I think names are one of the most important choices that a writer can make. It’s the first thing that tells us something about the character, and the first opportunity for a writer to influence the reader before getting down to the rest of the character development – you wouldn’t imagine the same situation or personality for a Chantelle as you would for a Maud, for example. For my main characters, especially in short stories, I usually try to pick a name that gives a clue about the overall plot and not just that character. Sort of like an easter egg in my stories for the readers to find 🙂
The protagonist in Pink Mist is giving me a lot of problems, name wise. Nothing I think of really fits her. So it got me thinking, have there been any books where we never knew the name of the protagonist? After a bit of a google I discovered that yes, there are quite a few! So now I’m wondering if I can write the whole book – and series – without ever giving her a name. As an assassin I think she could very easily operate without anyone knowing her real name, but would it matter to the story as a whole if she was that anonymous? Would it matter to you, as readers, if you read a book where you had no idea of the protagonist’s name?
One of the most famous books that has a certain anonymity to it is Moby Dick. Now I must admit, this is a book that I haven’t read but I do know the story and in particular, the opening sentence. It’s this line, just three words, that gives the anonymity to the character: Call me Ishmael. In these three words so much is given away. He didn’t say “my name is…”, but instead chose to be vague telling the reader they are to call him Ishmael, which many could take to mean that’s his name. But he never actually says that it is. From this we know right out that we should question everything else that he tells us, as he has manipulated the tale from the very first words.
So, in that instance the name itself didn’t alter the character or the reader’s view of his story, but the way the name was introduced. If we don’t ever introduce a name for a character, how then would that change a reader’s view of them and what they say or do? Perhaps that’s just the thing to add more aloofness to a sassy assassin 🙂