Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Use of character names in narrative (different question this time)

Crumbly Writer

OK, in an entirely different story, I'm playing games with names. I have the main character who uses a two letter abbreviation as his name ("Al", in lieu of "Albert"), who calls his sister "Be" as a pet name (instead of "Betty"). After they discover others like them, they decide they have more in common than they do their families, and the others begin calling Betty "Be" as well.

My question is, is it appropriate to change Betty's name to "Be" in the narrative to focus on everyone's change in perception (that Betty no longer considers herself to be Betty, and neither do the other main characters)? Or will that just cause confusion and confuse the POV of the 3rd Omni narrator?

Ernest Bywater

Yes, I would.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

My first instinct would be to use the name the character was introduced as. So in your case, in the narrative it would be Albert and not Al.

Saying that, I'd do whatever felt right.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

One thing I typically do, especially when introducing a character after they get independently mobile and have a nickname is to include the nickname in italics when I introduce them, then will often use that to refer to them. Thus you get things like:

Robert 'Dusty' Rhodes - this allows me to call him Dusty all the time in both dialogue and narrative, should I want to.

sejintenej

I think this comes down to the principle of the matter. You have the official name and the nick/common name- fine and common. My nickname has changed over the years, in "A Well-lived Life" a change in nickname occurs and I think Ernest is right that you have to be very clear when a name gets changed.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


My first instinct would be to use the name the character was introduced at. So in your case, in the narrative it would be Albert and not Al.


Technically, "Albert" was never introduced. He begins the story as "Al" with no explanation, while his sister is introduced as "Betty", but whom he calls "Be" in his dialogues as a pet name.

I know it's appropriate to have those around them refer to each other by the newer names, but you rarely specify names in dialogue, so the name changes become largely invisible. I was hoping to make them a little more obvious, at least for a chapter or two, by emphasizing how their perceptions of who they are has changed (their becoming their own people, rather than who they're expected to be).

I might be expecting names to do more than they were intended to do, though.

One thing I typically do, especially when introducing a character after they get independently mobile and have a nickname is to include the nickname in italics when I introduce them, then will often use that to refer to them.


Ernest, again, these weren't the names they were introduced with (aside from Al), they're 'adopted names' that the individual characters take on to set themselves apart from their previous identities (to emphasize they no longer feel they belong to their previous lives). It's a different mindset I'm trying to capture, via the use of names (in the narrative, since the use in dialogue is rare).

I guess I can have them 'introduce' themselves to new people, where I use your italic technique', to help cement the name, but those situations are several chapters removed, and may occur a bit late to signify the change which has taken place (and potentially confusing readers even more).

I think Ernest is right that you have to be very clear when a name gets changed.


OK, I think I'm doing that, as there's a transitional scene, where the foursome verbally agree to change their names (at least amongst each other). I then began to reference the new nicknames in the narrative to reflect their new reality, but was afraid I might be making a mountain out of a molehill.

By the way, it's a tale of alienation (by society) and isolation (by the group). The name changes represent their setting themselves apart from the wider society. It's more of a mental image thing by the group, as they change their membership in society.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Since the omni narrator knows the characters' names and their changes from the off, I might wonder why the narrator didn't maintain consistency throughout.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

but you rarely specify names in dialogue,


This is one time fiction dialogue doesn't follow real life dialogue. You use names in dialogue more than people typically do to avoid needing dialogue tags.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

This is one time fiction dialogue doesn't follow real life dialogue. You use names in dialogue more than people typically do to avoid needing dialogue tags.

If you have more than two people in a dialogue, referring to someone else by name doesn't identify who the speaker is. Even when you only have two people speaking, using someone's name is an unnecessary identification tool, as it's generally assumed the two speakers will alternate speaking.

In a formal setting (like my Congressional Inquiry, or at a high level cabinet meetings), names are more likely to be used. But in more free-wheeling discussion, friends don't refer to their friend's names. It's just odd to someone do this, even in print (electronica?).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Even when you only have two people speaking, using someone's name is an unnecessary identification tool, as it's generally assumed the two speakers will alternate speaking.


Even with only two people, when the dialogue gets long it's good to remind the reader who's speaking. It can be done with action, a dialogue tag, or using the other person's name.

Using a name can also be used to redirect the dialogue. For example when John and his sister are arguing and John wants his mother's opinion:

John looked at his mother. "What about you?

or

"Mom, what about you?"

To me, using names appears in fiction dialogue more often than in real life.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  funkso
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

To me, using names appears in fiction dialogue more often than in real life.

I'm aware of that, but for me, it's a glaring story pothole and I tend to avoid them. I prefer using action tags (in an ongoing dialogue).

However, in a two-person dialogue, you don't need any kind of attribution nearly as often as you do with a large group of active speakers.

Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

Technically, "Albert" was never introduced. He begins the story as "Al" with no explanation, while his sister is introduced as "Betty", but whom he calls "Be" in his dialogues as a pet name.

I know it's appropriate to have those around them refer to each other by the newer names, but you rarely specify names in dialogue, so the name changes become largely invisible. I was hoping to make them a little more obvious, at least for a chapter or two, by emphasizing how their perceptions of who they are has changed (their becoming their own people, rather than who they're expected to be).

I might be expecting names to do more than they were intended to do, though.


I'm finding this topic interesting. To date, I've never run across anyone saying that there are specific rules governing how character's names should be used within narration. If anyone has a professional source who states this, I'd be interested to see it.

To me, when it comes to character names, what is most important are the names that you use. Personally, CW, I like that you are taking common everyday names and adding a little bit of originality to them (although Al itself isn't original, Be for Betty, is less common (I think).

I usually cringe any time an author begins their opening by listing out such common names. I think it's okay to use the most common of names (sometimes) in your work, but in real life, most mothers go out of their way to avoid names like; Bobby, Sue, Laura, Harry, Tom, Joe, Frank, Jimmy (or Jim Bob). Because the tendency is (IRL) to avoid such common names, it is my opinion that we should too as authors and that is where I think our efforts should be when talking about character names.

Replies:   Dominions Son
funkso

@Switch Blayde

To me, using names appears in fiction dialogue more often than in real life.


Well yeah, in real life you're typically facing the person, or on the phone with them.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@funkso

Real life also doesn't come with a narrator.

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

Because the tendency is (IRL) to avoid such common names, it is my opinion that we should too as authors and that is where I think our efforts should be when talking about character names.


This statement is just a heaping pile of absurdity. If a majority of parents actually went out of their way to avoid common names, there wouldn't be common names in the first place. Over time, certain names can fall in-and out of favor, but that just changes the list of common names.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

For stroke stories particularly, authors seem to deliberately target ordinary names for their participants, perhaps in order to avoid implicating people with unusual names. But changing trends plus migration mean that names common in the author's youth might actually be rather rare nowadays.

AJ

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@awnlee jawking

One of the possible problems, issues, situations (pick one, I couldn't) with Al is that the full name could be Albert, Alfred, Alexander, Alvin and maybe I left a few out. Is AlGore a name? Allegory? There may be some girls names that claim the Al contraction. Alma, maybe. I left out Alouwichous. I don't thinks that's spelled right but my spell check has no correction to offer. Unless the naming parent wanted just plain Al, it might be a good idea to introduce the character with his real name before you start saving electrons by shortening it.

I am not sure its necessary to call B either Be or Bea. There are enough people who use the first initial of the first name. F. Scott Fitzgerald comes to mind. Lets not get into the Elizabeth/Beth/Liz/Lizzy/Tizzy/Dizzy/Bets/Betty/Bea tangle. Or the Margaret/Margareta/Marge/Meg/Peg/Peggy problem, either. And various vowel shifts that give Margi or Piggy.

Names are complicated. Authors, please pick one or maybe a couple that you think fit the character and lets not fight about them. No Boys named Sue.

Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

just plain Al


The greatest Al was the angel in "Angels in the Outfield." He was wearing an American League umpire's hat (AL on the front).

Argon

@Crumbly Writer

Hi, I'm having a bit of a problem with "Be" as a nickname. It does not roll off the tongue very well, unless it is pronounced as "Bee". Using just the initial "B" would allow such a more comfortable pronounciation.
"Hey, B! Good to see you!"
Just my 5 cents.

Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

This statement is just a heaping pile of absurdity. If a majority of parents actually went out of their way to avoid common names, there wouldn't be common names in the first place. Over time, certain names can fall in-and out of favor, but that just changes the list of common names.

Replies: awnlee jawking


If you are suggesting that you believe everyone in your stories should bear the name Tom, Bobby, Sue, Mary, and Jim, then I say have at it. If that's as creative as your mind can get, have fun with it. To me, that's boring and mundane and I don't read, nor do I write stories so that I can be boring and mundane. Neither do most people.

I can't tell you how many reviews I have read on different stories where readers criticize an author in a negative fashion for overusing such common names. So again, I say, use them at your own risk.

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

If you are suggesting that you believe everyone in your stories should bear the name Tom, Bobby, Sue, Mary, and Jim, then I say have at it. If that's as creative as your mind can get, have fun with it. To me, that's boring and mundane and I don't read, nor do I write stories so that I can be boring and mundane. Neither do most people.


No, that is not at all what I am saying. I don't agree that common names should necessarily be absolutely avoided in fiction, but you do need to be careful not to overuse them.

However, you also suggested that there was a tendency to avoid such common names in real life.

It is that claim specifically that I am calling absurd.

If that claim was anywhere near true then there would be no such thing as common names.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Dominions Son


No, that is not at all what I am saying. I don't agree that common names should necessarily be absolutely avoided in fiction, but you do need to be careful not to overuse them.


Well, I wasn't suggesting (at least I didn't think I was) that you should never use them at all. I guess, what prompted the comment was that the last four stories I read from SOL, all had a main character named Bobby. I'm not kidding either. It isn't that I think an author shouldn't EVER use a common name, but I do think we should try to mix it up a little.

As far as the real life thing goes, that is my personal experience. Every time I am around an expecting mother, they are either in the process of going through baby name books, or have already done so. I can only remember a handful of incidents where the mothers chose their baby names without using reference materials to find a name, which isn't necessary if they wanted a common name. If they wanted a common name, they could choose it from the top of their head.

Maybe your experience is different. I don't know. All I'm saying here is what I see.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Chris Podhola


As far as the real life thing goes, that is my personal experience. Every time I am around an expecting mother, they are either in the process of going through baby name books, or have already done so. I can only remember a handful of incidents where the mothers chose their baby names without using reference materials to find a name, which isn't necessary if they wanted a common name.


I certainly don't dispute that there are parents like you describe who go out of there way to find less common names. However, As a matter of simple logic, it would be impossible for common names to exist in the fist place if the majority of parents were like that.

Common names exist in the first place because there are large numbers of people with those names. But for there to be so many people with such names, it can not be true that the average parent is deliberately avoiding such names.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

it would be impossible for common names to exist in the fist place if the majority of parents were like that.


Okay, okay. I give. I exaggerated the point a little. Of course, you are right. Common names are common because so many people pick them. Can we move on to the more important thing here. Is there any way we can convince the SOL authors to pick another name besides Bobby as their main character, please? (And yes, I know I am exaggerating here too).

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Chris Podhola

In the case of Lubrican, Bob is a meme which connects his stories. Another author uses, and has set up an eponymous universe for, George. I think that's perfectly okay for SOL - horses for courses.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin


Alouwichous


Aloysius.

Having rather a long wait to come back into fashion.

AJ

Chris Podhola

@awnlee jawking

Never read any of Lubrican's stories. So does that mean that other SOL authors are copying his main character's name? Or possibly there is some unwritten SOL rule that says a certain percentage of SOL stories must have the main character named Bobby? I don't know. All I know is that I read the first one, forgiving the common name. The second story, I kept remembering things from the first story and applying them to the second because both of them had main characters named Bobby, so I put that story down, even though it wasn't a bad story. By the third story, I put it down right away. It had other flaws besides the name Bobby, but I was starting to get annoyed that everyone was using the same name. The fourth one, I don't even know if it was a good story or not because as soon as I saw the name Bobby, I left the story.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

In the case of Lubrican, Bob is a meme which connects his stories


Just Plain Bob too.

Some names will always be common because of the biblical reference -- John, Peter. In my novel, the heroine's name is Elizabeth because she was named after John the Baptist's mother.

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

Now see... No matter what the name is, if the author ties it to a justified reason, I don't have an issue with it. You say Lubrican has some system he uses. I guess that's okay, but I will probably automatically avoid his stories now, so thanks for the tip. The same thing goes for the George thing. I'm more into creativity than marching down some preset line.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

You say Lubrican has some system he uses. I guess that's okay, but I will probably automatically avoid his stories now,


Lubrican's name is Bob. On Amazon, his author's name is Robert Lubrican. I just glanced at his books on Amazon and they have titles such as "The Bob Claus," "Uncle Bob's Charter Boat," and "Fiddling Around with Uncle Bob."

He's also one of the most popular authors on SOL. He either wins or comes near the top on SOL's contests. So to avoid his stories simply because he uses the name Bob is a mistake.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

He's also one of the most popular authors on SOL. He either wins or comes near the top on SOL's contests. So to avoid his stories simply because he uses the name Bob is a mistake.


Is it? I don't read authors just because they are popular. I don't read authors just because they write well. I read authors because they tell the types of stories I want to read and do so in ways that I find interesting. Based on the titles alone, I'm left yawning. I'm sure he's a fine writer. I hope he does well, but you have served to convince me even further that I wouldn't be interested in the tales he has to tell.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  Grant
awnlee_jawking

@richardshagrin


No Boys named Sue.


Well, some of the protagonists merit the label 'Mary Sue' ;)

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Chris Podhola


Based on the titles alone, I'm left yawning.


As a rule I think you'd do better to look at story codes rather than titles, whoever the author might be.

AJ

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@awnlee jawking

As a rule I think you'd do better to look at story codes rather than titles, whoever the author might be.


Oh, I do, when I am looking for something to read, but an author always has his first opportunity to catch a reader's eye with his title. The titles that were mentioned would probably be okay, I guess, to readers who like 'uncle' stories. Those, in particular don't jump out at me and could never be an effective lure. It's fine for those who like that kind of thing.

Even when I read sex stories though, what I really enjoy is creativity. Just because a story is sexual in nature, doesn't mean that the plot must solely revolve around sex. I prefer ones that have alternate sub plots, where the sex may be a major part of what happens, but there is more to it then that. When I see titles such as the ones pointed out, I usually assume the author lacks in that creative ability. I know it is probably wrong to judge that way. I am aware that I probably miss out on some good tidbits, but just because they say never judge a book by its cover, we all still do it. I'm no different.

But back to the original point, I start with a book's title, then I look at the description. If I'm still interested, I look at the tags. If I'm still interested, I open the story and give the first chapter a try. If the author can showcase their skills there, I usually read it to the end.

I have to admit, though... Quite often, I don't get beyond the first chapter. There are too many authors out there who start their stories by shoving backstory at me. I hate that.

richardshagrin
Updated:

@Chris Podhola

Not all common names come back into popularity. My grandparents were Adolph, May, Oscar, and Walda. Mr. Hitler ruined Adolph for most parents. Naming a motion picture prize Oscar didn't help parents of some Scandinavian heritage to use Oscar. I can't remember seeing a Walda other than my grandmother, although her middle name, Victoria, might make a comeback if British Royals use it again, they recycled Elizabeth with great effect. May is a spring name. The merry month of May. I think April (income tax time, ugh) and June (Cleaver) are more popular, but good girls names, not top winners, but I see the name used, sometimes. Other months are not so popular. July and August were stolen by and named for Julius Caesar, and Augustus Caesar. The winter month names aren't all that popular either.

Although Richard has all the elements any man would want, Rich and Hard, it isn't very popular. Maybe Richard the third or Richard Nixon are to blame.

Maybe someone who knows what he is talking about should add value to this discussion of why some names are popular and others aren't? One of the many fine attributes of Bob are that it is a palindrome and shorter than Robert, which starts out Rob (as in steal) and adds Bert, with Ernie a puppet. Most Alberts settle for Al, as Bert sounds something like a burp. Rhymes with hurt. Of course a province of Canada is named Alberta, for Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria.

Names, can't live with them, can't live without them.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

why some names are popular and others aren't?


My mother's name was Bella. Not a common name at all, until "Twilight."

richardshagrin

One thing about names I have noticed is the guy's names come back, next generation, as girls names. Tiffany was a guy, a jeweler, among lots of other things made Tiffany Lamps. Marlow(e) for girls, was a guy's name. My father in law was named Marlow and one of his sons is a Marlow, Junior. He goes by Buster. I was happy for him when the video store Blockbuster went out of business, so he isn't blocked so much. I am pretty sure there are other examples, but I can't think of one now. TTFN. (ta ta for now)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Tiffany was a guy, a jeweler,


Tiffany was the jeweler's last name he was Charles Lewis Tiffany

http://press.tiffany.com/ViewBackgrounder.aspx?backgrounderId=33

I am pretty sure there are other examples, but I can't think of one now. TTFN. (ta ta for now)

Michelle is a feminization of Micheal

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Some guy's names feminize with an "a" at the end. Alberta, Roberta, maybe Zenobia. Others add an "i" as in bobbi or Franki, Some add ie. Georgie. Or is that still a guy's name. Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry. Sounds like a story description to me.

Grant

@Chris Podhola

Is it? I don't read authors just because they are popular. I don't read authors just because they write well. I read authors because they tell the types of stories I want to read and do so in ways that I find interesting. Based on the titles alone, I'm left yawning. I'm sure he's a fine writer. I hope he does well, but you have served to convince me even further that I wouldn't be interested in the tales he has to tell.


Probably the majority of his stories don't interest me, but he has written several that I did enjoy. Many are now available to Premier members only, others are still available for all.

Flossie's Revenge was one particularly good one. Mistrusting a Memory was another.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Grant

How could anyone disrespect Beating Off Bob?

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

This statement is just a heaping pile of absurdity. If a majority of parents actually went out of their way to avoid common names, there wouldn't be common names in the first place. Over time, certain names can fall in-and out of favor, but that just changes the list of common names.

Actually, mothers try to avoid the overused, common names. Unfortunately, what happens, is that everyone gravitates to the same names, so "Jared" becomes the new "Bob" and the cycle repeats itself.

Chris, there's actually a reason behind my use of the nicknames, though it's not revealed until mid-story. I'll have to wait and see whether any readers guess what it is ahead of time. But the use of pet names, especially unusual ones, can really add a lot to a simple story. "Aw, you're so cute, my little pumpkin-face."

Richard, I introduce the main character as Al because that's how everyone knows him, but I drop his full name into the story (anytime someone who doesn't know him refers to him). I just don't focus on it.

As for calling Be "B", I don't know of a single person who is referred to by their initial, at least among friends and family. Instead, initials are used in official names or (in your example) to distinguish book covers. But I doubt Fitzgerald's lover ever called him "F.", unless she was pissed at him. If someone does use a single initial as a nickname, they'll spell it out, like "De" instead of "Donald".

Finally, naming the boy "Sue" in that song was what make the song so powerful. You can't pull something like that more than once, but when an unusual name works, it makes an impression (which is another reason to use distinctive names).

All, as far as my original question goes, I decided using the nick/pet names in the narrative was unnecessary. I tried it for a chapter and a half, the discovered I made the same point by using it (rarely) in the dialogue. Issue resolved on its own!

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Actually, mothers try to avoid the overused, common names.


Some do, some don't if that were universally true they wouldn't get overused in the first place.

sejintenej

@Switch Blayde

Some names will always be common because of the biblical reference -- John, Peter. In my novel, the heroine's name is Elizabeth because she was named after John the Baptist's mother.

and these can spread like wildfire because of the custom in some families of naming the first son and daughter after their father/son. Thus you can get Mike A, Mike A2, Mike A3, Mike A4 all living at the same time etc. Mike has thus got a handle on the "commonality" ladder.
I didn't get the name but we had an Ephraim in 1603 and it would appear in every generation and as two sons had sons they could, sometimes did both get named after their father / grandfather. Then we get disease; a brother and sister died on the same day (I assume disease) so the son was replaced by one with the same name. Next we have hope; the family firm did business elsewhere in the UK, was apparently famous so perhaps children were named Ephraim to seal the relationship with the family
and so it goes on
and on
and on

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer


I don't know of a single person who is referred to by their initial


You do now!

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I decided using the nick/pet names in the narrative was unnecessary


A lot depends on what the name is. I once knew a boy whose nickname was Sport because the initials of his first two names were P.E. and no one liked calling him P.E. or P, and he was too big and tough to upset and call him by his names of Percival Evelyn so it went through P.E. (school term for Physical Education) and into Sport; even the teaching staff and his father called him Sport and only his mum got away with calling him Percy when good and Percival when bad.

Just shows how they can get messed up, but what's important is to be consistent with what you use.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

As for calling Be "B", I don't know of a single person who is referred to by their initial


M in James Bond novels.

I think the guy who invents the gadgets is Q, but I'm not sure.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

M in James Bond novels.

I think the guy who invents the gadgets is Q, but I'm not sure.


Yes, but those are code names / titles not personal initials.

M = the head of MI6 (the agency Bond works for)
Q is the quartermaster for MI6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartermaster

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Yes, but those are code names / titles not personal initials.


James Bond's code name is 007, but he's called that and James and Bond. Those characters are only referred to by M and Q. We have no idea what their real names are.

In Crumbly's case, B (or Be) is the nickname her brother uses.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

James Bond's code name is 007, but he's called that and James and Bond. Those characters are only referred to by M and Q. We have no idea what their real names are.


True, as far as M and Q go, however for the stories they are usually minor characters, M is just there to give Bond his mission. And Q is just there to supply Bond with spy gadgets. In terms of importance to the story they are only a step above furniture.

Have you not considered the possibility that James Bond is itself a code name. After all, he's a spy/assassin/secret agent. If it was his real name, why would he use it on missions?

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


M = the head of MI6 (the agency Bond works for)


The first head of Military Intelligence section 6 used to sign papers only with the initial of his last name of C which was a sort of code because his name was hyphenated and he didn't use the first half, just the C from the last half. Thus a check against his official name didn't match up. This process of signing with only the initial of the last name was carried on by all future heads of MI 6, and they got referred to the same way. The head of MI 6 when Fleming started writing the James Bond stories was Sir Stewart Menzies or 'M' in his signature - late 1939 to late 1952 as head of MI6

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

he first head of Military Intelligence section 6 used to sign papers only with the initial of his last name of C which was a sort of code because his name was hyphenated and he didn't use the first half, just the C from the last half. Thus a check against his official name didn't match up. This process of signing with only the initial of the last name was carried on by all future heads of MI 6, and they got referred to the same way. The head of MI 6 when Fleming started writing the James Bond stories was Sir Stewart Menzies or 'M' in his signature - late 1939 to late 1952 as head of MI6

Interesting history on why Fleming Used M for the head of MI6. Do you have something equally interesting for why he just called the quartermaster Q?

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Have you not considered the possibility that James Bond is itself a code name. After all, he's a spy/assassin/secret agent. If it was his real name, why would he use it on missions?


Because he's super cool. :P

Hey, James is a common names and Ian Fleming got away with it.

I once worked with a James Jones. I asked him if he had trouble checking into motels with his wife. He asked why. I said because James Jones is so common. Then he asked me if I knew any other James Joneses which I didn't implying if it was THAT common I'd no more than one.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Hey, James is a common names and Ian Fleming got away with it.


I'm not actually familiar with the Flemming books, just the movies. Still, It would not surprise me at all if even in the books it was meant as a code name/false identity. Otherwise the Russians or whoever, could go after his family.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I asked him if he had trouble checking into motels


There's an organisation called the John Smith Society - membership requires you fill in an application, pay the fee, and provide evidence your full birth name is simply John Smith. I once worked with a man who was a member of it. There are national and International gatherings every few years where they book out entire hotels or resorts - depending on which gathering it is. There's also a wide range of discount clothes and other gear the members can buy. He said there used to be a joke about someone calling up the hotel and have Mr John Smith paged early on the first check in day, and they'd have fun watching the staff go crazy with the response. However, they pulled it too often and now the hotel staff get warned out about it in the weeks before the gathering occurs. But can you image the banquet arrangements - seating for 2,000 and every name tag at each seat reads exactly the same!!

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Otherwise the Russians or whoever, could go after his family


It wasn't the Russians. It was Spectre (sp?).

Did Bond have family? I don't remember them ever being mentioned. I guess he didn't need to hide his identity because of that.

I read several Bond books when I was a teenager. I loved them at the time. I forget which one it was, but the movie didn't do justice to the scene with the tarantula climbing between his legs under the sheet.

Replies:   ustourist
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Otherwise the Russians or whoever, could go after his family.


Hard to do because he's an orphan - but they do go for his wife when he gets married in one film.

ustourist

@Switch Blayde

I'm pretty sure that his background was given at one time and he was an orphan.

Grant

@Switch Blayde

In Crumbly's case, B (or Be) is the nickname her brother uses.

Written as Be I would read it as B E. Bee I would read as bee/b.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Have you not considered the possibility that James Bond is itself a code name. After all, he's a spy/assassin/secret agent. If it was his real name, why would he use it on missions?

Somewhere I quoted Ian Fleming on why he chose the name James Bond. Précied, it was because it was common and not noteworthy. I seem to remember that somewhere there was the briefest reference to his family but whether JB was his real name was not referred to.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@sejintenej


Ian Fleming on why he chose the name James Bond


According to wikipedia:

Although the stories and characters were fictional, a number of elements had a real life background, taken from real people or events that Fleming knew or about which he had read. These included the name James Bond, which Fleming took from the American ornithologist James Bond, Bond's code number-007-which came both from English spy and polymath John Dee, the breaking of a World War I German diplomatic code, Bond's character and tastes, as well as Fleming himself.

Fleming took the name for his character from that of the American ornithologist James Bond, a Caribbean bird expert and author of the definitive field guide Birds of the West Indies; Fleming, a keen birdwatcher himself, had a copy of Bond's guide and he later explained to the ornithologist's wife that "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born"

On another occasion Fleming said: "I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, 'James Bond' was much better than something more interesting, like 'Peregrine Carruthers'. Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure-an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department."

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

and these can spread like wildfire because of the custom in some families of naming the first son and daughter after their father/son. Thus you can get Mike A, Mike A2, Mike A3, Mike A4 all living at the same time etc. Mike has thus got a handle on the "commonality" ladder.

I've never heard of anyone names "A2", but my siblings are: Victor, Valerie and Vernon III (always referred to as "Copy"). My parents were Vera and Vernon Jr, while my grandparents were Vernon Sr. and "Gook" (my grandfather's nickname for Gladys). Oh, by the way, we lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia, drove a Volkswagon bus and had a dog named "Vip" (for "Very Important Puppy).

To this day, they claim it was all accidental, though they stopped having kids because the next boy would end up as either "Virgil" or "Vaugn". As it is, I'm the only non-Italian Vincent I've ever met!

People find their own way around the "I", "II" and "III" problem.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I decided using the nick/pet names in the narrative was unnecessary

Ernest, I didn't mean I've given up on using nicknames, only that, in this one instance, I decided to continue using "Betty" in the narrative while using "Be" in the dialogue. After writing several new chapters, I realized the message was adequately conveyed without monkeying around with the narrative form. But I use nicknames and pet names extensively in all of my stories, usually with very specific reasons which helps strengthen the relationship between the characters.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

James Bond's code name is 007, but he's called that and James and Bond. Those characters are only referred to by M and Q. We have no idea what their real names are.

That's known as 'lazy writing', where you're in a rush and don't want to stop and develop minor characters. Neither M or Q were significant characters, though after the first book he appeared in, Q became a surprisingly popular character, and the fans wouldn't hear of him being renamed. Both M & Q became more popular once the movies came out.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I'm not actually familiar with the Flemming books, just the movies. Still, It would not surprise me at all if even in the books it was meant as a code name/false identity. Otherwise the Russians or whoever, could go after his family.

The idea was that Bond was half egotistical and half over-confidence. He also had no family, which was a requirement of the double-O agents. When he did finally marry someone (in one of his movies), she died before the movie ended, proving your point.

Crumbly Writer

@Grant

Written as Be I would read it as B E. Bee I would read as bee/b.

Not given the context. It's assumed he calls her "Be" for the same reason he uses "Al" (which helps show how they think of themselves as a pair set off from the rest of the family). When they walk away from their family, and find others more like them, everyone assumes the same custom of using private nicknames within the group, to further separate them from the rest of society (it's a tale of alienation and searching for belonging).

"Bee" doesn't have the same correspondence to "Al", as it's a completely different name than "Betty". That's like calling Alfred "A3"!

Replies:   Grant
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I bet their favorite movie is "V for Vendetta"

People find their own way around the "I", "II" and "III" problem.


Way back in the 1970s, the CEO of American Express was James D. Robinson III. As WASP as you can be, so I was skeptical when they told me he was Indian (American Indian). When I said, "Huh?" they said, "Yeah, Jimmy Three-Sticks."

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Three is Tersius, the third in Latin, nicknamed Tersh. At least one I knew/knew of in Ohio.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Three is Tersius, the third in Latin, nicknamed Tersh. At least one I knew/knew of in Ohio.

Calling someone "Jim Jones Tersius" is as bad as calling them "C3PO the twenty-second". I understand the root of the word, but I've never heard those terms used in relations to anyone's name (that I've personally known) before.

My brother's name was Vernon Edward Berg the third (if spelled out), so it got reduced to "Copy". You can make names as obscure an indecipherable as you want, but it doesn't mean anyone will actually use them. The fact you know of only a single human being with that name (or named using that style of phrase) speaks volumes of its applicability.

richardshagrin
Updated:

I "goggled" Tersh. Actually I used Bing which comes on my computer. There were dozens of people who used Tersh as their first name. In some cases they showed another first name but clearly Tirsh was used as their nickname. There were a few people who had it as their last name. Some of them use it as an abbreviation for tertiary. Rather than the Latin word I used for third. Pretty much the same difference, an English word that also means the third in order. Oddly some of the people who used Tersh as a nickname were Juniors, Like John "Tersh" Smith, Junior. There were some people named with two or three regular names and ended in III, but their obituaries indicated they used Tersh as their name in conversations with friends and associates. It doesn't appear there is just one lonely Tersh in Ohio.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

OK, I concede. I've never met a Tersh, but clearly that doesn't mean there aren't any. Granted, I'd never name my kid "Tersh", but that doesn't make it a valid nickname (though I doubt that's the source of the family names).

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

Not given the context.

Even in context.
Al is a name that's been around for years, even on it's own & not just being short for Alan, so I would read it as Al.
I've known a couple of Bees (which were short for Beatrice) and even one woman whose name was Bee, but never a Be. Hence I would read it as B E.

richardshagrin

@Grant

I am a guy, but I got called Be a lot. Be quiet, Be good, Be still.

sejintenej

@Grant

Al is a name that's been around for years, even on it's own & not just being short for Alan, so I would read it as Al.

Agreed it is old but don't forget Albert, Alfred, even Alma and Allison. Very common abbreviation (I wouldn't call it a nickname in such cases) I can't think of it being a name on its own over here.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

Agreed it is old but don't forget Albert, Alfred, even Alma and Allison. Very common abbreviation.

That's why I list his full name later in the story when a reporter interviews him. I just wanted to introduce him as "Al" to set up the dynamic first, in order to emphasize the distinctions in the group's mind.

I did the same thing in another book with a character named "Em". She evaluated people based on how they referred to her based on her family history. Anyone who referred to her as Emma either didn't know her well, or were unconcerned about her. It played well into the character's development for the entire story.

Beyond that, I can't help whether readers read it as "Be", "Bea" or even "B.B. King". All I can control is the story I put on the page. How it evolves beyond that point is beyond my purview.

Back to Top