Does Every Character Deserve a Name?

How do you know if you should name your character? #writetip There are loads of writing books that tell you not to name a character unless that character has a significant part in your novel. Well, how to you know?

I name all characters in the first draft. I don’t always understand what role a character might play until I’ve finished the novel.

At the first draft stage, I review each scene for characters that appear only once. For example, I might need a lift attendant at a ski lift for a given scene to work. If that attendant only shows up once, I remove their name. I call them by their title at work, function in the scene, whatever works to identify them.

This is also the stage where I discover who I thought might be a minor character, a walk-on, is really someone significant to the story. Since I’ve already named them, I don’t have to change anything.

I’m sure there are many ways to accomplish this, but this method works for me.

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2 thoughts on “Does Every Character Deserve a Name?

  1. I never thought about/noticed/realized that some characters didn’t have names. And I read a LOT. Now I’m going to keep my eyes out for that and think about why. Of course, I should add I do notice they don’t have names when they are the bad guys (I read a lot of mysteries/thrillers, etc and like the one I’m reading now, they aren’t giving the killer a name).

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  2. No, all characters absolutely do not need names. I think it is actually distracting to make your reader have to remember a name, and then they never see that character again. It is best to find a medium. If the character is unecessary, but has meaning (like a brother or a sister) give them a name. If they are just a person they meet on a check-out line, and never see again, then no name is necessary.

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