Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Can" Is Short For Candy

But, does that mean I want to be referred to as a metal object or an auxiliary verb? Not really. Do you find yourself wanting to shorten your character names? I have two characters, in two separate stories, where I've shortened their names. I've mentioned them as examples below in blue.

Ex: Josephine (an inherited family name), I shortened to Josey. There is a significant reason she's named after her great-grandmother, and it's revealed in the end of the story, but she's referred to as "Josey" for the entire ms.

I guess if a character reveals a "Cathy" instead of "Catherine," then by all means, shorten her name. Reveals being the key word. It's more about who the character is, rather than typing a shorter name.

I'm currently reading a YA Paranormal Romance, which I will refrain from giving the title. My point for this post is not to bash other authors / writers. I'm in no position to judge. I'm merely making a writing style observation.

This particular author chose to give each character a shortened first name, like a nickname. Ex: Can for Candy. I can (no pun intended) see doing this for maybe a character or two, but all of them? I'm talking every character brought into the pages of this story has a shortened name.

I'm so crazy-busy flipping back the pages to figure out who Ran or Til are, that I'm losing plot focus, majorly! (I made up the nicknames Ran and Tin, btw.)

On the other hand, I think if it fits the character, use a nickname. Ex: I have a character named Magdalene, in which she goes by Mags. But, Mags fits her personality. She can't help it that her mother is an artist, born of German decent, and merely adored the classic biblical name when Mags was born.

As writers, what do you think about an author's use of shortened names? When you read novels with shortened names such as, Bal or Tin, do you find it distracting?

On a slightly different note...
Speaking of character names, when I'm naming a thug, criminal, sketchy or questionable character, I like to use the following pattern:

Pet name + Mother's maiden name = character name. I've used a few pet names and maiden names in the family to put together some great names!
Ex: Moochey Smith, Tweetie Greene, and Bones McCall

I can't recall where I picked up that trick years ago, but feel free to pass it on if you find it useful.

Upon my research about naming characters or using nicknames for characters, I went into information overload online. But, here are a few great sites:

Click here for an in-depth post about naming characters:  A Guide to Naming Characters
This site has a free downloadable name generator: Character Name Generator
Great naming resource!
To find cool names for almost anything such as, monsters, organizations, taverns, strange beings, places, settings, worlds, diseases, etc.  CLICK HERE *I particularly found this site helpful!* 
This naming site gives you all you need to know about names! Behind the Name
For fantasy or sci-fi type character naming: Go here

Here's a funny name generator if you're looking to name a pirate: What's your pirate name?
(My pirate name is "Cap'n Misty Cannonballs". No kidding.)

Do you have a favorite technique for naming characters and want to share?

Does anyone else remember the Name Game song by the lovely Shirley Ellis? We used to have so much fun "doing" everyone's name in the family. Enjoy!

 "Candy, Candy, Bo Bandy, Bonana Fana Fo Fandy,
Fe Fi, Mo Mandy, Candy!"


  1. Wow, Candy. I put a lot of thought into naming characters, but there is not nearly as much method to my character-naming madness!!! Just as a side note, I ended up using the pen name I wanted for one of my MCs and now use my real name as my author name.

  2. None of my characters have nicknames. Of course, I write science fiction, so the names themselves are already odd. (But short!) And i just take about thirty minutes per book to brainstorm unique names and then match them up with the characters.

  3. It's interesting. In my current MS I'm querying, one of my MCs is given a nickname by the other MC. Its done for a reason. Their relationship is growing and he wants to call her something 'less formal' is how he words it. :) I love nicknames. Like the idea that people who know you really well get the 'okay' to call you something different. Or you pick a nickname for yourself to help define you, as you.

    But now thinking about that...none of my characters in my current WIP have nicknames! I'm shocked because I love nicknames. So...I guess that just means that nicknames didn't fit for any of these characters. :)

    Great post...Can ;)

  4. I choose my names quite carefully. Elu means one thing in Apache and yet another in ancient Semite. He is not what he appears in my novels and in a way both meanings of his name apply! Meilori and Samuel both have reasons for their name. Samuel in ancient Hebrew means God has heard. It is an ironic name for an agnostic whose long life has drained him of his faith -- yet he is often an answer to the prayers of those whom he helps. Victor's name stems from his determination to be the victor in whatever skermish he finds himself in -- if only in never giving in. He says it is more than his name; it is his nature. Same with the last fae, Fallen --- and so on. Great post, Roland

  5. I have a character whose name has all sorts of derivatives. I use them all, based on the situation. I try really hard to keep all the other character names to their long versions unless there's some familiarity I'm attempting to show between characters.

  6. A few names just came to me when I wasn't thinking about my story and I just knew they fit. A few I had to tweak a little. For others, I went to old yearbooks and mixed and matched names that I thought would give life to my characters. For my WIP progress, I used an anagram generator to come up with some cool names. Very interesting post!

  7. I remember do the Name Game song with friends. Such fun we had ;)

    There is an author, J.C. Martin, and she shortened her character's name to Sam, short for Samantha. But like your use of Mags for Magdalene, it is part of her personality, not a matter of shortening just to shorten it. Too many shortened names can be quite confusing.

  8. Hiya
    I like the name Moochie, good one. Yes, I agree with you, don't keep changing the characters' names all the time. It's too confusing for the readers and heaven knows, you want to make sure they don't have to go searching in the pages to get clear on some detail. I'm having a heckuva time trying to figure out my next female lead's name. In fact, I can't even do freewrites until I figure this out!

  9. Wow, Angelina! You beat Alex here! When you stop to think about it, it is quite maddening! Some characters the name just "pops" into my head, and others take me days, weeks sometimes! I think Angelina C. Hansen is a perfect author name. :))

    Alex, in my research one of the criteria for picking sci-fi names is "short names" or "long names" when using the generators. When reading, I'd prefer the short, catchy sci-fi names. Akar, is one I'd use if I wrote sci-fi. :)

    Hey Kel! I took a week off and went to Chicago. I've missed the blogosphere and all of these great faces! Thanks for the comments, and I'm with ya, if they fit, use it. I like that your character wants a sweet name for your other character. That's "character" in itself. :))

    Roland, you of all people I know pick their names extremely carefully. It is so evident in your writing. Victor couldn't have a more perfect name. :)

    Jack, situational character naming is exactly what we authors should do. Some work and others like the book I just put down, do not. Thanks for the comments!

    Michael, I've used the phone book before for surnames. Sometimes it's just so hard to decide on one! I never thought of using yearbooks, thanks!

    Angela, Sam for Samantha, yeah, I'd use Sam too. Btw, I got to page 84 last night on that current read and literally tossed it on the floor! She introduced yet another new character and put the real (whole) name in parenthesis! Ack. I couldn't take anymore. I felt like I was a juggler of 3-letter names!

    Catherine, Actually Moochie I put an "ie" at the end. His name was Mooch, but with Smith being one syllable, I decided to alter Mooch and make it two syllables. I think it rolls off the tongue better. :-) You should try one of the sci-fi or fantasy name generators for your new female. They're quite fun!!

  10. Oh, I love your pattern for coming up with names for your questionable characters. That's so creative. I often make up names for my characters or they just pop into my mind (real, not made-up names). So far, I've been blessed with matching the right names to my characters.

    As far as shortening the names - if it's done sparingly, it usually enhances the characters and the story itself. But too many shortened names call too much attention and distract from the plot.

    1. Angela, have I told you before, you have a super-great smile in your profile pic!!! It makes me smile just looking at ya!

      Definitely. I actually put the book down last night, tossed it more like it. I've vowed not to pick it back up again. 11 characters with shortened names so far. I just don't have time to keep up with it all. Distraction, definitely.

  11. Oh, I so glad I stopped by, Candy. I'm going to mark those name sites.

    I tend to use baby-naming sites (if the character doesn't tell me their name) and there is one with all the national backgrounds of names.

    When it comes to shortening names, hmm. I have shortened them when it fits the story. I don't shorten every name and when I do use a nickname, I tend to use both names through out the story.

    I am NOT going to listen to that song! If I do, it will be in my mind all day, lolol!


  12. I love naming characters, and I always try to make it have some sort of significance... for the main ones, anyway. In one my novels, the main character is called Serenity because her parents are hippies. But she's anything but serene, constantly striving to reach her ambitions.

  13. I have a Josy in my book, too! (minus the e ;) I adore making names for my characters, especially in this last book because they're all named after people from the Bible (Josy for Joseph).

  14. Glad you found the sites useful, Sia!!

    Talli, thanks for the visit. :) I adore when characters are named a particular name, but defy everything is stands for. Kind of like my name.

    Juliana, So your Josy is a male character? Cool. Actually, one of my favorite old movie western characters is Josy Wales. Except, I can't recall, but I think his name has an E in it...hmm?