Friday, March 25, 2011

A Rose by any other name...

Names are powerful things. They set the tone for an erotic romance...or a scene between a dominant and submissive.

In an erotic romance, if the author picks the wrong names for the protagonists - it will destroy the mood.

For example...

"Herbert slid his arm around Zelda's waist and bent his head to kiss her neck."

Okay - a good author can rock those names, but neither of those names would be my first choice  (no offense to any Herberts or Zeldas who might be reading). Names set the tone. They help make the sexy mood sexier.

Likewise, in a D/s scene the names the top and bottom use are important. My personal kink does not go with Daddy and baby girl, though I know that for MANY people those would get people fanning themselves and asking, "Damn, is it warm in here?" For me, as a reader, it doesn't fly. To each their own kink.

When I write BDSM erotic romances, I like going with Sir or Master for my male dom but I'm always a little uncertain about what to use as a nickname for my submissive. At an RT panel last year, I heard an editor say that if they read another BDSM romance where the Dom hero called the sub heroine "Kitten" just once more, they'd puke. When I got back to my hotel room, I opened up a BDSM romance I was working on and did a global replace because, yeah, my hero was calling the heroine "Kitten." Sigh.  I changed it to pet. Then realized how many times I used the nickname and it seemed like it was every other word.

I felt like I'd end up bald from pulling my hair out as I tried to figure out a pleasing sounding nickname or endearment. You know a "special" name that only HE would call her. I finally figured something out for that particular story, but the problem remains an issue with each new story.

I've had the hero use "honey" or "sweetheart." Those work in vanilla or BDSM scenarios. But sometimes I really want to use something a little...exotic. Something that makes the story seem kinkier. BDSMier. Yeah, I know BDSMier isn't a word - but you get what I mean. Go with me here.

Was "the bard" right? Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? Or is the name the thing? I'd welcome suggestions. What do you enjoy hearing  a sub call his/her dominant? What would you like a dominant to call his/her sub? 


  1. Francesca,
    This topic is perfect for me because I face this problem every time I have to find a nickname for a male sub. I've had an editor tell me I can't use boy, particularly if his Dom is a man. That this is too emasculating because even my sub has to come off manly. In real life between a D/s male/male couple boy is just the thing. And with a female Domme, there is NOTHING wrong with boy. It rolls off the tongue. At least to me.

    I do use sweetheart. And when it's a feamle Domme I've used baby, but if I can find something else it's better.

    In Bound Odyssey the Domme calls one hero Angel. And the switch male character calls the male sub Jockey. Now that's a masculine nickname the Dom can use affectionately as a tease, but the fact the sub is identified by a nickname puts him in a less powerful position.

    My current wip includes the nickname Sunshine used by the Domme for one of the guys. The other she calls Lovely. Who knows if that one will stick. Again, it was hard to know what the two men should call another, although in this case they do not clearly share a Dom/sub relationship.

    I'm already getting anxious just typing this. Names are powerful. I truly believe that. Oy!

  2. Three things:

    First, you so rock for switching at the last minute with me!

    Second, that rose picture is maybe the most graphic and suggestive pic ever used in a post on this blog. It's just flat-out naughty.

    Third, awesome post! It's so true. I find myself naming my characters the same things over and over when I start books, and then having to find other names that work as well in my head. What I find interesting is that invariably, changing the name changes the character to some degree. Zelda is just not the same person as Jane, maybe because the different name has given her a different life experience, different expectations and reactions from the people around her. So it changes the other characters, too; the mindset that conjures the nickname "kitten" is subtly different from the one that comes up with "pet". Fascinating stuff.

  3. Michelle- I really liked the way you used nicknames in Bound Odyssey. Angel I'm looking forward to reading about Sunshine and Lovely. Grin.

    Del - glad to switch for you...giggle. Congrats on the upcoming new release. Yes, I picked that rose on purpose because it just looked like - what it looked like. Wink.

    Names really do change a person's life experience. It makes people respond to you differently. And finding the write name...AND really challenging sometimes, but still great fun.

    Thanks for stopping by to comment ladies.

  4. I know it's great to have the perfect name, but I sometimes wonder if we overthink it. I could do a Zelda, and not get pulled from the scene, but Herbert is definitely out. Great post!

  5. Yeah, Ari. Zelda could work, yet Herbert...not so much. Still, I loved Colin Firth in The King's Speech and he was known to his family as Bertie. So anything is possible. :-)

  6. Sir, Master and Mistress combined with a name always work for a Dom/Domme, and yet I've also I've heard some interesting and unusual names used in online scenes that leave off the Sir or Mistress, i.e., "Soul Stripper". As for a submissive name, "pet" works well, but it can be overused. I like angel and sunshine... very nice and creative. I may start with a name, but 1/3rd of the way through may change it if it doesn't seem to suit the character.

  7. Great post. Names are tough, especially those special names. I tend to leave them out because I can never find one that works for me.

  8. I think nicknames are unique to the sub. "Pet" and "kitten" are definitely overused, so what about "pup" or "spankee"? LOL In "Rosy Cheeks" the male dominant calls her a variety of nicknames..."little girl", "little one", "little Vicki" (I liked the "little" theme as she was role playing a school girl), "good little slut", "bitch" get the idea. LOL Stronger words for more intense scenes...

    I'm working on a pirate FemDom novel and the pirate captain, a woman, calls her sub "slave" or "fuck toy".

  9. Gail - whoa - "Soul stripper" is very unusual. I like it. Thanks for sharing!

    Kathy - you're right. Sometimes nicknames or pet names aren't necessary.

    Mari - I like using the stronger terms (slut, whore, bitch), but I'm always worried about the hero coming off like a jerk. I try to remember that I write romance first so the romance has to be threaded throughout. But it really cuts in to the whole issue of reality vs. romance. What works between a Dom and sub in reality just may not work in romance - so I end up self-censoring. You hit on something I'm dealing with in a story I'm working on right now. Thanks for stopping by Mari!