My characters have no names


Yes, it is strange but true. When I write my stories, most of the times, my characters have no names. Why do I do this? In my early writing experiences, as I set out to write a story, I found myself wasting too much time worrying about the name and what the given name would imply and whether it would really be apt for my character.

You see, I am a strong believer that names have vibrations and each person responds to the vibrations of his or her name. It would be wrong for me to assume exactly how a person with a certain name would behave in a given situation; for while it is easy for me to know that a person with a certain name would not behave in some way, it is rather difficult to identify who would behave the way my story was turning out.

So, you will see most of my stories have initials of character names, like S. or K., that’s all. This works well for me and, I think, my readers. They can put whatever name they deem fit and my character will take in its own form in their minds. To that extent, I would say my stories are interactive and rather customised.

This may not be the ideal way to write your story, as readers empathize with the characters and names help them form images of the person in the mind. Probably one of the reasons I prefer to keep my characters with just initials is that my stories seek to reveal a side of the person that is hidden and unexpected. I enjoy writing stories that reveal the inner mind at work. In that sense, having a character you can vaguely visualize helps as the reader accordingly connects better with the workings of the mind. I also keep the physical and external descriptions of my characters to a minimum, because these do not matter in my larger scheme of things.

Does this make my characters less real? I don’t know. The people who have read my stories never seem to have a problem with these missing details. Whether it would work for you as another writer, you would have to experiment in your work. But for me, I know it saves me a tremendous amount of time and words to just stick to the story I really want to tell.

~ Bharti Athray

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3 thoughts on “My characters have no names

  1. mahnoorj

    I always name my characters and sometimes construct plots entirely around their names. This is an interesting way to go about it, though, thank you for sharing!

    1. Bharti Athray Post author

      It is fascinating to see how many different approaches each one of us has to our creative process. May be, I will try your style sometime: to create a story around a character’s name. Will definitely share it with you.


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