1. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England

    Not wishing to name Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cmcpress, Oct 18, 2010.

    I'm writing a piece at the moment where, at the start of the story the main character doesn't have a name.

    For the draft i've been using "the unnamed man" but it seems really clumsy and a tad melodramatic.

    What's the best way of differentiating him from other characters?
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,035
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    What is your POV for this story?
     
  3. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England
    Well it's told from the main characters POV but the issue is he does not know his name at this stage.
     
  4. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,035
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Ok, so first person POV, but the unnamed in question is not the one "telling" the story, right?
     
  5. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England
    It's in the third person, so he's not recounting it. I think i see what you're getting at.

    The idea of the external narrator though has been to incorporate knowledge he wouldn't have access to.
     
  6. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,075
    Likes Received:
    5,272
    Location:
    California, US
    Perhaps the character could come to think of himself as <name>, even though he doesn't know what his name is. Seems like a person in that situation might come up with some way to reference himself, even knowing that it isn't his name.
     
  7. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,035
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Yeah, because if it were in the first person, I've seen stories where the narrator refers to the person-with-no-name-as-of-yet by a physical characteristic or something telling in their attire. Literally something like: Mr Tall, Mr. 70's Tie, Mr. Side-Comb. Something like that. A first first person POV lets you have that internal thought process that would make an appellation like that possible.

    Even in the third person, this is still perfectly plausible to do. You'ld just have to give a bit of an explanation as to how your protag came to have this little nick for the person, why that particular trait drew their attention.
     
  8. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England
    Thanks. I might give that a try. I was hoping that slightly later in the story he would be named by someone else - but i think having no name at all until he meets the secondary character might make it too confusing for the reader.

    I'm trying to keep the main character mysterious and somewhat ambiguous too - as the story unfolds there'll be some misdirection as to whether he is human at all.
     
  9. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England

    Actually that's got the neurons firing, and i think i may have a suitable name.

    Thank you!
     
  10. BUDDY GORGEOUS
    Offline

    BUDDY GORGEOUS Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Alaska
    I read Cormac McCarthy 'The road' a few months back and the main protagonists don't really have any names, it's just 'Man' and 'Boy'. Which i found unusual and great! :)
     
  11. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    I was just about to suggest the nickname thing. :D I have a great moment in one of my old stories knocking around where my narrator forgets, and calls the unnamed person by their rather obnoxious nickname. It makes me giggle. :p
     
  12. helltank
    Offline

    helltank Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    1
    Ah yes, the nickname. The "Mr Tall" thing actually works out if you write it properly. I once read a great book where a gang leader, who's mind is controlled to lead the protagonists through a labyrinth of sewers, was referred through the entire book as simply "Green Hair". It was used very well and I kept thinking that was his real name. (Probably because I speed read and I don't read the name carefully)
     
  13. Ganman3
    Offline

    Ganman3 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Emporia, Kansas
    I tend not to give my characters names unless they introduce themselves. Usually, I use a third-person narrative biased on the first-person perspective. Perspective is something I've wanted to experiment with for some time.
    Until they introduce themselves, I tend to paint them as "the man with the hat" or just "the man," though that can get a bit messy at times, so sometimes unknowingly, I shift from a third-person biased to a third-person omnipotent to keep my reader interested and avoid too much repetition (this transition usually happens in background characters.)
    Sometimes, I wish I could just not give my characters names. I've written so many first pages the naming process seems tedious, and every introduction seems about the same. "Jerry was an average boy, or so you might think upon looking at him," "Allen walked to the bakery every morning to grab a donut; it had been impounded in him from childhood"... it all sounds the same to me now.
    The "Green Hat" suggestion works well, but I wouldn't use it unless you're trying to be cute. If it's more serious, I would suggest defining them by their characteristics, but not abridging. And remember to keep your readers hooked... too much repetition seems amateurish.
     

Share This Page