What’s in a (nick)name?

How many people do you know who go by the name their parents put on their birth certificate?

Okay, probably at least a few, but do you know anyone who ALWAYS goes by that name? And if you do know one or two who do, what does that choice mean?

Why did Madeline L’Engle have everyone call the little brother Charles Wallace even though the sister was Meg (short for Megan)? Does it mean something about Charles Wallace, or about the way the rest of the world interacts with him? Or both?

I’ve been thinking a lot about nicknames. When people know each other well, they often naturally come up with something to call the other that usually isn’t their exact birth name.  Someone named Charles (or Charlotte, for that matter) could be Charlie, Chuck, Chewie, Duck, or something else entirely, depending on how they got their nickname and who is speaking to them.

And the way a person says another’s name, or which name or nickname they use, means something as well. For example, when parents call out to their children, the number of names and the formality generally says something about how much trouble they’re in.

This got me to thinking about what my characters call each other. For the most part, they’ve been using their actual names. Therefore, I’ve begun creating possible nickname lists and backstories as to how they got that nickname. (Though, I honestly still don’t know where Duck came from; maybe one of his friends thought it was funny to call him that because it rhymes with Chuck?)

How do you use nicknames in your writing? How often do your characters call each other by their actual names? Do you create backstories for where the nicknames came from?

I’d love to hear more about your process in the comments below.

Happy writing!

Photo of name badges by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Photo of George by George Becker on Stocksnap.io

2 thoughts on “What’s in a (nick)name?

  1. I love the idea of a backstory for a characters nickname, even if it never comes out in the book.
    And Duck is clearly a swimmer names Charles William White III

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.