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Nameless, Faceless: A Quick Guide to Changing up the Flavor of Your Writing

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Have you ever written a fiction story or passage in which there was a character? If you haven’t, I encourage you to write one; it’s a lot of fun! To everyone else that has written a passage about a character, I assume that you shuffled through ideas for what you wanted that character to be like, and introduced that character at some point. Take, for example, my latest writing, a novel I’m working on. The opening sentence pretty much sets up the rest of the book:

“Benjamin Valentine, of Number 13 Gordon-Smith, in all his blue-eyed, brown-haired glory, was perfectly okay with admitting he was a nobody.”

A name, a location, and defining physical features were all given immediately, a sort of “BAM, IN YOUR FACE,” look at the character I spent so much time lovingly creating. It adds a human element to the openings of the book, making it seem more like the over-the-shoulder view of Benjamin that I intended. But it occurred to me that it was how most stories about a character start. This is the name, the looks, and the personality of the person you will be following through the story I’m about to tell, get to know them. And, I’m sorry J. K. Rowling I really do love how you opened Sorcerer’s Stone, but it’s getting old. REALLY OLD.

I experimentally tried writing something almost a year ago, something I enjoyably named Dark Soul, the first-person telling of a character named Nanashi escaping a prison into an uncertain, upside-down world. Nanashi means “Nameless,” a name temporarily chose so I could hammer out the fine details of the plot later. Thirteen pages in, however, I realized that I didn’t even know what GENDER to make Nanashi, let alone what I wanted Nanashi to look like.

And that gave me a million-dollar idea.

If there was any kind of artwork I loved, it was something that allowed you to create a story, or fill in the details of it with your own imagination. What if I did that with a short story? Who not throw a curve-ball in there? The imagination goes wild filling in the gaps; is the character a male, or female? Tall or short? Blonde, brunette, or in between? And what about all the things I don’t know about this character? What does the character like, or dislike, or enjoys doing as a hobby? All the reader gathers about the character stems from direct interactions with the environment and other characters, much like we analyze people in – wait for it – real life.

That one person that cut you off on the road probably upset you, but all you know is that they cut you off. Their wife might be in labor or something, but you don’t know that. In Dark Soul, Nanashi never fought the captors that put Nanashi in the prison. That tells the reader something. Far more interesting than “Nanashi was always of an anti-combative disposition.” It would be sure to spark more ideas for readers, or evoke some raised eyebrows.

Fine, either way.



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