Monday, September 27, 2010

Nicknames: Why they are important

Remember your nicknames, folks. Everyone has a nick, most of us have many, and we nickname everything from our kids to our dogs to our guns and cars, to our lovers and best friends and favorite beers and the favorite parts of our lovers that we only find after drinking a few of those favorite beers we call Black Syrup.

I drive a Tahoe. Its nickname is The Tahoe.

So we're in The Tahoe, and the kids are watching Lady & the Tramp over and over. They do that, watch the same movie over and over, and I get to hear it, over and over, and that movie is what got me to thinking about nicknames.

See, the man and woman in Lady & the Tramp have names, but their dog, Lady, only knows them by their nicknames: Jim-Dear and Darling.

Then later, when Tramp meets Lady, he immediately nicks her with Pigeon, which is nicked even further to Pidge.

Do you see the art there? Nicknames dig deep. That nick is the private name, the one whispered and never written -- except when we, as writers, write them!

I nick my kids, my wife, both the dogs, my brother and my pop, and in fact my dad never calls me Eric, I'm known only as Boog, short for Booger.

My brother is Tigger. His wife is Bear. Mine is Sweetie Pie.

Nicknames, people. Don't forget your characters have nicknames.

What is your nickname? What about your characters, do you nick them?

- Boog, E, ET, Baby, Bro, Daddy, Mr. Eric, Coach, Saul, Saul Goode...


Wine and Words said...

'Lil Shit. It's my favorite because no one ever gave me a nickname before this year. I guess no one wanted to go deep. I however, nickname everyone. I love Boog!

Unknown said...

Yes, an interesting thought.

Ted Cross said...

Many of my characters have nicknames. It makes things simpler as well as more authentic. Solomon becomes Sol, and Xaxanakis becomes Xax. No one has ever given me a nickname, though.

Sarah Ahiers said...

i, personally, don't actually have any nicknames. Sarah just doesn't lend itself easily to nicknames.

However my characters ALWAYS have nicknames. Heck, sometimes i come up with their nicknames first and go from there

Roland D. Yeomans said...

My Avatar in my serial GHOST OF A CHANCE has a nickname : DREAMSINGER, for he/I write reality into being (in my serial my Lakota shaman blood brings my words to life.)

Samuel McCord is called the LAST WOLF by the Soyoko, evolved raptors whose own nickname by others is WORMS OF THE EARTH. The street people just call them DEATH. Sam is also called THE MCCORD by the world's revenants (vampires on steroids.)

Nicknames help us catergorize others and thus are limiting to our true perception of all that they are and can be. All too human.

Alway a thought-provoking post, Eric, Roland

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

I think when your characters have nicknames, the reader connects with them more. In my WiP, the MC has been given some terrible nicknames by her family, which I think will accomplish the "connection" goal. :)

Anne Gallagher said...

How funny is this post? My 5 yr. old just asked me the other day why Tramp called Lady Pidgeon when her real name was Lady? I told her it was a nickname.

Like her nickname is Boolah.
My nickname is Robby.
Dogs are Bumbalotti and The McStuffinator and the cat is Henny.

Stephanie Lorée said...

I have so many nicknames. Mesmerix has been my screenname for so long, some people actually call me Mes. My mother calls me Booboo, as in Booboo Bear, Yogi's sidekick, not as in a mistake. :P (At least I hope not.)

However, I think it's important as writers that we don't confuse our readers by too many nicknames. They will never remember so many different names, unless slowly introduced. One trick I use in writing is to keep the names similar sounding. Example, my WIP's MC is Lucy, called Lucia by her grandmother, Luce by her partner, and Lucy by everyone else.

Patti said...

I have nick names for my kids, but I never thought of having some for my characters. great idea.

Andrew Rosenberg said...

My Bimmer is called "The Baby Car" partly because it's small and partly because it's my baby.
Not because there's anything infantile or wimpish about it.
We also have "The Truck" and "The Mama Car"

My main character Sophia has a nickname in her hometown..."Princess"
It was not a compliment.
Her sister calls her "Soph" once I think.

Sometimes she's called by her last name.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Hard to nick name me - Wendy.

I had a boss once who insisted on calling me Wen. Doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it?

I do nick name my characters - depending on the era of the book. It shows an intamacy like you say.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My nickname is Spunky. (No kidding, right?) I can my husband Baby. (Usually when I want something.)

My female characters all had nicknames given by their male counterparts, but only a couple guys got nicknames. Hmm...

Tara said...

My MC's boyfriend almost never uses Kasia, he calls her Kasz.

I'm a blonde, so I run the gamut of sterotypical nicknames for that, Blondie being prevalent. My former co-workers called me Your Blondeness. To my brother, I'm just Ta.

My kids have so many nicknames, I worried they would never learn their real names. Mostly, now that they're getting older, Baby A is Pookadeedle (Pook, Pookie) or Scoober. Baby B comes to Punkinhead and Bugaroo (Bug).

Tara said...

Oh, ha!, since I stole the Jeep Wrangler from hubby, he is forced to drive what he has termed The Man Van, though he's not thrilled.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ha ha! Great post! I have a character nicknamed Dusty because he's always a mess. I call my daughter Moo and my son Scott bot. Nicknames are a lot of fun, you're right. :-)

Thanks for the great comment on my post today. I think I'll try the beer method!

Jai Joshi said...

Very true. Nicknames can help to bring out a character's backstory, or an embarassing childhood moment, or their habits, or the attitudes of people around them.

Nicknames are very important in characterisation.


Lady Legacy said...

Whew I am glad I am not the only one that does that.

Daughter is called Monster. Just because. The hubby calls me E (or eeyore).

My characters all have nicknames - such as Pandora in my first book - she is called Ann because most people had a hard time saying her name. :)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Cool idea for a post, Eric. I got to learn a lot about all your followers. =)

My MC in Purple Knot is named Reyna, but Jimmy (childhood friend and love interest) calls her Rain because it irritates her.

I was called Coco in highschool...I have a genetic tan and because I was not sweet...I was kind of a h*ll raiser.

My husband calls me Beautiful...he actually addresses his emails to me this way...yep, I think he's a keeper. =)

Julie Musil said...

"Goddess of our home," at least that's what my husband says to my face.

I did give my main character a nickname, and it's a big part of the relationship with her dad. Love that part.

And I shudder to think why your nickname is Booger!

Phoenix said...

I am a compulsive nicknamer, and what weirds me out is that everyone else in my group of friends usually picks up the nicknames I give others and carries it forward. But it's true - I nickname people within weeks of meeting them (I'm one of those instant best friends everyone warns about) and it just goes from there. And I love my nicknames too. A friend of mine nicknamed me Paradise; my mom calls me Twinkle, my friends call me Pokey (because I'm the Pokey Little Puppy, 3 steps behind everyone and walking into furniture) and my boy calls me Cuddlebrat. ;) I love nicknames and I always feel special when someone gives me one.

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

Hmm, my nickname is O. My mom called me Liv or Livy.

My car is Black Betty. Cause she's black and I love that song. All my cars get names. Actually I miss Bella, my last car. Miss her badly.

My cat has a million nick names. Boo, Bo, Bugs-ini, Sir Bugsalot, Bugzilla to name a few. All short for Bugsy. My roommate is Roomy.

I need a shorter moniker for Vladimir (a new character). Vlad? Whaddya think?

~That Rebel, Olivia

dolorah said...

My character nicknames usually have something to do with a special trait or skill. My bad guys typically are named for their deeds, but some are named for their looks.

And of course characters in relationships have nicknames, given by their significant others. Just like in life.

Boy do I feel for you having to listen to one video, over and over. I remember those days. Now its the same video GAME over and over.

Hey Eric, check out my blog and see if you like the review of An Honest Lie.

Have a good weekend.