I grew up without a nickname. At the time, it seemed like a tragedy to me.
Not only did I not have a nickname, I had this weird first name at a time when all I really wanted was to be just like everyone else. I was in elementary school in the 1970s and all I wanted was to be named Jennifer, called Jenny.
My best friend was named Belerma, and while she had a nickname–we called her Bele–we both struggled with having strange names. We actually lamented the fact that we couldn’t get personalized hairbrushes or pencils at the mall.
So, from the first grade I called her Katie and she called me Nicky. Even though we’ve both come to terms with our names, we still use those utterly made up names.
I think the name a person calls you has power though. So, my characters almost always have a couple of them.
For today’s Hump Day Writing Post, I’d like you to think about the name of your main character and whether or not there are any nicknames that the other characters in your book call them. What kind of power is there in those nicknames? How do the names make them feel?
I’m writing a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas. My main character is Robert Huntington.
The only person who calls him Robert is the antagonist, his father’s business partner who never calls anyone at all by a nickname. Because no one else uses his proper name, it feels stiff, almost distancing. As if the man is keeping Rob, and everyone, at arms length.
The first person he comes in contact with in the story is an employee who calls him Mr. Huntington–his father’s name. It’s hard to take that, when his father has just died. He starts to ask him to call him Rob, but he can’t make himself do that. Even though Mr. Huntington is far more formal than Robert, there is an affection in it. He’s called Rob Mr. Huntington since he was six years old, and even though he uses the formal name, he is affectionate with Rob. There is a sense that he would do anything for Rob.
His best friend calls him Robin, which was the name his mother (who died when he was six) called him. He likes that. It grounds him. Sometimes his friend’s father calls him Robin, too.
He thinks of himself as Rob, and most everyone calls him that. His father called him Rob, most of the time. They hadn’t been close for a few years.
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