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Name that walk-on?

602 Views 10 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  ToniD
So there is an issue of whether to clutter up a book with minor characters' names. Too many names = reader confusion.

Here's the scene: small town, big meeting, major characters in conflict, and a few minor characters in passing.

Minor character in question is a photog for the local paper. Protagonist observes him taking photo for the next edition. Establishing that she knows everybody in town, etc. Much later in the book, another of the photog's photos will be a major plot point.

My question: how do I phrase it from the protagonist's POV?
1. I spotted Joe Schmoe, the photographer for the local rag, angling to get a closeup of the map.
2. I spotted the photographer for the local rag angling to get a closeup of the map.

Thing is, she knows the guy. In her POV she'd surely name him. But, I've been told that it's best not to name him, because there are so many other characters in the chapter.

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I guess I would have to read the chapter to give you my best suggestion, but from what you've said here, I'm thinking it's okay to skip the name. I do get confused when too many names are flying at me. I know she knows him, but I don't know that you have to be so literal when in a character's POV. I think reader confusion is more important than staying right in someone's POV.

Just my opinion, without reading it!

Thanks for your take on it Vicki.

You make the salient point, that reader confusion is something to try mightily to avoid.

He'll go unnamed...
actually, it depends on how many names there are and how you're introducing them.  and it depends on context.

and will it seem odd that she doesn't name him?

again, it's difficult to know from just one line. 

Write it both ways and go back later (after the later scene is written) to see how it works.
It might also depend on the interaction between the characters that occurs later. If there's a sense of familiarity between your MC and this character, then it might seem strange to the reader that it wasn't hinted at earlier.
It depends. On what? Well, a whole lot of factors.

But from just what you've shown us, I'd say the photographer's name isn't necessary in this instance, but if it were me ... I'd probably include it. It's a character who shows up or is alluded two at a later point in the novel, and I think a name would help jog the readers' memories. Unless your book is already full of a lot of characters' names.
Thanks all for chiming in. You all make good points, which is why I keep back-and-forthing on this.

Thing is, these minor characters pop up here and there and they are all hometown folks and the protag knows them well. But I do want to avoid a core dump of names.
Remember, nothing's written in stone.  Just write it one way and see how it sounds.  No one can decide for you, and you can't make up your mind until you see it.
Quite true, Scarlet. I'll see how it reads when I come back to it stone cold.

It's just an issue that has dogged me for awhile now. No biggie, but worth getting right.
my two cents worth: whatever moves the narrative forward faster, is probably a good way to go...
Ian, thanks. That's worth at least a nickel!
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