When writing or brainstorming the beginnings of a story, one complication that paralyzes the writer is what to name their character?
Some have a placeholder name such as “John Doe,” waiting for the character to reveal their name once the story is complete and will add this new name while editing.
Others, like myself, go to Google for unique, unusual, or rare names. But what if we made the decision not to name our characters at all?
For this prompt, resist the urge to name your main character. Instead, consider characters such as
- Cathy Ulrich’s, “The Astronaut’s Wife,” who is simply known by her wife’s job title and role in their marriage.
- Hema Nataraju’s “middle-aged commuter,” or
- Eric Scot Tryon’s “Wife #2.”
How do names identify our characters? Are they defined by their job title, feelings, or their role in the world around them?
DO NOT be afraid to experiment and, as always, have fun! Afterall, someone dared to create villains such as Polkadot Man and Condiment King.
After the Thrill by Amy Lyons
Compound by Noa Covo
You Were Only Waiting for This Moment to Arrive by Kathy Fish
Rumors from the Castle by Cathy Ulrich
K. B. Carle
K.B. Carle lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her flash has been published in a variety of places including Lost Balloon, Five South Lit., The Rumpus, JMWW, and elsewhere. K.B.’s stories have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, and her story, “Soba,” was included in the 2020 Best of the Net anthology. Her story, “A Lethal Woman,” will be included in the 2022 Best Small Fictions anthology. She can be found online at kbcarle.com or on Twitter @kbcarle.
Listen to her episodes of the StoryADay podcast: episode 279 and episode 280
Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!
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31 thoughts on “Day 6- Unnamed by K. B. Carle”
I’m behind in the challenge (but I’m working with an interesting work schedule this month). I enjoyed this prompt. I didn’t overthink it and that was a good choice. This was the first of the writing prompts (besides the 100 word prompt which I “finished”) which feels like a complete draft.
Leaving a comment late to say i did write this day! Very rough draft, but I had fun with my unnamed woodsperson who is trying to be a hermit after great disappointment in the world, but one rainy day after months of successful isolation, comes back to his tent to find someone rifling through it…
I combined the prompt from yesterday and today into one story. Actually, I started something, triggered by the ‘scary story’ prompt, and then realized I hadn’t named several key characters…when I read this prompt, I decided to leave it that way. It’s interesting… it actually made the tone of the story more creepy. Scary is not my genre, so it’s been slow going, but I’m learning about myself as a writer, which is what (for me) this month is about.
This was a hard one for me. I guess I need a prompt with more information because I tried all day to come up with anything, and finally, I wrote something without much substance. Anyway, I tried to do the assignment, and here it is: BTW, here in Arizona it’s only 9:30 pm on Day 6 and I just finished it.
Her husband was a doctor and worked all the time. When her youngest child turned 18 and left for college, she told her husband she wanted a divorce. He was surprised and asked why. She told him he was so rarely home it was like she didn’t have a husband anyway.
Two weeks later he called to say he was feeling relieved that it was over. He said he’d decided to cut down on his hours. He didn’t say why.
“That’s wonderful that you’ve decided not to work so many hours! she said. “We didn’t need that much money, anyway. Want to move back in with me? Because I still love you. I just couldn’t stand being alone so much, caring for the children alone and everything…”
He said he’d think it over but soon afterwards she saw him at a restaurant with a much younger woman. She got up from her seat and went over to ask how long that had been going on. “And is she the reason you stopped working so many hours?” she asked so loudly that the staff came over to his table.
“Please quiet down,” he said.
The young woman looked her over and smirked, so she slapped her across the face. Before the police were even called, she was also able to throw plates of food across the room and overturn their table.
She got the last last laugh, though, because soon after they were married, her ex-husband decided he wasn’t happy unless he was working as hard as he was before.
The young woman was smarter than she had been, she had to admit, because when he went back to working all the time, she must not have liked that she rarely saw him, because she divorced him as soon as he added all his hours back.
May 6 2023
It was a crisp autumn morning in The City near The Lake. The wind stroked the leaves that were left, plucking one here and there. The bitter air was sweetened by the bright, warm sunlight cutting through the usual clouds. The Girl was sitting alone on a black metal park bench by the side of The Lake.
This was her favorite weather. Frost was becoming more prevalent each morning, and today, it still nipped at her nose even as the sun kept her mostly cozy. She wore brown boots and a big dark mauve trench coat that obscured her actual outfit. Her beanie had a pleasant puff at the very top. She didn’t need makeup; the weather brought out the colors of her face in all the right places. Her long lashes protected her eyes from the wind as she looked down at the book in her lap.
The Girl loved to read, especially in her favorite weather, on this very bench. She could bring The Boy back when she sat here. It was like she could feel his warmth on the seat next to her, where he used to sit and throw crumbs to the ducklings, then look into her eyes and chuckle at their tiny quacks.
She was thinking about The Boy when a tear slipped down her cheek and landed on the page in front of her. The tear stain was noticeably glowing bright blue. The Girl didn’t know what to think, but she knew this wasn’t normal. She snapped the book closed quickly and stood up from the bench near the side of The Lake.
The Girl thought about the glowing tear as she walked back to the brick walls of her 1-bedroom apartment. When she arrived, she shut her blinds, locked the doors and sat down at her altar in the back room, legs crossed, book still firmly grasped in her left hand.
She took a couple deep breaths before she opened back up to the page she had been reading. No glow. She was confused. Maybe she had imagined it?
She lit some candles and incense and set an offering in the goblet on the altar next to The Boy’s picture. As she did every night, she used the ceremonial dagger to slice into a fingertip. She pressed her fingers together over a dish holding a scrap of his jeans she had salvaged from the scene. The blood joined the 99 other drops that were caked and dried. Another tear fell down, and this time, it landed with the blood and jean material.
And this time, again, a strange blue glow emanated from the place touched by tears. The Girl was captivated by this. She stared into the blue, trying to see beyond, when suddenly, a familiar hand stretched out from the glow. She took the hand and pulled until The Boy appeared, limb by limb.
The Girl hugged him close but he didn’t react. She held onto his shoulders and looked into his face. It looked like The Boy, it even smelled like him. But he stared ahead and didn’t say a word, didn’t change his face.
“Hello?” She whispered desperately at him. “Hello?”
But she knew. It was The Boy in carbon molecules, sure, but his soul was still out there somewhere. He was inanimate and lost. And she was still alone, with a mannequin of her soulmate to keep her company. The Girl sat down next to The Boy and continued to read her book, this time out loud. As she read, though, his face contorted, not in his own control but driven by the residual energy of his untimely death.
She screamed as his skin flapped down and muscle, skull, ligaments were exposed. He didn’t move or react. She cried hysterically and ran from her back room, locking the door behind her. She knew she made a mistake messing with this magic. The Girl pressed her back against the door and slid to the ground in agony, fighting in her head with what came next.
She didn’t need to debate long. The universe is like that sometimes; it makes decisions for us. She knew what that popping sound was and she knew what she would find when she opened the door. After she collected the pieces, she would have to bury him all over again, under the black metal bench at the side of The Lake. And maybe this time, he could rest in peace.
Completed ✔️ Day 6! Yay!
This was hard for me today, mostly because I had a full day planned. I sketched out an idea this morning, then chewed on it throughout the day, only to decide on something completely different this evening. Day 6. Done.
Wrote just over 1000 in a fairy-tale(ish) fantasy story, since that seemed a natural enough way to use titles (the blacksmith, the seamstress, etc) rather than names. I actually didn’t use a name for anyone in the story and it’s honestly one of my favorite stories to come out of this challenge so far! Really loved seeing all the different ways everyone else used this prompt too!
Curiously, I struggled with this prompt, although it had so much potential when I first read it. I stuck my character into a setting, described her actions and how they didn’t fit in with those around her, and extricated her from the scene in as anonymous a way as she moved through the story. I might need a do-over on another day, or perhaps just a better plot idea.
I thought about this all day, and wrote a six word memoir story.
I enjoyed this prompt and used it to live out a fantasy.
I enjoyed this prompt and used it to write a 545word story about a lonely young woman. Not knowing her name or what she looked like gave me the freedom to concentrate on what’s going through her head and heart.
I wrote a story a few years ago where I didn’t reveal the character’s name until the very end of the story. I just used “she” and “her” throughout the story. Today’s was a little different. I had two characters (a police detective and a victim). The whole story was done as a dialogue between the two. The detective asks many times but the victim doesn’t tell her name until the end of the story.
Lisa, that’s a cool idea!
Day 6 ✔️
The best example of an unnamed protagonist: the book, Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.
I’m not very good at checking in every day, but I haven’t missed a day yet. I’m pleased I popped into the writing sprint this afternoon. Saturdays are super busy for me, so I need all the help I can get.
I’ve been writing about the same two characters so far, and neither of them has a name yet. I’ve discovered a reason why one of them is never using the other one’s name today, though.
I’d rather you were writing than checking in every day, so you do you!
Hope it’s still going well…
I some actual background reading / brainstorming for this prompt (unlike the others). I mostly went with using simple pronouns for everyone in my story, with some titles (e.g. the Changed One), thrown in here and there.
Gabrielle, “the Changed One,” I like that idea as a way to signify characters.
Runners were thin. Runners moved quickly and gracefully. Runners loved being outdoors.
Maybe she’d get there someday, but this runner weighed 243 pounds and was gasping for air in a 5K charity fundraiser in her hometown. Even “running” was a questionable description of what she was doing, since she’d already taken several walk breaks. Screw it. Time for another one.
No need to torture herself, even for a new library, a cause she supported very strongly. After this was over, she was totally heading to the bookstore and treating herself to some new books for all the training she’d put in. Might grab lunch from the fried chicken place next door while she was at it.
The finish line came into view. Time to pick up the pace. True, the run police weren’t going to arrest her if she finished walking, but doing so seemed improper.
“58:57,” she heard the timekeeper shout as she crossed the line. As she went to collect her t-shirt and enjoy the free food and drinks, a bunch of other runners congratulated her. She turned around to see if there was anyone else still on the course. There were a few power-walking senior citizens in the distance.
After the power walkers were done, the organizers took down the finish line. She walked to the board with the results and found her category: Female, 30-39. Her eyes scrolled down the list and found her bib number at the bottom of the category. Dead last in her age bracket. A power walker came up next to her and said, “It’s a good day to be outside, isn’t it?”
As if a light bulb turned on, she said, “Yes, it is.” She may have finished dead last, but she still finished. For that day, she was a runner.
this is great Danielle!
Thank you so much!
Danielle, thank you for sharing. I loved this piece!
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
Oh my. Oh dear. What came out of my nasty little brain was a 500-word story about animals at a feeder in winter. Everyone had a name, a la Thornton Burgess, except the main character, who was just “the squirrel.” Being unnamed meant he was doomed. A hawk got him, in the end. It was not a good story; I’d go so far as to say it was an exceptionally bad story, but it surprised me. This story-a-day thing is turning into a kind of Rorschach test.
Walter, if your stories are as entertaining as your post, you’ve got it made.
580 words this morning. A little bit of back story for my selkies, with bits from each character’s POV. Maybe cheating a little since I have named these characters in previous pieces.
(As I finished writing my story regarding some nameless character/s, I couldn’t help pondering if this is the worst, most uninteresting story I have written in my life so far. The very concept of writing a story without names seemed challenging but took the whole fun out of it!
Anyway, I’d request the reader not to judge me by this story. There will be surely some better days ahead.)
The Story of A Wasted Day !!!
I approached the madam at the counter. She must be in her mid-thirties with a square face adorned with a mole on her upper lip, bespectacled, in a black and red churidar, rather heavy-set. She was, in fact, more plain looking than the word would suggest. I have come to hate her sight of late. Any thoughts of describing her as stubborn, would be an understatement. She doesn’t seem to be the helpful sort at all.
“Madam,” I queried. “Something is wrong with my ATM Card. Last time I tried to withdraw some money, there was a message stating that the card was invalid. I couldn’t even update my Pass Book.”
“You need to do it online. Take a Mobile Banking Form from the Counter. This is how things get done these days.”
And with that she dismissed me curtly.
I knew that seeking any further help from her was out of the question, headed down to the Counter to ask for a Mobile Banking Form. I filled it out carefully, providing all the details including my Savings Account Number, Permanent Address, PAN, Marriage Registration Number, and what not. Having gotten up from the plastic chair, I went back to the counter again. I craned my neck to find Madam updating someone’s Pass Book.
“Madam, can you tell me how much is there in my account as well?”
“You have to make a call to the number.” She replied briskly.
“Madam, do I have to make the call before filling out the form or after?” I dared to ask her.
I took out my Indian Bank ATM Card and after a thorough search, found a number at the back.
“Madam, is this the number?” I asked her hesitantly.
She raised her head over the coup.
“You’ve to call the number behind you. They will sms the details.” She went back to the computer.
I jumped up at the mention of the word ‘number’. Behind me on the wall there was a piece of paper stuck up on the wall with “Missed Call Alert” written. Just beside that there was another A4 sized paper pasted with ‘Missed SMS Call Alert’ written on it.
I clicked a picture and tried calling the first number. As I dialled, a message cropped up on my screen : Your message couldn’t be completed. Please contact nearest branch.
I walked up to the counter again.
“Madam, I tried calling the number. There was a message asking me to contact the nearest branch.”
“In that case, you’ve to wait for the lady for Counter-5 to come up. She’ll tell you what to do.”
I looked at my watch. It was 11.05 by my watch.
No probs, I’ll utilise the time writing the story on the prompt for StoryADay. There was no knowing when that staff would turn up or if she would do so at all. Indian Bank has a very bad reputation so far as Customer Care or Service is concerned.
The next half hour I was busy writing. At 11.51 I got up again, restless.
“Madam, the lady you’re talking about, is coming today, isn’t she?”
She looked at me as if I was a creature who had better be caged than set out free.
“She’ll. I called her. She’s on her way. Actually, she is on some banking business.”
I went back to my plastic chair.
I had, in the meanwhile, glimpsed the man on a revolving chair in the glass room in a corner. The door with The Manager written in brass letters on top, was open. He was a non-Bengali by the way he put on the tilak on his forehead. Though clad in a white shirt and black pants, he was quite lean and lanky with the bulging belly missing, for a Manager.
The time was 12.15. I had been in the bank for close to one and half hours without any hopes of getting my work done. Just then I saw the Manager sauntering up to one of the counters.
“You are the Manager, Sir?” I was at my politest.
He didn’t bother to answer my question. Picked up a paper from a file lying on the table and started walking back to his room with me at his heels.
“May I come in, Sir?” I asked him from the door. There were two other fellas sitting on the chairs opposite his. He nodded.
“Sir, I have failed to withdraw money with my ATM Card. I had, for your info, some work at the SBI, and everything got done in five minutes. Whereas, I have been waiting here for ages!”
“Our staff’s been out. She may be a bit late in coming.” He stated it in a matter of fact manner.
At 12.35 PM, the other Madam, shorter, in a light coloured dress, made her entry. I dashed to her table as I knew there would be a queue building up in front of Counter-5. On a closer look, I found her with a mole as well. She had it on the right of her upper lip.
“Yes, tell me.” She quipped, having signed in some challans or whatever, and keeping her eyes on the computer screen in front.
“Madam, I can’t use my ATM Card. Last time I tried to withdraw some money from SBI, there was a message about the card being invalid. I asked the lady at the other counter, and she asked me to fill out a Mobile Banking Form…”
“Do you have the bank app?” She had a pleasant voice.
“Madam, I’ll download it once I get home.” I was feeling hungry.
“That won’t do. You have to do it right here in front of me. Go to Play Store and write Indian Bank in the search column.”
I inserted the words in the search column of the Play Store. The app appeared.
“Is this the one you were talking about, Madam?” I asked her showing my mobile.
She asked me to wait till a page opened.
Instead of a page, there was an advertisement regarding IPL. After a wait of some thirty minutes more, a message flashed on my phone :
Your one time MPTN for Indian Overseas Bank is ……
I flew at her desk. She asked me to wait for another message. After the second message, she took the mobile and asked me if ours was a savings account. At around 1.25 PM, she informed me that as my wife was the first account holder, she had to fill out a form for another ATM Card. The fact that there were two account-holders was what was keeping us from using our ATM Card!
I snatched it from her hand and told her that I would come back in a day or two.
When I stepped out of the bank premises, the big wall clock overhead showed the time to be 1.45 PM as the realization dawned on me that I had spent 3 hours at the bank for nothing!
Rathin, I beg to differ with your analysis of your story, I found it humorous, relatable, and fun to read from start to finish. I think your use of the prompt was very interesting.
Thank you, Valerie. Please keep writing and inspiring. Stay blessed.