Nicknames in Fiction

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Do you have a nickname?

What does it say about you? What does it mean to you? Think about who gave you the nickname and how it made you feel, or what it says about your personality. What does it say about the relationship you have with the person who gave you the name?

Typically, we give nicknames to people we like. It’s a way to make that person feel special. I have one friend who calls me Mick. That’s not my name, but one that I cherish because it comes from someone who cares about me. My mom calls me Chell. No one else calls me that. That nickname is more than just a name. It’s about my relationship with my mother and only my mother.

Do you use nicknames in your fiction? If not, you should consider using this technique. Have your male character give his love interest an endearing nickname and it might create an “awww” moment with your readers. It’s possible the name will make your character more likeable too.

Shortly after I started dating my husband, he nicknamed me the RANDOM SUBJECT GENERATOR. He said it was difficult to follow my conversations because I kept switching topics. It’s kind of embarrassing, but true. I switch subjects without notice and my mind goes a mile a minute. It’s like I want to hurry and say what I need to say before I forget the thought.

It’s who I am. (Thus RANDOM Writing Rants.) But anyone who knows me knows that I’m a little ADD with my topics and so the nickname says something about my personality too. It’s also a cute thing between my husband and me.

In my Young Adult novel, WILLOW, Trae Truman’s friends call him TURBO. His grandfather had given him the nickname when Trae was little because of his hyper-fast golf shots. His grandfather said Trae’s shots were turbo-charged and the TURBO part stuck, so by the time Trae gets to high school and makes the golf team, his peers call him TURBO. That name means a lot about his personality too, because he’s the type of guy who doesn’t always think through his decisions. He’s a little impulsive.

Think of movies. What are some of the nicknames in your favorite flicks. Do they work? Why or why not?

What are some ways you can add nicknames to your novel?

 

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Comments

  1. Robin says:

    Oh, nicknames. I love the idea of using nicknames in fiction. Normally, when I do, it’s just a shortened version of the character’s name, but other nicknames would work, too. I also love the idea of making them a little bit more personal to the character’s personality and what not.

    For me, friends called me “Birdie” for most of my life. I have a friend who recently told me that when she met me (years ago), she thought that was actually my name. Of course, some friends shortened it to “Bird” and one friend’s dad accidentally called me “Beak.” That stuck for longer than I’d care to admit. When I was in elementary school, a boy I went to church with called me “Microphone” because during a church skit (or something) I couldn’t reach the Microphone. I hated that nickname.

    • Hi Robin — Fun, fun names. i’ll have to call you Birdie the next time I see you.

      When I was in seventh grade one kid called me Cotton Balls. He’d shout it down the hall in school. Very, very embarrassing because the reason for that name was that he thought I stuffed my bra. Can you imagine? I had one of those trainer bras where the cotton filling got all bunched up in the wash and looked lumpy under my shirt. Mortified!

      M

  2. I love using nicknames in my writing! Like Robin says, it’s often just a shortened version of their real name, but I mix it up with some random nicknames too. One of my characters was nicknamed “Muffin” in elementary school because he was a little chubby. Once he reached middle-school, the girls morphed his name to “Studmuffin.” Another character is nicknamed “Ricochet” because he’s constantly moving. The idea is that his reactions are a bit unpredictable and dangerous, just like a bullet ricochet.

    As for my own nicknames, my brother sometimes calls me “Elsie,” which sounds the same as my first initials. Other people call me Lou or Lou-lou. My husband sometimes calls me his princess. 🙂

    • Hi Lauren –
      I love the nicknames you chose for your characters. It’s great to see you here. It sounds like you have this technique down pat. Creating nicknames is another fun part about writing. Wouldn’t you agree?
      M

  3. "B" says:

    Hi! I love your blog so much and I actually found it while I was searching for something on google! sure glad it brought me here to this amazing site!
    I was wondering if you would answer my question;
    I am a ‘newbie’ writer, I love just picking up a pen and jotting down ideas about a possibility of a potential novel but it never makes it to the computer to be typed. My most recent thought did however. I really am questioning though this nickname usage;
    in the contents of the novel is it a bad idea to go from the real name to the nickname or ‘shortened’ name and back randomly?
    ex::::: MarieClaire, and she goes by Claire or even Marie (this is made up and only an example), would you go about the novel writing both MarieClaire and the ‘shortened name’ Claire in random orders or spots, or only use nickname or use the full name everytime??
    This might be a silly question but I have to ask someone in a writing field… LOL also honestly the full name is much more annoying to type out but I would if it would make my some-day (hopefully) completed novel better.
    please let me know if I need to make my question more clear.
    Thanks so much ahead of time~!
    (my nickname)– “B”

    • Hi B –

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting too! Great question!

      As far as shortening a character’s name–Sure, you can do that as long as the reader knows who you’re referring to. And it’s especially sweet if only one character calls her by that name. For instance, in my current wip (work-in-progress), my main character’s name is Oksana. Everyone calls her that but one person–her Aunt Laura, the person Oksana is the closest to. Laura calls her “Oksy.” But the reader knows this because Oksana, who’s the main pov character, says, Aunt Laura is the only one who calls me that name. Or something like that.

      However, if you switch back and forth too often the reader is going to get confused. Possibly. You could start out with her name as Mary Claire and say, but everyone calls me MC, except my mother, especially when I’m in trouble. That’s when she calls me by my full name. (just an example.) It makes a difference who’s head your in. (pov)

      YAY for you for finally getting the words down in a file on your computer! For now, if you’re in the early stages of writing this story, I’d just spew the story out and not worry too much about that name-changing stuff. You can always go back and edit it later.

      Michelle

      • "B" says:

        Thanks so much, Michelle!

        It makes a ton of sense and thanks for taking time to answer my question! I really hope someday my novel could take off but for now its just something fun (and challenging) to do. I will definitely be using your blog to help me along the way! It is filled with so many greats tips and things that can keep my moving and motivated!

        Best of luck to you on our works!
        -B- :] ♥

  4. Vee says:

    Hi to all, I have many random thoughts too, especially this time of night plotting tomorrow’s chapter scenes. However I have a question that is not random but for me confusing. What to do when writing about kids with nicknames?
    POV character is called 2 different names in same chapter, sometime the same scene.
    Summery: three boys, 10 year old have nick names (NN) for each other, however adult characters use proper names for the boys.
    But how about for dialog attribution? Conversation for kids use NN attributions? I think so but please tell me if I am wrong, need help here. So far my technique rules are like the following:
    1. Easy when it’s their friends are in dialogue with each other, they use the NN in dialog from friend to friend
    2. After dialog NN attribution is applied.
    3. However there are times in the narrative or dialog within the same chapter is when an adult is referring to the same child by their proper name. When this is the case the following proper name attribution for the child’s dialog should be his proper name. Am I correct on this ?
    For me it gets sticky when the NN child is using interior monalog, my character always seems to refer to himself by his proper name. POV character thinks of himself by his proper given name and never by his NN unless he is referring to its use in his life with his friends.
    NOW if you can figure that one out and provide some insight to the proper mechanics of this quandary I would take any help at all and be ever so apprentice.
    Good Writes
    Vee

    • Hi Vee,

      Good questions! As you can see, just writing about this is a little confusing, isn’t it? The last thing you want to do if confuse the reader, which is why you’re asking the questions. Keep in mind that your readers are around 8 – 12 years old if your main character is 10. (I’m writing this genre right now too.)

      I have a few opinions. Anytime you can simplify the ‘name’ thing -you should. I would stick with one name for each boy–a name that their parents call them too. Cut out all the other names. The names don’t move the story forward. They don’t really add to the ‘story.’

      I have a feeling that you’re using names more often than you need to. Think of three ten-year-olds talking to each other. They don’t address each other by their name very often. They don’t use their names in dialogue either. They know who each other are. If you’re throwing the names in there to help the reader, it will appear stilted.

      Do you have only ONE POV character in the book? That should be the only head you’re in with inner monologue. The reader should know who that character is despite who calls him Ricky or Richard.

      For now, I’d write the whole book the way you see it. Let it rest for a few weeks. Then go back and read it/edit it to cut out the confusion. Children care more about the story than they do the character’s names. Simplify them the best you can.

      But more importantly, keep writing! I love that you have a heart for kids!

  5. I’ve gotten some feedback that adding nicknames causes confusion. I’ve had to remove a few characters’ nicknames because readers thought a third person was entering the room when a new nickname was used.

Please share your random thoughts.

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