I'm working through yet more revisions on my novel.
One of three principal characters is female, more precisely a 24 year old single German woman: Sabine Hassell.
A trusted reader has noted that I refer to all the male characters, regardless of age, by their surname but refer to the female characters sometimes using first name and other times the surname.
" No, no, no, " my trusted reader says, I should always refer to the (younger) female characters by their first name only. When I asked why, she (the trusted reader) shrugs and says," I don't know, I s'pose it's just a girl thing. Referring to a female character by her surname just seems..." (shrugs again) " rude and hard."
Do you have any insights on this? Is it just gender or a combination of age and gender which determines authorial first name/last name use? I welcome any comments.
You ask this of Miss Snark who will eviscerate you if you call her just "Snark"?
This is actually a great question because it addresses something we've never really talked about here on this blog yet: reader's sensibilities.
Cause that's what you have here: your reader's ear expects a young woman to be called by her first name. She doesn't blink twice if a seven year old boy is called off the Little League bench by the coach with a bellowing "Buttonweazer! Get ready to bat!". This same reader quails if a young girl, age seven, is addressed that way. It "feels funny".
I run across this sometimes in word choice. There are words that are distinctly girlie words: "munch" is one of them. I don't think I've ever heard a man in real life say "I munched on some fruit roll ups". Have you? Another one: "lickey split". Ever heard a man say it? Another one: "That Hamilton Woman." Ever heard a man described as "that Hamilton Man" ? nope, me neither.
Which brings us to the writing. It's important that the characters who are talking to or about the young girl be true to their character in their diction (word choice). For example Grandmother Snarkwould never refer to a young woman as "Buttonweazer" despite her egalitarian view of the world. Miss Snark's neighbor the 20-something soccer coach does it all the time. Police officers call each other by their surname regardless of gender. To do otherwise would look wrong for that character.
The sensibility starts with the character. Keep that consistent and accurate and it will ring true for the readers.
It's a very nuanced part of writing but it's important.