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I'm writing a contemporary romance novel. The hero's name is Jovanne Diedi De Rossi. Other characters call him by a variety of nicknames, Jay, Jo, Jove, Dee... I chose to go with JD as the narrator, so I'd write something like JD checked the time and realized he was running late.

I chose to do this because I don't particularly like the name Jovanne and I feel like it would be strange for readers to have to repeatedly keep reading it but is using JD worse?

I feel like I used to see characters with initials for names in books/TV series in the 90s maybe but now not so much. I can barely think of any off the top of my head. DJ from Full House... I don't want to come off like I'm writing a 90s character.

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    All of these issues go away if you pick a 'better' name for the character.
    – wetcircuit
    Jul 7 at 17:47
  • I always say that the narrative voice should use the name that the character would prefer to go by.
    – hszmv
    Jul 8 at 11:18
  • "I don't particularly like the name Jovanne" so why did you pick it? Is the character meant to dislike his own name? Sep 11 at 15:38
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It could be obvious from context that JD refers to Jovanne Diedi.

I have to disagree with Sciborg: it's fine if you don't like a character's name. You can still keep the name.

Is the character a good guy? A bad guy? A bad guy who becomes a good guy? A regular Joe? A very strange person? Thinking about all these things (and how you want the readers to react to a character over the novel) would be more helpful when it comes to naming a character.

If you truly believe the name Jovanne would annoy the reader, maybe the annoyance can be a beautifully literary thing whereby an ugly name contrasts sharply with a character's likeability.

Also, a strange or ugly name might hook a reader.

You can also experiment with the narrator using JD to refer to this guy for most of the novel, but then switching to Jovanne at certain points for dramatic effect. There's a lot you can play around with.

A name like Jovanne Diedi will stand out plenty and outweigh any possible 90's feel. (But initials as a nickname are still current, I believe.)

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    He's a bad guy who had a redemption arc but still isn't all the way good. — "You can also experiment with the narrator using JD to refer to this guy for most of the novel, but then switching to Jovanne at certain points for dramatic effect. There's a lot you can play around with." — It really does sound dramatic when they call him by his first name. It was very effective when I wrote an intense argument scene.
    – ZeeDaye
    Oct 8 at 20:58
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I don't particularly like the name Jovanne and I feel like it would be strange for readers to have to repeatedly keep reading it.

I'd hazard to guess that if you, the author writing this character, don't particularly like the character's name, and you feel like the audience won't either, you should change it to a name that you do like. Possibly you have some kind of constraints relating to worldbuilding or the way that characters are named in your world, but even then, you are the author. You can exercise full creative freedom to make your character's name more enjoyable to you and easier on the page. Simply changing the name is the easiest solution to making the character's name less of a hassle for you and the reader.

However, if you do really want to keep the name, using a nickname is perfectly reasonable. Just make sure you spend a sentence or two clearly connecting the nickname to the full name, before you then refer to them by that nickname going forward. It allows the reader to make the connection of "okay, this character has that nickname" and prevents the potential confusion of "wait, who is this JD guy who just showed up?"

For example, if I have a character named something a bit unwieldy like "Nicholaus" and I would rather refer to him by the nickname "Nick" in the story, I would throw in an establishing line that points out the nickname so it fits cleanly into the rest of the narrative.

Nicholaus - or, as he preferred it, Nick - had that special kind of romantic track record that a bookie would call "so far against the chalk that it falls off the board." Most people, in fact, thought Nick must have been born with a wrench jammed into the part of his brain that allowed him to communicate with attractive people of either gender.

However, some names don't really need pointing out. "Ally" is a very common and accepted nickname for "Allison," for example, and "Rick" is a common alias for "Richard," so that kind of nickname doesn't necessarily need the same callout.

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Well, I had the same problem you and I did to change the first name to something like Joe, William, etc. and call him/her by that and leave weird words for the middle name and the last name. By the way, I suggest calling your character "Rose" or "Jade"

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  • "I suggest calling your character "Rose" or "Jade"". In the English-speaking world, those would be unusual names for a man. Admittedly, this character doesn't sound English, but I haven't heard those as Italian men's names either. Do you have any reasoning behind your suggestion? Sep 11 at 15:41
  • @DM_with_secrets I suggested calling him Rose cause his last name is Rossi. Sep 11 at 16:51
  • Oh, I see, sorry Sep 11 at 18:21

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