Wednesday, June 24, 2015

There will be news soon, title, link and such.
In Defense of the Unnamed Character
by Boyd Miles

Any basic bit of writing advice tells you to name your characters. A name allows the reader to identify with and care about the boring bits of life the character must suffer through for the rest of the story. You can even find advice on how to pick the "perfect name". I say screw that.
Leave your character nameless when telling the story and the reader is forced to identify with them. The character and the reader become one, the action is happening to you not some guy name Bob that you have never met and could care less about. So when his wife dumps him for a troupe of Chinese acrobats the reader gets to feel the pain, not just go, "Dumbassed Bob's wife left him, good for her." The reader can dislike Bob, feel sorry for Bob or worse yet not care about Bob. But if you have cleverly sucked the reader into the story of the nameless person that they can see as themselves then they do begin to care. It becomes, "I can't believe she left me for a troupe of Chinese acrobats. What did I do to deserve that?" Then you tell them what they did to deserve that and how they got their revenge. Lead them around by the nose for a bit and show them the error of their ways if you want or show them how they got the better end of the stick. Whatever you want them to feel you can make them feel, about themselves not some schmuck named Bob.
Once the character has a name they are fixed, a being, unique and alive. Unnamed they can be projected, inward or out. The reader can become the character or the character can become, "I knew this guy in school, I hated him." Some people can't see themselves at all but they can see others in a story, let them enjoy the misery you are inflicting upon the character by allowing them to name them after somebody in their own life.
I know the above is going to be the worst bit of advice ever and any time you use it your story will go unpublished and unread. That's the way it is in the world. Editors like names, readers like names, nobody wants to have to think. Play it safe, name everybody and if it is science fiction or fantasy make sure the name can't be pronounced, you see that a lot so it must be the right way to do it.
Spin the wheel of characters, plug them into the plot, don't experiment, you will do just fine.