Sunday, February 24, 2008


I’ve written three novellas now, where the heroine did not have a name for most of the novel. I’m not saying I didn’t name her for most of the writing, I’m saying no one had never named her. She’d grown up alone, with no name.

Or if she’d ever been given one, it was when she was too young to remember.

Every time, about halfway through, I chicken out or decide it doesn’t work, and go through and change it so she does have a name.

It’s like this weird, quirky obsession my subconscious has.

I just can’t make a no-name character work, yet. Because to bring to light the fact that she has no name, would seem to say that I need to, as a "symbolic" sort of thing, give her a name at some "important" point.

And I don’t want her to have a name. I don’t know why.

It’s been done before, sort of, in The Blood of Flowers. Anita Amirrezvani writes in first person, and the heroine is never called by name, out of respect for the ancient Persian rug artists who never signed their name to their work.

She never brings attention to it, and I didn’t even notice it until the afterword, when she pointed it out. After all, how often do we really call our own selves by our name? And the heroine has a name, Amirrezvani just never shares it.

Whereas, I’m obsessed with people who literally have no name.

Now what the hell does that say about my subconscious, LOL?

Obviously, at some point, I’m going to be writing a book about a girl who grew up with no name. My subconscious is like a dog with a bone on this quirk.

Maybe it’s because I don’t think in names when I see people. Thinking of someone’s name is not something I do often. With some people, yes. Other people are mostly unnamed.

This quirk is bleeding into my hero, and some of my secondary characters. Some of my characters have names, very clear names. Others become "the man with the limp" or the "girl with the pouting mouth."

Probably it’s because, when writing in first person, part of ME comes through. And lately, the part of me coming through is the part that doesn’t think of people in terms of their name.

Maybe I’ll become a literary writer, and that can be my trademark: the author who doesn’t give half her character’s names. LOL.

Also, to name a person means to include all the "baggage" society and each individual reader has for a name, like people they’ve known, characters they’ve read, actors and movies they’ve seen.

Have you ever had a writing quirk that you know is a tad ridiculous, and you’ve suppressed it because of common sense? But it keeps cropping up in your writing over and over, more and more insistent?

15 bonus scribbles:

Travis Erwin 2/24/2008 04:36:00 PM  

After all, how often do we really call our own selves by our name?

I've heard many athlets refer to their own name while sopeaking about their self in interviews.

And they always come across as idiots.

spyscribbler 2/24/2008 06:34:00 PM  

How weird! That's almost like ... objectifying yourself. Maybe they're referring to their public personas, LOL.

Barrie 2/25/2008 12:43:00 AM  

So, how are you at remembering people's names in real life? Interesting post.

Bernita 2/25/2008 08:35:00 AM  

Funny, I was just thinking the other day that I have trouble with technical names for things because I see an image of them in my mind and not the name.
Now, what are those slidy safety lock hooky things on dog's leashes called?

Edie 2/25/2008 10:16:00 AM  

Now Bernita's dog collar question will bug me. I know what it is, but I can't think of what it's called.

I'm the opposite of you. I need to have a name to suit the character before I start writing. Sometimes I end up using a character name that's not quite right, but I can't think of anything better, and it bothers me through the whole book.

Rhonda Stapleton 2/25/2008 10:26:00 AM  

I'm kind of weird, too. LOL. I like to come up with names for my characters, but since I write in 1st person, I find I have to MAKE myself slip those names in. Otherwise, I'd go the whole book without using it. haha

Melanie Avila 2/25/2008 10:34:00 AM  

I think you should go for it and write the entire story without the MC having a name.

I'm about 1000 words into a new story and it's already irritating me that I hadn't named the MC. Last night I came up with two options and I think I'll stick with that for now. I was hoping to keep his name unknown for a short time but all the pronouns were annoying me!

spyscribbler 2/25/2008 03:38:00 PM  

Barrie, I'm terrible at it. In fact, I have known people for YEARS, have liked them quite a lot, and not known their names. I have even talked to people DAILY, and not known their names.

Oh, Bernita, what are those things called? That's going to bug me. Goodness. Does it have a name? I hate when things don't have a name.

spyscribbler 2/25/2008 03:40:00 PM  

Edie, it would me, too. In that situation, I refuse to start until I know their name. A name changes their image.

Mark Terry 2/25/2008 05:45:00 PM  

Bill Pronzini's written an entire award-winning mystery series featuring the "nameless" detective. Honest to God, his name is never mentioned.

spyscribbler 2/25/2008 05:55:00 PM  

Rhonda, isn't it awkward to slip the names into first person? That's exactly the way to put it. It's manual thing.

spyscribbler 2/25/2008 06:08:00 PM  

Mark Terry, that is the coolest. I have to check that out!

Anonymous,  2/25/2008 07:57:00 PM  

Ooh, Blood of the Flowers. Good example. I listened to it on audio and loved it. I knew beforehand that the main character was never given a name, and I expected it to be awkward, but it really wasn't. The worst is the opposite, when characters continually use each other's names in dialogue. Ever read a book like that? How often do real life people begin a statement with, "Well, So-and-So, I feel...", etc.?

spyscribbler 2/25/2008 09:07:00 PM  

Booklady, I heard it on audio, too! Did you get it after the RWA conference? They randomly sent it to me, and I couldn't figure out where they got my name and address.

It was amazing.

Anonymous,  2/28/2008 10:58:00 PM  

Really? I'm so jealous! I actually bought it from Love that site, although many of my favorite authors are still not represented (probably because not everyone's on audio yet). It's where I get my Neil Gaiman books, too.