use Sara.