What’s in a Name?

So I was reading this book the other night and I noticed that the writer did something that normally makes my skin crawl. No, she did not insert a picture of me with my 1992 perm. What she did was start her chapter by naming the characters in full. For example:

John Coal picked up the banana and slammed it on the desk. He hated bananas. But not as much as he hated Robert K Jones.

While there is nothing wrong with this opening, it still grates on me. I like to figure out the character details as I go along. Give me a weird quirk first like the kind of shoes he is wearing or what he likes to eat. Yes, I want to know his name eventually, but I want the writer to show it to me. For example:

The banana sprayed across the desk the moment John slammed it down. He didn’t care. He hated bananas. But not as much as he hated that jerk Robert who sat in the next cubicle. Was it really that hard to remember a last name like Coal? You’d think not, but Robert was always calling John “Cale” or something else, equally ridiculous.

In the second example, we still discover John’s surname, but we have to put it together ourselves. I like put-it-together. Well, unless it’s from IKEA.

So, what do you think? Do you like to get the full names up front or do you like the put-it-together method instead?

Category: On Writing