1. Herman Vermont
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    Herman Vermont New Member

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    Nameless characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Herman Vermont, Sep 3, 2013.

    Recently I started writing a short story about an aging couple and their extended family. Currently my characters are only known as the old man, the old woman, his wife, her husband, their sons/daughter/grandchildren/neighbors/friends/acquaintances.
    Its 4,500 words already and still growing (there goes the short story out the door) and it still holds well without the need to use proper names for my characters.
    Out of curiosity, I have shown the work to two of my confidants and both of them thought that they did not see the need of names for any of the characters.

    My question is if such a long piece can indeed exist without characters being properly named and remain nameless to the readers? Any opinion appreciated.
    Cheers,
    Herman
     
  2. Blake M
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    Blake M New Member

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    That's a lot of characters for a short story! Perhaps that's why it's not so short anymore.

    Since you've implied that there are multiple friends and acquaintances, who aren't relatives of the central family, maybe you should consider giving those characters names, while leaving the family members identified as wife, son, granddaughter, etc. If the story revolves around the family, naming the unrelated characters would make it much easier to bring them in and out of scenes, while retaining focus on the central characters.

    Otherwise I find it hard to see how you'd avoid saying something along the lines of "Friends 3 and 6 entered the room..."

    Hope that helps! Looks like we're both newbies here. :)
     
  3. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am Jack's condescending use of a pop-culture meme.

    ;) More seriously, maybe having a few of them - or even as many as half - use unmistakable nicknames like "Sparky," "TJ," or "Tiger" could keep the story from being just a giant list of easily-confused regular names?
     
  4. Herman Vermont
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    Herman Vermont New Member

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    Blake M, thanks for your excellent suggestion – I always wanted the main character in my story – the old man to be known as such, as if he was the man from The Old Man and the Sea but without the name Santiago as given to Gregorio Fuentes and/or Carlos Gutierrez by Hemingway for the persons used as his sources.

    Simpson17866, my sources are rather ethnic and although I speak and write in other languages, I prefer to write in English – the names of the axillary characters will be ethnic
     
  5. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you feel like you can make it work, then it can. But that's the true trick, do you feel it is working?

    There's nothing wrong with having a nameless character, but there should probably be a purpose beyond it. Otherwise it may come across as cheap and gimmicky, as though you were not giving your character a name for no real reason but to have a nameless character.
     
  6. Uberwatch
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    Uberwatch Active Member

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    I find nameless characters easier to write if they don't have much dialogue. Nameless characters work all the time.
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned Cormac McCarthy's The Road - the names used there are "The Man, The Boy, The Woman, The Roadrat", etc. The book holds up very well. I suggest you check it out.
     
  8. Whedonesque
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    Whedonesque Member

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    It's a technique, which has it's place. Advantages are: it might make it easier to relate with the characters ("the grandfather" is much closer to "my grandfather" than "grandpa willy") and it can add a tone to your work, depending on how it's used, which might make it seem impersonal or have a different effect. A disadvantage is it might make it seem surreal. Why not post an extract (without mentioning the names thing) and see if people pick up on it as something that needs changing?
     
  9. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    There's a movie (Australian) which was originally called Epsilon and then the title was change to Alien Visitor. There are only two characters in it. "The Man" and "She". You don't really notice that until someone points it out - or I didn't anyway. Though there are a lot of other problems with the story.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  10. Herman Vermont
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    Herman Vermont New Member

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    Thank you all very much for your inputs.


    Thomas Kitchen, I will try to locate that book.

    psychotick, I will download that movie just to see how I feel seeing a story without names.

    Whedonesque, I will post an extract very soon but first I am will polish the text a bit, but, I am very busy at work and …..

    The biggest disadvantages that have emerged from having the nameless characters are the dialogue and the story line. This is, in my view, because in this story there is an aging couple that goes through their daily routine while many and different things in life make them reminisce about their respective lives, just before they met in their youth. The husband is the main character while his wife and some of their friends from past and of today are the rest of the characters. The dialogues occur mainly in the present time.

    And this where I have got stuck – I cannot find it easy to switch from what is happening in the present time to what has happened in the past, and, back….help?
    Cheers,
    Herman
     

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