1. RichieMarcus
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    RichieMarcus Member

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    Nicknames for Nicknames?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RichieMarcus, Jul 16, 2016.

    So with the novel I'm working on, I've run into something I don't really see as a problem, but would like to get opinions on to be sure.

    The novel revolves around several 'test subjects' with numerical designations. Almost all of them reject their designations and come up with nickname-like names for each other, which is what the narrator and the others refer to them as most of the time. On occasion though, they refer to them as a shorter 'nickname' (I do this to break up the repetition of repeating a character's name several times over). For example:

    Character's Designation: #045
    Character's 'Real Name': Chameleon
    Character's 'Nickname': Cammy

    The designation would only be referred to a few times throughout the book (possibly during the prologue and when the character is first met). As I've said, the 'real name' would be referred to the most, while the 'nickname' would be referred to by certain characters or during particular scenes.

    My question is is having these 'nicknames for nicknames' too confusing? I should say that I try to write so there's not more than 3 or 4 characters speaking at once, so keeping things straight on who's who isn't much of an issue. I also realize it depends on a writer's style and how they convey the information that would ultimately determine this. I'm just curious if anyone finds this inherently confusing.
     
  2. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I don't find the concept inherently confusing, and think it would only become confusing in practice if you handled it poorly. (Or if you expect readers to remember each character's numerical designation.)

    ^-- sounds like the right idea to me. I think you already appreciate the following, but for clarity: certain people tend to have a preferred name to call others by. A teen's mother may generally call her Stephanie, a classmate might call her Steph, her best friend might call her STD (or get tired of saying all 3 letters, so go with S). The name used can suggest the relationship between people. And if you have a character break from their usual preference, it often says something about the circumstance (e.g. her mother might call her Stephanie Jane Briggs when she's in trouble; her best friend may call her Steph when her crush is around). It's a light example of that 'acting out-of-character is significant' chestnut.

    (Assuming all of your characters' names match the pattern in your example,) changing your terminology might make the idea clearer. IMO, your 'Designations' are really (at least the equivalent of) your characters' real names (after all, 'Stephanie Jane Briggs' is just the designation her parents gave her). 'Chameleon' would be a nickname, as it's not derived from the real name/designation. 'Cammy' would be a diminutive rather than a nickname, as it is derived from another name (in this case, a nickname; Steph is a diminutive of my example's real name while S is a diminutive of her nickname). Of course, a character can identify more with a nickname or diminutive than their real name :)

    Hope that helps; I say roll with it! (Also snap! We've got characters with the same diminutive :))
     
  3. RichieMarcus
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    RichieMarcus Member

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    Thanks for the reply!

    I suppose 'Chameleon' wasn't the greatest example I have, but it was an example nonetheless. The 'designations' are indeed what was intended to be their real names. If it wasn't for the 'test subjects' finding them undesirable, that's what they would've referred to each other as, hence why they're referred to as their 'nicknames' for most of the story. The head of the test project will even make a comment in the epilogue on how they've rejected their designations in favor of individual names, something he finds annoying since he refers to them by their number. My intention is that the reader will become so familiar with their 'nicknames' they will all but forget their designations by the end of it, only to be reminded in the epilogue.

    A curious coincidence our characters have the same diminutive name. I would hazard a guess it's one of the reason you replied in the first place?
     
  4. Carly Berg
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    Carly Berg Contributing Member

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    I'd think one nickname aside from their designated numeric name would be enough. Three names for each character is a lot to keep track of.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that need for more explanation here. Why are you repeating the character's name several times over, and why would a nickname help? Is it possible that a better solution is to find a way to avoid the repetition?
     
  6. RichieMarcus
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    RichieMarcus Member

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    This is more of a separate issue in of itself. Maybe it's just because I've been writing out the character's names over and over, but it feels repetitious to me.

    I've been mainly writing in the third person, and I bounce around with each character's perspective rather than stay anchored to one or two. I find that when I switch perspectives, I state their name first to be clear on who is doing what. I don't always do this for situations with a female and a male character interacting: I simply say 'He' and 'She'. But when I have two males or two females, I have the tendency to state their names instead of using pronouns.

    Now that I'm sitting here writing all this out, I think it might be a different matter involving how I structure sentences and paragraphs. I can post a sample if need be.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be interested to see the sample, yep.
     
  8. RichieMarcus
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    RichieMarcus Member

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    Alright. Here it is. Both of the characters are female, so I don't end up using 'He' and 'She':

    Felix walked in the shack, with Death-Watch's back turned. Cleaning her rifle as usual. "You ever get bored of cleaning that thing? I swear half the time that's what you're doing."

    Death-Watch heaved a sigh. "Not much else to do around here, aside from running through the jungle and getting shot at by mercs." She pulled the cleaning rod from the barrel. "Besides, I need to keep this clean after each use."

    Felix crossed her arms and leaned against the door frame. "You only fired it once earlier, and that was to shoo off a bird." She chuckled.

    "Doesn't matter." Death-Watch grabbed a nearby rag and wiped down the barrel. "Still have to clean it."

    Felix would've objected, but she knew how much Death-Watch was stuck in her ways. Seeing her give it a final wipe with the rag signaled she was almost done anyways. "So now that you're done, what now?" She asked in a half-smart ass tone.

    Death-Watch sneered. "I didn't say I was done. I still got to give it a second cleaning."

    Felix mentally rolled her eyes. This obsessive need of hers was annoying at best. "I have a better idea." She reached into her bag, pulling out the deck of cards she scavenged earlier. "How about we play cards?"

    Death-Watch turned her head back, her deadpan gaze centered on her. "Cards?" She asked, expecting her to realize the fault in her logic.

    "Well yeah. I picked up a little on some of the game rules, and we-" Felix paused. One look at Death-Watch was all she needed to remind her of her literal lack of vision. How could she explain the rules of a card game to someone who's completely blind? Feeling embarrassed, she turned around to leave. "Nevermind."

    It just wrote this up now, but it's pretty representative of everything else I've written so far. The main point I want to address is does it seem repetitious how much I use each character's name?
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe just a little, but I don't think that a nickname would help--it would be another repetition of the name, except a confusing one because it would be a different name.

    Some thoughts:

    - The tags/beats could be moved away from the beginning. The same name repeated over and over as the first word of a paragraph is more obvious than the same name appearing inside the paragraph.

    - Since this is a conversation between just two people, you don't need each paragraph to have either a tag or a beat.

    - However, that does mean that the paragraphs should follow the usual custom of each paragraph "belonging" to a single character, whenever possible.

    A sample rewrite to push the names around, and to remove a few of them. I'm not suggesting this AS a rewrite; it's just to demonstrate the ideas.

    ----

    Felix walked in the shack.

    Death-Watch's back was turned. She was cleaning her rifle as usual.

    Felix said, "You ever get bored of cleaning that thing? I swear half the time that's what you're doing."

    "Not much else to do around here, aside from running through the jungle and getting shot at by mercs." Death-Watch pulled the cleaning rod from the barrel. "Besides, I need to keep this clean after each use."

    A chuckle. "You only fired it once earlier, and that was to shoo off a bird."

    "Doesn't matter. Still have to clean it." Death-Watch gave the weapon a final wipe, apparently done.

    Felix would've objected, but she knew how much Death-Watch was stuck in her ways. "So now that you're done, what now?"

    "I didn't say I was done. I still got to give it a second cleaning."

    Sigh. This obsession was annoying at best. "I have a better idea. How about we play cards?"

    Death-Watch turned her head back, her deadpan gaze centered on Felix. "Cards?" she asked.

    "Well yeah. I picked up a little on some of the game rules, and we-" Felix paused. One look at Death-Watch was all she needed to remind her of her literal lack of vision. How could she explain the rules of a card game to someone who's completely blind? Feeling embarrassed, she turned around to leave. "Nevermind."
     
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  10. RichieMarcus
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    RichieMarcus Member

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    I have noticed this trend in my writing, though I rarely try to address it. I'll keep a conscious effort to watch for that.

    That's one thing I'm usually good at doing, though it often feels like the paragraphs are too short. I do realize that a simple conversation doesn't have to drag on for half a page unless it's actually necessary to delve deeper beyond the characters' surface thoughts.

    At any rate, I'll keep these points in mind. Thanks for the advice!
     
  11. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    Hmm... It would depend on the nickname and the person using the nickname. It can depend on the mood of the person talking to the your character.
    Let's take Kimberly for example:
    Kimberly
    Kimmie
    Kim
    Bee

    All can be used by one person and depending on their mood, the way they address the other character will change as well. Make sense?
     

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