The name you're given at birth isn't always the name you use throughout your life. A common practice is using a diminutive name. According to behindthename.com, "a diminutive of a given name is a short and/or affectionate form. Often they are only used by friends and relatives." Basically, if you use a shortened version of a name, then the result is a diminutive name. You probably hear them all the time. You might even have one!
A diminutive is really just a fancy word for a nickname, but one that is derived from the actual name itself. Sometimes a person's first name is just too long to use all the time. They or the people they know may prefer to use a different version of their name. Some common examples are Mike from Michael, Nick from Nicholas, or Jen from Jennifer.
So how does this factor in when you're naming your characters? Mostly it will just reflect real life. A person with a particularly long first name probably won't always be called by that name. It gives you more options for addressing your characters. It can be fun to mix up which names you use and who uses them, as long as you don't make it too confusing!
FUN TIP: Have your character use different versions of his/her name with different people. Maybe William is "Will" with his colleagues and "Billy" with his family.
Where you find the diminutive will be different from name to name. You can often take a nickname from the beginning or the end of the whole given name. Alexander could be Alex or Xander.
Some names can have seemingly endless possibilities for diminutives. Elizabeth could go by Liz, Lizzie, Eliza, or even Beth. Robert could be Rob, Bob, or Bobby. Some shortened names can work for both girls and boys: Sam could be Samuel or Samantha, Pat could be Patrick or Patricia. Some diminutives are made by just adding on a -y or -ie suffix to a name, like Johnny, Charlie, or Debbie.
WHAT I'VE DONE: Diminutive names are some of my favorites! I'm not even kidding when I say that I've put at least one in each of my major novel ideas. Which I will now list for you, of course (in chronological order of when I created them).
· Camilla - - > Cami
· Andrew - - > Drew
· Alexander - - > Alex
· Benjamin - - > Ben/Benny
· Thomas - - > Tom
· Cameron - - > Cam
· Abigail - - > Abby
· Gabriel - - > Gabe
For some characters, I’ve just used the diminutive name throughout the story, for others I’ve used both. Every character will be different and you just have to do what feels natural for them and for your story.
Have you ever used a diminutive name for a character (of course you have!)? Do you just use the shortened name or do you switch back and forth?