1. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2017
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Denver, CO

    Are code names in books stupid?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Alex Brandt, Apr 25, 2017.

    I'm writing a contemporary fantasy that uses code names like the military (I'm a Top Gun fan, also Comic Books, so I figure it works). But it's starting to seem like a lot of unnecessary explanation for something that could mostly get a negative response, as opposed to just saying it's a nickname.
    My question: I know that they work well in comics and they can work in movies, but do they work in books?
     
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,953
    Likes Received:
    27,112
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    My first and sequel in prog. use nicknames instead of code names.
    It might just kinda be the go to cliche of military stories. Though
    they might be the same in real world application as well (IDK for sure).

    That doesn't mean they are bad to use by any means. Though you should
    have a good short explanation for why/how they got them, as they are something
    earned and not just passed around. Could be for doing something of valor and/or
    insane, or from something that haunts them from basic.
    For example, I have a secondary character that goes by Red Wolf, because she
    hunts like a wolf. I had another called Rhino (he died) that is the only known
    human to take on a Light Class Armor war-frame bare handed and win.

    As long as they fit the characters in someway you should be just fine. :supersmile:

    (Also there a quite a few around here that use code/nicknames in their stories.) :)
     
    Alex Brandt and Imaginarily like this.
  3. Imaginarily

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    753
    If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid.

    The medium doesn't matter, really. The real question is, "does this make sense?" Make sure these code names have a legitimate reason to be used (protecting identity at the very least, I assume), see if using them fits the setting, the plot, and so on.
     
    Alex Brandt and Cave Troll like this.
  4. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2016
    Messages:
    193
    Likes Received:
    127
    Code names and nicknames aren't quite the same. Code names are deliberately given to a person to either protect their identity or make communication easier mid-assignment. Nicknames are informally given out of affection or meanness. So if they're official names given by a superior, code names. If not, nicknames.

    If they're part of an organization, code names should work. Just don't try to give the explanation for every code name at once, that could turn into an info dump.
     
    Millamber likes this.
  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,953
    Likes Received:
    27,112
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Well in my WIPs case they work both ways. :D
     
  6. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2016
    Messages:
    193
    Likes Received:
    127
    Well yeah, they can be both if your code name becomes the name you're known by. Or your nickname sounds good enough to be a code name. Or people like torturing you, a la Archer. xD
     
    Alex Brandt and Cave Troll like this.
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,953
    Likes Received:
    27,112
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    To be fair I only have one secondary character that goes by theirs,
    and it bounces around a bit between the MCs. Pretty much everyone
    else goes by rank and name, kid, or sir/ma'am. :p
     
  8. JE Loddon

    JE Loddon Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2016
    Messages:
    207
    Likes Received:
    161
    Location:
    South-East, UK
    I don't think they require any explanation. Just use them. The readers should get it.
     
    Alex Brandt, xanadu and Imaginarily like this.
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    19,787
    Likes Received:
    22,820
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    You are talking about call signs and/or by names rather than code names ...

    A callsign is what you use to identify yourself on the radio... these can be assigned per mission, as with say Bravo Two Zero , or assigned permanently usually depending on position in a unit. (e.g delta 2/6 would be the commander of the 2nd platoon of delta company)

    By names are generally given for something you've distinguished yourself doing , either a characteristic... 'tiny' is probably huge, a behaviour "box" will be a pussyhound, or a funny incident e.g ralphie threw up on an admiral's shoes

    A code name is usually assigned to a third party to avoid revealing their real identity...

    So in my book After The Wave, the team leader of recon team Rapax would be Rapax 6, while his by name "Blade" derives from the knife he carries and his readiness to use it.

    As to whether they are stupid, i'd say that turns on how well they work in context - they should need little or no explanation if they work well. ( e.g in about chpt 3 of ATW Blade severs a man's ear with his throwing knife and tells him "Now you know how I got my name" )

    Also the last point on this in millitary etc circles nickname given by others is a mark of respect, giving yourself a nickname is seen as deeply tragic and walter mittyist
     
    Iain Aschendale and Alex Brandt like this.
  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    23,837
    Likes Received:
    20,807
    Location:
    El Tembloroso Caribe
    This. So many kinds of this. Big Bang Theory actually touched upon this when Howard Wolowitz joins the space program and tries to manipulate his astronaut nickname. Doesn't work. He ends up getting pegged as "Fruit Loops". Earning your nickname, assuming you even get one, is a right of passage. Can't be forced.
     
  11. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2016
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    1,272
    I would think that code names are more likely used in official transmissions that may be intercepted, probably less by people actually involved in it. I doubt anyone involved in The Manhattan Project actually called it The Manhattan Project while in Los Alamos. They probably simply called it the atomic bomb.
     
  12. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2017
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    I'm going more for concealing the identity.
    Okay. But how do you refer to it in your narrative when not speaking? ie. "Robbie collapsed into his weathered chair" vs "Hacksaw collapsed into his weathered chair."
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,342
    Likes Received:
    13,071
    But who are you concealing the identity from? Are you saying that the reader knows both Robbie and Hacksaw but doesn't know that they're the same person?

    Because if they know a character just as "Hacksaw", that is his identity--it's not concealed. They don't care if his legal name happens to be Robert Smith.
     
    Alex Brandt likes this.
  14. Imaginarily

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    753
    It depends on how rooted in the character their code name is. Do they ever go by their real name?

    If it was my character, I would probably just use their legal name in narrative and code name in dialogue.

    Also this is a good point. ^
     
    Alex Brandt likes this.
  15. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2017
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    They are concealing it against potential threats and a nebulous enemy (because the names have power and the world has magic) but the characters know each other and the audience knows both identities. Like Wolverine being addressed as "Logan" and "Wolverine" interchangeably.

    I like this idea though...
     
    Imaginarily likes this.
  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,342
    Likes Received:
    13,071
    It seems mostly harmless, then. I don't think that you need to explain it (you said "a lot of unnecessary explanation"). It can just be there, without explanation.

    "Where's my sandwich?" asked Susan.
    Joe gestured at Robbie. "Hey, Hacksaw, Little Pony wants to know where her sandwich is."
    Robbie looked up, chewing. "Mrph."
     
    Alex Brandt, malaupp and Imaginarily like this.
  17. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2017
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Excellent. Thanks everyone!
     
  18. Robeey

    Robeey Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Latvia
    I don't think anything is stupid, for a story written in your computer, or a book. It's all about being creative, and being yourself. As much as books are mostly judged to be serious, and formal'ish, that shouldn't barricade your creativity. This may sound completely dumb, But i'm just being real.
    :)
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice