Dear friend, if you are a writer — particularly a young writer — who is reading this right now, I want you to promise me something. Are you ready? l want you to promise me that you will stay away from epithets when you are talking about characters who know one another’s names.
You do not need to say, “the blond man.” You do not need to say “the older man,” or “the taller man,” or “the smaller man.” You definitely do not need to transform adjectives into nouns and say things like, “the older,” “the younger,” or lord forbid, “the other.” (Unless you are writing the kind of academic paper that cites Lacan or bell hooks, in which using the other/Other is allowed, and also important).
I know it might seem repetitive, but using names and pronouns is enough. They are the kinds of words that fade into the rhythm of your writing, and they will never stand out to your reader. They are the words that make sense.
When you look at your friends, you’re not thinking of them as “the red-headed woman,” or “the shorter person.” You’re probably thinking something like, “Natasha’s hair is getting so long,” or, “she looks beautiful today,” or “Jamie’s got a great shirt.” You think of people’s pronouns. You think of their names. And that is what your character does, too.