Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.
The Absurdity of Protagonists Remembering Everyone They’ve Met
Protagonists ought to be forgetful of the names of those they meet on their journey.
There are three types of people:
– those who remember someone’s name (but can’t match name-to-face);
– those who forget someone’s name (but recognize their faces); and,
– those who remember every name and face they’ve met
Just kidding, the third one is a myth.
Point is: as someone who is great at recognizing faces but less so at retaining names if it’s in a large setting (post-introductory spheels), I’m calling shenanigans on protagonists seemingly able to recall the names of every person they meet.
Granted, of course, no author is evil enough to write in a Robert, a Robbie, a Bob, a Robby, a Bobby. (That’s just male character names too). Can you imagine the confusion? Except surely only readers would be confused…seems like nothing slips past these leads.
See, if the casting is tiny, I’m sure it’s easier to remember the Elizabeths to Beths to Elizas. But in some cases, like in large scale SF-F, the narrative voice we follow is bound to meet tens of hundreds of people.
Say you’re a symbol of hope–The Mockingjays or Divergents or the Boys Who Lived–and you have some meeting with a group of people. The situation would look something like this:
You go through your hellos and nice to meet yous and they tell your their name and you’re thinking ‘this person’s cool!‘. Then later that day, when you meet them again, you’re all high five-ing and are able to recall this person.
And that’s where I draw the line. You know what I might be thinking? “I remember your face…but I can’t put a name to said face…” — but this reaction rarely (if ever) occurs. What have you protagonists? Why your mental prowess so powerful?!
This doesn’t even consider those characters who live under the page (otherwise “irrelevant”) and don’t have an active voice. Pacing does wonders to fast forward to relevant events but it also dismisses those people you come to learn on passing through a conversation by the campfire or waiters/waitresses or that individual who crafted your artillery for battle.
There’s rarely any “oh shit” moments of awkward confusion as to the individual presented before them. The best representation I’ve probably come across is “hey…you”. Never is there a “Oh hey what’s up John!” followed by a response in “My name’s Veronica.”
Brain farts, you know?
These protagonists seem to know everyone and everything as if they’re gifted with people walking around with a “Hello, My Name Is…” sticker on their forehead. I won’t say it’s impossible (to the memory recall or the name tag) but damn is it wildly unrealistic.
Now on to some things for you to think about:
How good are you with remembering names? (Mainly speaking to those you may meet once and never speak to until weeks later)
What’s the most number of characters you’ve met in an ensemble and what book was it from?
As always, think aloud.
I’m awkward, I get it. But how many ways can you ask “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name…”. Could you repeat it once more? Maybe by the third go around I’ll remember it. Unlikely.