1. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    How to use nicknames for dialog tags

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by tonguetied, Mar 6, 2015.

    There are many discussions on picking names, people seem to want clever names which I don't fully understand the concept, however nicknames I feel can be tailored to the character's personality. There are nicknames that parents give their children, generally based on a shorter version of their legal name and there are nicknames given to people based on their looks, actions, personality, etc. A great example of the second was the show "Lost" and Sawyer's tendency to use less than flattering names for his fellow plane crash survivors.

    So my question is how you use the character's name in dialog tags. Should you use the legal name or the nickname or is it okay to mix it up? I am reading "Destroyer Angel" by Nevada Barr and one of its prime characters goes by the nickname "The Dude" and sometimes that is used in the tag but sometimes the legal name Charles is used. The first time I noticed the Charles tag it threw me off a bit and I wondered if there was a particular type of influence Nevada Barr was expressing by doing this. Will some of the expertise in this forum explain nickname usage for dialog tags? Thanks.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Use the name you are using for the character, nickname or not. There might be a place where you choose to insert the formal name, but you should do that where it makes sense.
     
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  3. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it depends on the POV and how they would be likely to refer to the character.

    I will use the example of a nickname I got landed with for a few weeks after an ill-advised attempt at a rap: -

    Take the following dialogue: "It's over there."

    From the POV of my teacher (and for the purposes of this I am pretending I was christened Chinspinner, but fortunately my parents actually quite liked me so it never happened): -

    "It's over there." said Chinspinner.

    From the POV of a guy named Josh, the bastard who coined the nickname.

    "It's over there." said The Fresh Prince of Bell End.
     
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  4. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the replies. I think what Nevada Barr did was what Chinspinner implied, depends on POV and that also seems to align with what GingerCoffee is saying. Changing POV properly is probably something beyond my writing skills, but even so I could see me using both formal and informal depending on how I want that particular dialog to be understood. I will assume that if an author was writing a story with a person that has or seems to have multiple personalities, could even be bad mood/good mood days, you could use character assigned nicknames to emphasize the way something was spoken.
     
  5. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Just thinking about this and I realized that I only use nicknames in dialogue, the rest of the time, I use their given names in full.

    Like:

    Jennifer pushed open the door with such force that it crashed against the wall and shattered the glass.
    "Jesus, Jen!" William exclaimed and jumped out of his seat.
    "I'm sorry, Will but I just can't take any more of this crap!" Jennifer said viciously and dropped herself into the chair on the other side of William's desk.
     
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  6. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    At least in this case the nickname and full name are easily correlated so it doesn't throw me off.
     
  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I guess if you were to go for nicknames away from a person's name, then there would - at some stage during the story - have to be some explanation as to why the nickname stuck to that person.
     
  8. scd250
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    scd250 New Member

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    I think names are one of the most unimportant pieces of a character. People often try to get all dramatic and symbolic with them but unless there's specifically a reason I don't care if your character's name is John as long as it fits with the story.
     
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  9. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    What you have to remember about names, is that it's not the character who names themselves. Whatever genre you are writing in, a character's name will have - theoretically - come from their parents.

    When thinking up names for my characters, I look at where and when they were born and the type of people that character's parents are so that I can come up with a name that, IMHO, not only suits the character but is also believable.
     
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  10. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with that for legal names, but nicknames can fall into a different category completely. So my question was aimed at those over proper names and which should be used for the dialog tag. If a character is "nicknamed" by another character for example, is it best to use it for the dialog tags or the proper name? And then I went on to mention that a person with multiple personalities might benefit from use of the "current" personality when speaking to help explain the origin of the dialog. Even a situation of a parent whose children refer to them based on their mood might benefit from the nickname dialog tag to emphasize the attitude of the character in my opinion. I think GingerCoffee said that was okay based on the circumstance.
     
  11. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Hmmm.

    "And how are you, my little bean?" Daniel asked as he entered the kitchen to find his son sat at the table tucking into a bowl of cheesey pasta.
    "Loads better, Dad," replied little bean.

    vs

    "And how are you, my little bean?" Daniel asked as he entered the kitchen to find his son sat at the table tucking into a bowl of cheesey pasta.
    "Loads better, Dad," replied Micheal.

    I guess, if we didn't know that Micheal was called Micheal, if he'd always been referred to as 'little bean', then the first option would fit but if first names are always known, then I tend to stay with the second option.

    You need to decide which way's best for you but once you have decided, stick with it all the way through the book.

    x
     
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  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would go further. I would rather read or watch about a guy named John than a guy named Cipher Rage or Neo. At least I don't have to cringe when I hear people say "John".
     
  13. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I take it you didn't like The Matrix? They were, actually, nicknames to a certain extent.
     
  14. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I liked the action sequences. I originally mildly disliked everything else (I was young); I now find all the pseudo philosophy, silly names, silly clothes, endless speeches about fuck all and bland characters with no chemistry whatsoever, completely unwatchable. I mean I reach a level of cringe watching that film that I just find unbearable.
     
  15. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I liked the first two. The third, went totally over my head!
     
  16. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    It didn't go over your head, it was nonsensical, pretentious, confused bullshit, I doubt it reached your knees.

    The second one though, I seem to remember Will Ferrell doing a piss take around the time for some awards show that was quite amusing, I'll have to check on Youtube when I get a chance.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2015
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  17. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Given the context, Little Bean works perfectly here, even if he's Micheal for the rest of the story.

    I would, actually, capitalize his nickname.
     
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