I wrote the following dialogue:

After a moment, Eri's mother appeared from the kitchen, carrying a tray with miso soup. Eri was startled by the amount of food. Her parents were definitely regarding her visit as a special occasion. Should I feel happy or guilty because of this?

“Look how thin you've become, Eri,” her mom said, placing the soup on the table and sitting down.

"You've been losing weight?”

“Oh,” Eri said, inspecting herself thoroughly. "I didn't notice.”

“It's been a while," her mother said. "You should come back home more often, the house had become very lonely without you.”

Eri lowered her gaze. "Sorry. I've been a bit—busy.

“Enough of talking, people,” Eri's father said. "Let's eat."

The three picked up their chopsticks and started on the food. The scene seemed strangely normal to Eri. It was as if everything were OK, and her mom were perfectly healthy. In fact, she looked more lively and energetic than Eri remembered. The whole illness issue seemed like a distant, bad dream. Something that belonged to another reality.

Still, Eri couldn't take the thought out of her head, so she decided to ask.

"Uh, about the tests," she began.

Her mother nodded to Eri's dad. Then, putting down her chopsticks she said, "Well, as you father may have told you, I've been going to the hospital for some medical examinations." She paused and looked up at Eri. "And they've found a strange lump in my breast."

Eri's lips slighly parted. "You mean, you have breast—"

"No," Eri's father said, joining the conversation...

As you can see I'm trying to alternate between Eri's mother/father, her mom/dad, etc.

Did I effectively create variation, or will this just end up annoying the reader?

  • 1
    Mostly unrelated to the question, but, it all reads pretty smoothly except "Should I feel happy or guilty because of this?". The "I" coming out of nowhere - at least in this excerpt - was very jarring. It's a switch of POV one sentence long.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 6:13
  • @Joe oh I think you are confused because I didn't add italics. The original text has italics.
    – wyc
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 8:06

2 Answers 2


Switching between names, descriptions and titles for people is good because it creates variety, as long as it is clear when you are talking about the same person and when you are talking about different people. I don't think a reader would be confused by the difference between "mom" and "mother", so that's an excellent place to add some variety. Likewise, "Eri's mother" and "her mother" are good variations as long as there is no one else's mother in the scene to create confusion. As Mary says, I wouldn't repeat "Eri's mother" too often, I'd mostly use "her mother". Constantly repeating the "Eri's" sounds awkward, and so should be reserved for just a few occasions to add variety.


I would think after you introduced them as Eri's mom and Eri's dad that you could just call them "Mom" and "Dad" in places. You wouldn't need to use "her" or "Eri's" every time.

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