Is it acceptable to use both name and nickname when referring to my character?

Example: Vindici waited for Eustachio to make his way up the hill towards him. "What news?" Vindici asked.

"Well," Eustachio replied. "The duke is looking for a new servant. What do you say, Vin? Want to be a servant?" He Laughed.

Vin laughed with him.

This is not a passage from my work it's just an example for how the names are used. Now that the audience knows both name and nickname can I, the narrator, use both?

3 Answers 3


In my opinion it's jarring when the narrator uses different names for the same character. It has to be done for a reason.

Possible reasons why you'd want to do it:

  • If a particular passage is meant to reflect the internal monologue of it's POV character, and that person strongly prefers the nickname (or strongly rejects)
  • If a character has different personas or roles, and is acting in one of those roles that's different from their main role, or if the characters they're interacting with (and possibly the reader) aren't supposed to know that this person is the same as some other person
  • If the character has changed their name and want to be anonymous, and are referring to themselves differently now (in passages written from that character's POV)

Absent a good reason for the narrator to switch between names, I'd say you should pick one and stick to it. As a child, the multitude of names that practically every character had in The Lord of the Rings confused me, and I read the books at least once thinking that Saruman and Sauron were the same person. As an adult, I was annoyed when reading the Malazan series, where Ganoes Paran is called "Paran" by the narrator, but his sister Tavore Paran is called "Tavore". Some other characters are incognito or using rarely-used nicknames and that's annoying to keep track of. So be careful. Don't change the names lightly.

  • Seconded. This is one of those things that can be very effective when used carefully and appropriately, but annoying in the extreme when misused or used too often. Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 16:03
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    I agree, but I would also add that when a character is speaking, nicknames are fine. It's a different matter when you, the narrator, uses the nickname. Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 20:18

In so doing your narrator is suddenly thrust into a more personal relationship with the character, akin to the character with whom he is speaking.

That is not necessarily bad, but it shifts your narrator from a purely third person observer to something like a participant in the story. So just make sure that is what you intend.

Also calling some characters by a nick name and not others could have an editorial effect of favoring or warming to some more than others. Again, be sure that is what you want to do.


It depends on how it's used. It can work, but it can also be confusing. It's important to be consistent. For example, certain characters may call him 'Vin', others may say 'Vindici'. If you have lots of nicknames for lots of characters it becomes difficult to follow. If you're giving nicknames to one or two, it's a good way to demonstrate relationships and can also hint at how the narrator is feeling - or wants you to feel - towards the character.

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