28 April 2015

Character X

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

This is really an anti-name post. Most of the time you'll come up with names for your characters, especially the most important ones. But every once in a while, you may write a story where you don't have a name for your main character. Having a minor character or a character who only shows up in one scene with no name isn't really a big deal. The less we see a character, the less we're likely to care about him or what his name is. But not giving your main character a name can be tricky.

A nameless character will probably only work in certain circumstances. You'll want a good reason for doing so. It could be symbolic, maybe having something to do with identity or if the character feels insignificant. If you don't give your main character a name and you don't have a reason, it may come off as strange and unnecessary.

The format of your story will also help with how natural the nameless character feels. It will probably be easier to pull off in a short story because the reader isn't with the character as long and may not even care about knowing his/her name. If you're writing a novel, a first person narrator will probably be the best way to go. Unless another person is addressing him, he will be using "I" instead of his name most of the time, anyway. It may even take the reader a while to notice that you haven't given him a name. You can also use placeholders to refer to your characters: boy, girl, man, woman. Or perhaps their relationship to other characters can be used: father, mother, etc.

It can be a daunting task, but it's definitely been pulled off before. Just a few well-known examples of novels with nameless narrators or characters include Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. If you've read a book with a nameless character, did it bother you? How long did it take you to notice? Or did you notice it at all? If you want to use a nameless main character, it should feel natural and go along with the story you're writing. If you try to shove it in the reader's face, they may just find it strange.

Have you ever used a nameless main character? Read any other books that do so? 


  1. Of Mice and Men! The woman doesn't have a name. It would be quite the interesting challenge to write a character without a name.

  2. Ha! This sounds like me. I didn't have a name for the bad guy in the sequel to Hurricane Crimes so whenever I had to write his name I'd do this: ____________. Then when I edited my story and couldn't come up with anything, I held a contest on Facebook and asked my followers for suggestions. I got a lot of good ones and was able to finally name my bad guy.

  3. For some reason, when I read this post, I thought of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Telltale Heart" and that narrator of that story. I think of him as nameless, although it would take another read of that story to find out. I generally think of nameless characters as the outside/less important characters or as super-creepy ones like in Poe's story. I have written rough drafts without names for certain characters, but I usually name them eventually.

  4. I don't think I have... At least that I can remember at the moment. I'm sure one will come to me in the shower tomorrow, heh!

  5. I have a ghost story where the MC is nameless for a good chunk. I wanted readers to learn his name when the living did.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  6. It's tricky to do a nameless character.
    I have a double CD concept album and none of the three main characters have names. But it works.

  7. I can't think of any right now. But I think if it was a narrator that would give them some kind of omniscient quality. A nameless character could be mysterious or menacing even. Don't know if I'm making sense. It's past 11pm here!

  8. NK Jemisin's The Awakened Kingdom's MC didn't have a name for a little bit. I once named a character Richard Gere until I could think up a name. haha That's who it was in the dream I had. lol

  9. I'm not sure I've ever read one like that.
    Very difficult to pull off.