What’s In a Name?

whats-in-a-namehurrah-10Do you always name the characters in your stories?

I’m not talking about the character who passes through a story or scene, but main characters.

Although I have a couple of novels in the works; I also write flash fiction and on occasion my characters remain nameless.

Suzanne Vincent, the Editor-in-Chief at Flash Fiction Online, doesn’t like the idea of nameless characters. In fact, I think she said it made her roll her eyes – a language I understand well. 

She made some good points, and her comments got me to thinking about my stories. I appreciate Ms. Vincent’s candor. It’s rather nice to have an editor share a perspective from the other side of submissions.

In her article from the Slushpile Avalanche: Why You SHOULD Name Your Main Character, she discusses why she rejects and dislikes a story with unnamed characters. You can read her post here.

 “… not naming a main character in a story makes very little sense to me.  And if you’re just doing it for the hell of it–if you don’t know WHY you’re doing it–you shouldn’t be doing it at all.” Suzanne Vincent

I imagine Ms. Vincent has most likely rejected one of my stories but does every editor feel the same way about names? Typically, I agree with what she had to say; especially with longer stories or novellas. But, what about flash fiction? Does the genre make a difference? For me, I think it does. I’ve written stories without naming the characters and I did so precisely because of the story.

For example, in one of my stories a serial killer preys on lonely women. I did not name either the killer or his victim and here’s why – the point of the story was the random act of a killer and his nameless prize. Here’s an excerpt from Maybe Next Time – you be the judge.

“He couldn’t take his eyes off her. Confidence and sexuality draped her curves like a second skin. Men flocked to her side, but she turned them away; it pleased him. He liked a discriminating woman. Maybe, this time could be different.

He waited for the perfect moment before making his move. There it was — the downward shift of downcast eyes. It didn’t take long for her to respond; it never did. He had his approach down to a science. The right suit, subtle cologne and brief penetrating eye contact worked every time.

A nervous smile parted her red lips. He stood as she slid from the stool and walked toward his table. Ever the perfect gentleman, he pulled out her chair and smiled. They always took the bait.

Like every fucking woman out to catch a first-class meal ticket, she thought he was hers; it’d be a crime to let her think otherwise.” From Maybe Next Time.

What do you think? Do you agree with the editor? Are there exceptions? Give me your thoughts. Do you always name your characters?

I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

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8 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?

  1. I can see why you didn’t name the serial killer.

    I think the editor should be flexible. Following a rule just because she believes in that rule makes no sense. There are times that creativity demands that we do things differently, even if it against the norm.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with SV. Withholding the main character’s name once was unique, but now has long become a cliché. I can’t imagine doing this for a short story or novel. It depends, however, with flash or micro fiction. Every word counts there, so if the story’s reads well then the name is not necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I generally name my characters, even in flash fiction, but a lot of that has to do with the genre I write (humor). The names I select often impart some inkling to the character’s behavior, intelligence, or lack thereof. I don’t see naming characters as a hard-fast rule. I think it depends upon the piece and the message you are trying to convey.

    In your example, what difference would if have made if his name was Steve and she was Roxanne. Quite frankly, who cares? Giving them names would have done nothing to move the story along. It was all about the action and internalization.

    Liked by 1 person

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