Narrator Knowledge

Often as I am getting ready to go to bed I find myself thinking up story plots, or stuff to add to existing stories I have been working on.  Sometimes this is annoying because I really want to go to bed, but then I have these good ideas that I don’t want to forget.  Sometimes I take a few minutes to jot some stuff down in a spiral notebook, so that I don’t forget what I am thinking about.  Sometimes I get out of bed and actually write for the next hour or two, knowing that exhaustion the next day is unavoidable but worth some good writing.  last night I did neither of these things but I have retained much of what I was thinking about while I lay in bed.  I took the time to further reflect on it this morning in the shower.

The problem I am encountering regards the narrator of a story I am writing meeting somebody named Thom.  The meeting, in and of itself, is not the problem, but the name Thom is.  You see the narrator has never met Thom before and as such I wonder if he should know that his name is spelled Thom instead of the more traditional Tom.  This may seem like a silly matter to be worried about, but I insist that it isn’t.  I think it is important, when using a first person narrator, to consider what he or she knows, and something that they may not know is the spelling of a name.  I think an easier name to consider would be one like Sean vs. Shawn (though Tom and Thom still works).  When you, in real life are introduced to somebody named Shawn or Sean how do you assume their name is spelled?  Chances are that you actually do not think about the spelling (it isn’t something that we regularly think about is it?).  But the fact of the matter is that we do not actually know which spelling the individual uses, and so, if we have to assume, we will choose one spelling over the other.

So my difficulty is that I can’t decide if my narrator should think of this new person as Thom or as the more common spelling Tom.  And here is the really difficult part.  Unless I actually have a moment where the spelling of Thom is somehow discussed or presented, is it actually necessary for me to spell the name T-H-O-M as opposed to T-O-M?  Quite possibly it isn’t, because even though I, as the author, the creator, know that the name is spelled as Thom, if my narrator doesn’t know this then it really may be irrelevant to the story.  I am yet to make my decision because I have to think about it some more.  It is kind of a tough strange question.  A bit of theory on narrator knowledge and author function and a whole bunch of other stuff.

~ by Nathaniel on January 20, 2009.

2 Responses to “Narrator Knowledge”

  1. Tom is more common, so probably they’d think it was Tom. Unless they’re a Radiohead obsessive.

    You could make the decision either way and never have to bring up why you choose Thom or Tom, but if your book is going to be incredibly loved and world famous, perhaps you’ll still have to prepare yourself to argue the point in future. Fans can be terribly picky.

    • Ah, the Radiohead factor . . . didn’t even think of that one but makes perfect sense now. I’ve been listening to Radiohead a ton lately so I must have the whole Thom spelling in my head. Further I assume my narrator would be a Radiohead fan. Now I have a whole of ideas that I’d like to take with this direction. Thanks for the comment!

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