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  #1    
Old June 13th, 2010, 09:38 AM
Giratina ♀'s Avatar
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Since the Fanfiction Lounge has been humanely euthanized, I'm just making a new thread to ask this question.

Say a character has a nickname that is used just as often, or more often, than his real name. Would you call him by his given name or his nickname in the narrative?
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Old June 13th, 2010, 10:30 AM
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It all depends on a few factors:

1. What the character would introduce themselves as to other characters. If their friends just call the character that while he goes off and introduces himself to new people as something else, you'd want to just have his friends refer to him as that nickname and refer to the character in the narration by whatever his real name is (or at least whatever he introduces himself as). If he prefers to use his nickname, you might as well use his nickname.

Obligatory fangirl example the first: Bill's real name is obviously William, but almost everyone calls him Bill. Technically, my headcanon says he doesn't actually care how people refer to him (either by William or his nickname), but he introduces himself as Bill because he personally prefers to refer to himself as that over his legal name. Hence, the narration calls him Bill and not William because the latter is almost never used, even by Bill himself.

2. What you want to do. Occasionally, even if a character prefers his real name over his nickname, the narration ends up referring to him by the nickname for plot reasons.

Obligatory fangirl example the second: In Anansi Boys, we're introduced to a character whose real name is Charles. He prefers that name and introduces himself to everyone as that, but everyone (including the third-person narrator) refers to him as Charlie or Fat Charlie. This is because his father gave him the name as a child to tease him, and the name stuck... because his father happened to be a very charismatic god. Hence, the narration ends up referring to Charles as Charlie as a way of saying that his father was that influential and as a way of building the kind of tone you just see throughout the book.

As a note, the reverse is also true. Sometimes, no matter how much a character tries to get people to call him by a nickname, the narration ends up calling him by his real name or something else, also usually to build the tone or say something about the character.

3. How many names this character says he has. Sometimes, the character is introduced with one identity -- be it real or fake -- and is referred to as that because the names he gives other characters (or the names the other characters give him) keeps changing.

I really can't think off the top of my head a suitable example, but the closest might be {...} in Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name.


And there's probably other factors, but I'm too out-of-it to come up with decent examples. So, long story short, personally? I just go with however I introduce them. It just depends on the circumstances.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 10:31 AM
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Depends on how he sees himself and what the nickname is. Does he introduce himself by his nickname? Like, there’s a difference from being named Alexander and being referred to as Xander and being referred to something completely different, like Striker for whatever reason.

EDIT: ninja-d by Jax, like woah.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 10:41 AM
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Yes, he does introduce himself by his nickname - of course, I was a little iffy about using it, considering that people do get confused when you've got a sixteen-year-old juvenile delinquent named Lugia. I just wanted to know if nicknames were considered improper as opposed to legal names (in this case, Marzel).

Also, Valentine, you just won an Internet for the Anansi Boys example.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 05:49 PM
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We'd only get as confused as your narration and descriptions allowed us to. If you're relatively clear and consistent, it will be perfectly understandable and there's no reason not to call the character by his nickname. In fact, it'd probably be confusing if 99% of the characters used the nickname but the narration stuck to the real one--it's not technically wrong, but it would feel jarring to bounce back and forth between the two names constantly.
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Old June 20th, 2010, 11:12 PM
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I'd say it depends on your own attitude towards the character. If everyone in the story calls him X and you, the narrator, constantly call him Y, it sends a really subtle message to the reader that you think he's really more of a Y than an X. And since you're the narrator, you know best. For instance, say your character wants everyone to call him Samuel, but you refer to him as Sammy. It might make him look less serious, maybe even somewhat ridiculous. Or maybe everyone calls your character Junior, but you call him Benjamin. That might suggest that he resents his nickname and is more of an adult than everyone else thinks.

Basically what JX Valentine said before me. You just can't take a character seriously when the narrator calls him Fat Charlie.
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Old June 20th, 2010, 11:33 PM
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I would say you (the narrator) would call a character by what the character would his or herself in a mental monologue. Like how I call myself Tim in a mental monologue and others call me Timmy. If someone wrote a story about my life, the name I call myself would be the name that the writer would call me, with Timmy being the name that is called by all of the people who (want to) talk to me (except for my friends who actually know to call me Tim or decide to call me Timmy if I did something stupid). Overall, call him what you think the character would want readers to call him/her.

I have two nicknames actually. Tim and Timmy. Real name's Timothy. Only people that call me Timothy are my family when they are mad. I prefer Tim.
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