1. Blazerjohn101
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    Blazerjohn101 New Member

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    Is having a lot of nicknames for many characters confusing?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Blazerjohn101, May 24, 2015.

    In the story I'm writing right now, I'm planning on each main character getting a nickname from each other main character. The main purpose of this is to show how close-knit the group has become since the beginning of their adventures, as this is the third and final part of the series. The problem is, I fear the readers will get confused with each character having 5+ nicknames with each being used with regularity. Should I tone down on the amount of nicknames or will it be fine if I continue like this?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One nickname, fine, but one from each of multiple characters, I'm not seeing the thing you are trying to accomplish.
     
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  3. Vellidragon
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    Vellidragon Member

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    It seems excessive to me as well and I would likely be overwhelmed. I'm also not sure why everyone has a different nickname for everyone else if these characters interact as a group a lot.
     
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  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Usually, nicknames are something that would stick and everyone would adopt it because they'd be in on why the person has that particular nickname.
     
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  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I beta read for someone who had written a story in which every character had two names, one which the narrator used, and one which the characters would use to refer to each other. Needless to say it was a profound failure. If you do create nicknames (and one is certainly enough) either use them all the time, or only once or twice.
     
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  6. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Multiple nicknames for a single character will erode your reader's interest with confusion. One is fine but anymore is a irritating distraction.
     
  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read a story where the MC created a nickname for everybody he worked with, which only he knew. BUT he made a rule that each nickname MUST be perfect for that person.
    By that logic, once the perfect nickname has been found, EVERYBODY in a close-knit group would use it.
     
  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's been done in, ahem, a few Russian classics, but I wouldn't recommend it. Why not use only the nicknames when referring to the characters? Maybe off-handedly mention their real names if relevant. I don't know, something like this (put it in spoiler tags so it won't take too much space here):

    My best friend Mike 'Badger' Hernandez sauntered into the room. "What's up, man?"

    I gave him an upward nod. "Hey man, about time! Did you bring the DVDs?"

    Badger swung a backpack over his shoulder and tossed it at me. "There you go."

    I caught it midair. "Thanks, man. All right, let's get started."

    "Di, come on," Badger said to his girlfriend, Diamond, who was hovering behind him. Great, so he had to bring
    her along. She was struggling to light up a cigarette. Her real name was Mabel, but everyone called her Diamond because of her Neil Diamond obsession (most girls her age don't even know who he is). Even now she was donning a So Good So Good t-shirt, tucked inside a pair of high-rise skinny jeans. Diamond cussed and flung the malfunctioning lighter at the wall.

    "Piece of shit. Hey, Timpani, you got light?" she called at me.

    With a grunt, I detached my rather sizable behind from my office chair and lumbered towards a bookshelf. That's how I roll, like a kettledrum that's grown hands and feet --hence the nickname.

    I hadn't planned to spend the afternoon with both Badger and Diamond, but they were already making themselves comfortable in my basement.
    I actually feel you. Had to come up with call signs for a team of soldiers. What fun for the reader! :superagree: So I'm open for tips as well.
     
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  9. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    It might work if all the nicknames are somehow similar. For example, if one guy has a large scar, so one friend nicknames him Scar. Another nicknames him Gash. Slash. Scratch. Slice. Stab. (Okay, he's starting to sound like a murderer.) Scarlett? Anyway, you get the idea. If all the nicknames circle around the same personality or physical feature, you might not lose the reader.

    However, in general, I think it's better to stick to one or two nicknames, but if you're trying to do something different, I don't think it's impossible to do five plus nicknames. As long as they have something in common, it might work. Maybe.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not seeing this as evidence of a close-knit group; in a close-knit group, most people would use the same nickname for the same person. To me, the fact that John calls Jane "Kid" and Joe calls Jane "Bunny" would signify that John and Joe don't know each other, only recently met, or are in competition for Jane's attention.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Whether this is actual names or nicknames is irrelevant to the problem. If every character in a book you are reading has 5 different names—each name used at random by all the other characters—you'd soon drop off the branch and walk away, wouldn't you? This would be hard to live with, even in a TV show where you can at least 'see' the characters, and know that Perky is the same character who is also called Pinky, Rattler, Juniper and Fred. But as a writer, you don't have these visuals to work with.

    I try not to say 'never' or 'don't', but I'd say this multiple names gambit is a very very very tricky thing to pull off. Why make things difficult for your reader to follow? Presumably the plethora of nicknames isn't the point of your story? I'd try not to let it become a distraction.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2015
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  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Echoing what everyone else has said, no, it sounds like a bad idea and very confusing. Why on earth do you need 5+ nicknames? And usually nicknames catch on, so you'd use just one for one person within a given group. When someone insists on a nickname that nobody uses, it just comes off as weird. A friend did that to me once, insisted on calling me "Iry" when nobody called me that, and I never quite connected that the name was supposed to be mine lol. We had a nickname for another friend, her nickname was "Rean" and everyone called her Rean within our group - those who deviated would simply call her by her real name.

    In any case, one nickname's quite enough.

    Unless you make sure the nickname's similar to the real name. My friend's character, Imminique, had 2 nicknames, but they were simply Im and Immy, which makes it pretty obvious which character that was.
     
  13. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    Why would you do this? This is not how real people/groups function.

    Names are used for identification purposes. Nicknames are primarily used in society because we as a people have created a short list of names that we use (to many people named John or Mike) and since it causes confusion every time we use one of these common names "Did you invite mike to the party?" "Which mike, fat mike, tall mike, or Fish mike" we have developed nikenames as a solution.

    Since the entire purpose of naming is identification, groups tend to settle on a standardized set of Nicknames that are used. It is very rare for a tight knit group to have 5 people, each with 5 individual nicknames between them as it completely useless. The reason why nicknames like "the red baron" start is that its alot easier for identification than saying, "oh man, its that really good german fighter in the red plane." If everyone called him a different thing, nobody would know what they other one is talking about and the nickname becomes worthless.

    nicknames can vary as you move between groups, my families nickname for me, my college friends nickname for me, and my co-workers nickname for me are all different...but every member of each group uses their common nick for me.
     
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  14. Victoria Griffin
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    Victoria Griffin Member

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    It's better to err on the side of simplicity, for the reader's sake. I would not use more than one nickname for a character. Even then, it's best for the nickname to be 1. similar to the character's real name 2. used in place of the character's real name, by everyone or 3. used by only one other character, like a pet name.

    Remember that the reader (and especially the editor) is always looking for a reason to put down your story. Having confusing nicknames is probably not valuable enough to the story to risk giving the reader that reason.
     
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  15. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm not sure why anyone would respond to five nicknames in a closeknit group. Usually a nickname is agreed on by all - and if someone is stubborn that's either because he wants to be difficult or wants to prove that someone is more special to him. i.e. While everyone calls Rebecca, Becky I call her Becks because I'm dating her. That sort of thing.

    Personally I hate multiple names for characters. Anymore than two and I flounder. I especially have a hard time with military novels or any novel where ranks are involved because I have to remember that John Curtis - err Lieutenant John Curtis - is otherwise known as Flyboy to his friends, Dickwad Curtis to his enemy and Johnny to his sweetheart not to mention Hey boy, to his commanding officer.

    Have some sympathy for the reader.
     
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  16. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That might be an acquired skill. I have no trouble remembering names in military fiction novels, but give me Anna Karenina and I'm flipping back to the name list every five pages to check so um who was this again? :D
     
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  17. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    When my mother reads historical romance ( which she loves ), she has a hard time keeping track of the mc's family tree so she actually writes the names down on a sheet of paper and then uses it as a bookmark.
     
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  18. Vrisnem
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    Vrisnem Member

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    I sometimes have a hard enough time keeping track of all characters names in a story, so something like this would frustrate me to the point I might just put it down. Every time the reader has to stop and think "who is this?" it takes them out of the story, breaking the flow.

    Using different diminutives of the one name isn't too bad, but if it's completely different names each time then it's most definitely going to cause problems. It would also feel pretty unnatural within a close-knit group, where you would expect any nicknames to be consistent. e.g. I personally don't go by my full name, I dislike it, so I introduce myself by a nickname. My mother hates this nickname, so she uses a different one that my father ended up using too out of habit.
     

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