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How to refer to my grandfather - newbie question

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Feb 3 13 7:55 AM

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Total newbie question here, never having written anything like this before. I am writing a biography of my grandfather - intertwining my memories of him, stories that he had written about his life, and narrative from documents I have and interviews with my grandmother. Do I refer to him as "Granddad" or by his first name, "Charles"? 

For example, on Day One I wrote about a childhood dog that he had. I wrote something like this (I don't have the actual version in front of me): "As a child, I particularly loved when Granddad would tell me about when he was a child. A very early memory of his stories is him telling me about Jack, the only dog he ever had. Later on, he wrote down the story of Jack:"..... and then I went on to insert the anecdote he wrote himself about when Jack bit the tail off the neighbour's cow, and then when Jack bit a motorcyclist's leg and the man took them to court and the judge made them put Jack down. 

It sounds strange to say "As a child I particularly loved when Charles would tell me about when he was a child".... I guess what I'm saying is that when I am writing narrative from my own point of view, it sounds more natural to say "Granddad", but when I am writing general narrative of his life, say, as an adult, or about his work, it sounds better to say "Charles". 

How do I handle this??
Thanks for any suggestions!

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#1 [url]

Feb 3 13 1:10 PM

I think you can use both.
 Introduce your Granddad by his real name at the start just so readers know who you are talking about.
"As a child I particularly loved when my Granddad would tell me about when he was a child. My granddad was born Charles .........., in the year ................. A time I can only imagine. But his stories brought that era to life."

You should be able to swap back and forth this way. You could even put the memory bits as italic.
Just a thought. 


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#2 [url]

Feb 3 13 1:58 PM

I use both.  When I'm telling a particular story about my grandparents, mostly I refer to them as Frank and Clara.  It just seems easier and more appropriate for the readers.  Then I'll refer to "Grandma" sometimes, and "my grandma."  Frank is a different story, I had no bonding with him, and he left when I was very young, so I might refer to him as Grandfather Frank, or just "my grandfather."  

Bettyann Schmidt rhinegirl.blogspot.cim

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#4 [url]

Feb 3 13 5:45 PM

Hmmm, thanks for the suggestions. I'll interchange for now - lots of editing can take place later, and I guess I can use either depending on the context of the story within the whole biography.  

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#5 [url]

Feb 5 13 3:41 PM


I'm a newbie also and just joined.  Working on the same type of project, a bio/family history of my grandfather.  I still have a lot of research to do, but have written about 1,000 words so far.  What I've found (so far) is context is key.  If you're telling a story Grand dad is fine.  If you're talking more from a historical or detached perspective, it might help to remind your readers who you;re talking about by name.  Just a thought.

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#6 [url]

Feb 10 13 5:54 AM

When I gather information from someone about family it is much easier when names are used rather than relationships. Or I am constantly thinking, Who was Grammie?? The same is true in writing I think. Of course, this depends upon who is going to read your story/book. You need to have your audience in mind. I refer to people by their names unless I set aside a quote like, "My Nana used to tell us stories..." Colleen

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#7 [url]

Feb 13 13 8:14 AM

I've been faced with the same dilemma. So far I have referred to them by Grammy and Grandpa, but now realize that people who do not know them by that name, including my cousins, who all had different names for them, may findit easier to read their first names in places. So I plan to revise my writing in places.


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#8 [url]

Feb 14 13 5:41 AM

I have to agree with Colleen, it all depends on who will read your book. In my own narratives I used their first names, because my audience was a wide variety of family members. For example some of my readers new him as Grandpa, Great-grandpa and some who never met him. 

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#9 [url]

Apr 14 13 2:43 PM

This is very helpful to me, as I am writing a series about my mother and some relatives and have been wondering the same thing.  

I had been referring to the relatives in the way many of you suggested - mentioning the relationship first and the name after, but I wonder...when it comes to a parent, would you do the same thing?  

It would seem logical, but the closeness of the relationship - and the fact that it just feels funny to refer to my mother by her first name - give me pause.   Your points about the audience, however, prompt me to ask, as I don't want this to get in the way of reading the story.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Linda Huesca Tully

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#10 [url]

Apr 14 13 3:36 PM

I make sure my readers know the names of my parents early on, first in the book's intro, and then using a brief pedigree sketch at the beginning of chapters.  If I have a photo, I use the full name.  For instance the army photo of my dad, the caption reads, "Private Raymond C. Dean." Then in the text I can say, "...the above photo of my father..."  and I can refer to him as Dad throughout.  Hope this helps some.

Bettyann Schmidt rhinegirl.blogspot.cim

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#11 [url]

Apr 15 13 3:46 AM

Linda, if I were writing about my parents I would not use their first names, especially if I'm the narrator, it's my story, my point of view and of course because of the personal relationship. However, if you were using third person then you could use their first names. Consider the POV when making this decision. 

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