December 22, 2008

Writing Tip 6: Nicknames, Mary Reed/Eric Mayer

Writing Tip 6: A Rose By Any Other Name...

Authors Mary Reed and Eric Mayer know something about names, having written seven books in their John the Eunuch mystery series set in 6th century Constantinople, beginning with ONE FOR SORROW and the latest, SEVEN FOR A SECRET (Poisoned Pen Press).

Reed says, "In deciding what to call one's characters, nicknames can be very useful.

"Take for example stylites, holy men who lived atop lofty columns, standing there in all weather and never descending to earth.

"Two such stylites are Leo the Castigator and Luke of the Silver Tongue. Both, alas, came to bad ends.

"In the short story 'Leap of Faith,' published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Leo is murdered in full view of Empress Theodora and half the court while standing alone atop his pillar in an open air/locked room-type mystery. Luke is killed by spontaneous combustion under similar circumstances in our second novel, TWO FOR JOY.

"We venture to suggest their nicknames -- based upon their respective ways of addressing the faithful -- not only add color to their brief appearances, but also indicate their personal characters by employing what we recommend as a useful sort of literary shorthand."

-- Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, authors of the John the Eunuch Mystery series.

In the current, SEVEN FOR A SECRET, Lord Chamberlain, John spends his days counseling Emperor Justinian while passing the small hours of night in conversation with the solemn-eyed girl depicted in a mosaic on his study wall.

He never expected to meet her in a public square or afterwards find her red-dyed corpse in a subterranean cistern. Can he find the truth in time?

** Do you give your characters nicknames? How much do they reveal their character?


  1. One of my characters gave a nickname to another character - David nicknamed Giganto because of his size. Bubba and Giganto: Odds Against Us is a YA drama where bullying is a top issue.

    Loved this nickname post.

  2. I love reading nicknames, and those are great ones, but I'm not very good at coming up with them.

    The most I can do is avoid the very annoying "Blue Ford Man" or similar tags used when the protagonist doesn't know a person's name.

    I did come up with Little Boy for a guy whose hobby is studying the Manhattan Project. LOL

    Camille/Margaret Grace

  3. Lea, Giganto is a great name! Camille, I'm with you, nicknames can be hard. I seem to come up with forms of their real name (Sam, Samantha, Theodora, Theo), Yeah real creative. ha!


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