Writing Usage of a "nickname" in the narrative (different PoVs)

lastaldrianmain

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Hey all!
To clarify, I wanted to know what people's opinions are on using a "fake name" in the narrative.

Say there's a character named Sarah, and she introduces herself to other people as Rah (or whatever I fail at spontaneous names), because she's an incredibly cautious person and only uses her real name with her closest friends.

In a third-person omniscient narrative, we'd read from her perspective with her real name being the pronoun, such as "Sarah did this" or "Sarah shot his foot"

But from another perspective who only knows her as Rah, would the narrative change to that name? Say we're reading from John's perspective. There's a sentence that goes, "John went out into the cold night, looking for Rah". Would that make sense?

Strictly from that point of view, would the narrative stay with the name Sarah because the reader knows who she is, or go with Rah because the character only knows her that way?
 

binarysoap

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If it is from a character's perspective, I would find it more natural to use the nickname.
 

bananapink

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Hey all!
To clarify, I wanted to know what people's opinions are on using a "fake name" in the narrative.

Say there's a character named Sarah, and she introduces herself to other people as Rah (or whatever I fail at spontaneous names), because she's an incredibly cautious person and only uses her real name with her closest friends.

In a third-person omniscient narrative, we'd read from her perspective with her real name being the pronoun, such as "Sarah did this" or "Sarah shot his foot"

But from another perspective who only knows her as Rah, would the narrative change to that name? Say we're reading from John's perspective. There's a sentence that goes, "John went out into the cold night, looking for Rah". Would that make sense?

Strictly from that point of view, would the narrative stay with the name Sarah because the reader knows who she is, or go with Rah because the character only knows her that way?

Hmmm, as for me, I mostly go for the character's perspective to convey their thoughts and feelings more intimately. How they view the other character, how much information they know about her/him. That includes nicknames/alias as well. (Did I make sense?) Hahahaha...
 

flucket

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If you're writing from the first person perspective of a character that only knows that person as "Rah", then you should absolutely be referring to them as "Rah". If you've conveyed through dialogue that this character knows them as "Rah", then the audience should not find it jolting or confusing to suddenly have the character go by a different name in text, because they should understand that the new POV character only knows/sees this other character as "Rah", and it would be more confusing/absurd as to how and why they'd be referred to by a name the POV character is not familiar with.

There is a little leeway if it's in third person, but generally you should err on the side of "only convey as much as the character knows". But just to use this as a jumping off point to segue into some writing notes: here's a good chance to talk about the difference "point of view" and "limited point of view".

Generally, first person is limited by default, but third person can be split into either third person point of view or third person limited point of view. Third person has a little more forgiveness for implied omniscience, you can do things like have characters engage in conversation and add something like, "Little did they know, a shadowy figure was hiding out of sight, listening in on everything they said." The characters aren't aware of this third party eavesdropping, and in first person there's no way you could signal their presence to the reader because of that - it would be odd to read "little did I know, someone was eavesdropping" barring circumstances like the FPPOV character is retelling a story from their past with the benefit of hindsight (but most FPPOV stories aren't like this). But in third person, instances like this could be considered a little more understandable, as there's more space between the reader and the perspective of the main POV character. However, if you were writing from third person limited point of view, you would treat it with the same strictness as with writing FPPOV, and only reveal in the text as much as the character could know.

I guess you could imagine it like different camera perspectives in a video game. You have first person camera perspective, and you only see as much as your character (eg. Halo, CoD, etc.), you have tightly zoomed in over-the-shoulder third person perspective camera (eg. modern Resident Evil games) that give you slightly more perspective, but your view is still fairly limited to about the same as what your character is able to see - it can be hard to see enemies coming up behind you, for example - and then you have fixed camera angle or isometric games, such as classic Resident Evil, or the Diablo series, or RTS games, where the camera will centre focus on your character, but you can also very clearly see the broad map and situation around them in a much more clear and informative way.

So, if your story is written from first person or third person limited point of view, there should be no reason for the character to be referring to this other character, even in text, by their actual name if they do not know it. But if you have a fairly "zoomed out" third person point of view, I don't think it's a big deal either way. Just as a reader myself, I may still pause and be like, "wait, why are they being referred to as "Sarah" when this character shouldn't know that's her name?", which can take me out of the story.
 
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