Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A boy named Sue

I'm working on stuff. You know, little story ideas. Had a couple stories where people have commented that they would use a different diminutive for the hero's name. The new suggestions are usually softer.

Diminutives (or nicknames) can really change how we perceive the hero. Consider the case of Daniel. Daniel is a fine Old Testament name that conjures up images of an older fire and brimstone rigid male. Maybe someone's grandfather or the head of an old established firm.

Danny is either a young boy or the bluff slightly overweight life of the party. He's a little to loud and a little too...everything. Just a little "too". He works in construction or maybe even for the Department of Works.

Dan on the other hand could be a cop. Or a private investigator. Or a teacher. He's steady, dependable, reasonably sexy and when he settles on the woman, he's determined.

So which one would I want for the hero?

I know that authors have successfully pulled off using a softer name for their hero, but why start at a minus position? I think that writers can do them the same type of disservice by using a name that's too hard.

My publisher has a list of "do not use" names. I'm certain that most publishers eventually compile a similar list. Some of them are eliminated because of overuse. Others because of negative connotations.

Let's exam "Jake". Generally, it's a diminutive of Jacob. Personally, I find Jacob a masculine name that's approachable and conveys a sense of dependability and capability. I would be comfortable with Jacob. I think he would be a good, patient, thorough lover. Jacob could handle my PMS with equanimity.

Jake on the other hand...well Jake is impatient. He's a love 'em and leave 'em bad boy. He rides a motor cycle and wears a black leather jacket. Maybe he smokes. He likes his women in short skirts and high heels. And if he was presented with the possibility of a permanent relationship, he'd run in a heartbeat.

When settling on a name for the hero, cutesy doesn't do it. At least it won't if it's a running joke. Maybe a one time one-liner would be okay. Especially if it's either at the beginning or the very end of the story. Otherwise it's just distracting. Try out all the variations. Because sure as shooting if there's one that's weird, that's what your other characters will call him. It never fails.

Just don't name him Anny.


  1. I've often wondered if people hadn't called him Anni as a child if Luke's dad would have gone to the dark side. So glad I'm not the only one:-)

  2. And why he overcompensated by dressing in all black attire with a helmet shaped like a cock-head. Determined not to be compared as a sissy, he walks around instead as a giant scary phallus. Who breathes loudly, is a "warrior", and kills people with his dark mastery.

    No, no damage done to Anni's young psyche. *snort*

  3. I think naming characters is very important. No sissy names and sometimes the names are just so 'childlike'. Cory's and Cody's drive me Mad I tell you...MAD! Maybe it's because when my son was a baby, over 23 yrs ago every other boy born in our community was named Cory or Cody. So everytime I hear the name I think of a baby boy. Nope. I like strong, masculine names that can't be turned or manipulated into a sissy name.

  4. I can't see why a hero can't be called 'Annie' - why not? I kind of like thinking there is a tough guy out there ready to do whatever he has to regradless of his name - because it's irrelevant - and doesn't make him less of a man

  5. Names truly do make a difference...especially when it comes to characters in a book.