I have been working on a short story in the 1st person point of view, and I had decided not to name the protagonist.
Jane Lebak presented a case for naming a protagonist, whether in a novel or short story. I will rethink my position on this matter for my particular short story.
I will share some of Jane’s ideas with you. She says name your main character. She recently ran a short story critique group as part of an online writers conference, and fully half the stories had a nameless main character. She said many of these characters lacked history, lacked family, lacked motive and lacked personality.
She admits there are good stories which have nameless and extremely interesting narrators. A. Lee Martinez does a fantastic job with a nameless first-person narrator in A Nameless Witch and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca also has a nameless first person protagonist.
But for the most part, books you pick up have a protagonist with a name, and there’s a reason for that. Before your reader can identify with your protagonist, your protagonist has to have an identity. Nameless main characters can lack identity and present a featureless individual who drifts rather than acts, and whom we instinctively distrust.
Ask yourself, do you want to write an “everyman” type of character? Check out the Harry Potter books. Not only is Harry’s life detailed, but they’re very specific details, yet millions of readers identify very strongly with Harry.
Most readers do not have magical powers, are not orphans, were not forced to bunk under the stairwell, and aren’t living in boarding schools. Many aren’t British males.
What we’re identifying with is Harry’s core humanity. Break him down and you get:
1. someone who’s special, but the world doesn’t really know it
2. someone who faces adversity
3. someone who has trouble making friends, although he has a few close ones
4. someone who feels misunderstood by authority, either people expecting too much of him or, by contrast, people expecting far more than he could possibly deliver
5. someone who feels the rules are smothering him and keeping him from achieving his full potential.
Everyone can identify with these traits. Either we feel those things about ourselves, or we want to believe those things. Harry evokes in the reader a sense that we can transcend our past, can prove our detractors wrong and maybe live up to the expectations of others. He doesn’t have to be ”everyman” in order to be identifiable to everyone.
The reader wants to invest in a main character who inhabits a fully-fleshed-out world of his own, that includes a job, clothes, flaws, needs, friends and choices to be made. This personality usually includes a name. Once the writer give us those characteristics, we’ll be able to step into the protagonist’s place and see ourselves there too.
Advice to consider.