The character in my book doesn't have a name. I mean, he probably does, but its not used by any other character in the book, including the character himself.

He has a generic name, kind of like the The Dark Lord or something along those lines.

I've read a lot of books with characters like these, but they all seem to end up mentioning his name and using them.

Is it taboo to never actually use the character's actual name but keep on calling him the generic name or rather, title?

  • 1
    How is this question different from your others? Why is the naming of characters so important to your story? Apr 24, 2016 at 14:47
  • Probably because I'm so worried about it. Also, the only living person so far is my character. Don't know why, but it makes feel really awkward that I haven't named him. Apr 24, 2016 at 16:05
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    There's your answer. If it bothers you enough that it's getting in the way of your writing, then go ahead and give him a name. Then just write write write. Good luck. Apr 25, 2016 at 1:04
  • Not wanting to add a link-only answer, I'll add this as a comment for reference. There's a whole trope about major characters without a name, and here you can find an extense list of books that have used it in case you want to read any of them for reference.
    – xDaizu
    Jun 20, 2018 at 12:06
  • Ask Sergio Leone.
    – EvilSnack
    Feb 10, 2020 at 3:03

3 Answers 3


According to the wiktionary, a "name" is "any nounal word or phrase which indicates a particular person, place, class, or thing." Implications:

  1. "The Dark Lord" is a fully valid name.
  2. There is no reason whatsoever why a character should not have more than one name. As a matter of fact he can have as many names as intelligent entities who are referring to him or her.
  3. I don't think multiple names can be ranked. They refer to the same thing, and there is no reason why one should be better or more powerful than the other.

Additionally, recall that a number of languages have rather "telling" names. Indian and Turkish names, to my knowledge, can usually by literally translated, for example into phrases like "The one with the skin like moonlight", the same goes for a number of Gaelic names and so on. These names are in league with the likes of "The Dark Lord", we just don't understand it because we don't speak the language.

My point is: We name things. All the time. I'm not even sure our brains can process thought about things that we haven't previously named, even if that name is horribly clumsy such as "that weird wiggly thing on the other side of the road".

tl;dr: You do name your character. It just so happens that your name is not a canonical first name such as John or Mary. However, in my opinion, that is not a problem. Consider Moby Dick. The first line of this book is "Call me Ishmael", indicating that his real name is something else. Yet, to my knowledge, nobody has ever complained about this.

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    "The first line of this book is "Call me Ishmael", indicating that his real name is something else." I never thought about it that way; I thought he was just inviting the reader to be casual or even intimate with him — "Call me by my first name rather than Mr. Smith or Lt. Jones." Apr 24, 2016 at 15:54
  • Certainly true that a character can have multiple names, but I'd be careful about this unless there is a specific reason for doing it. I'm reminded of a book I read not long ago that called a character "Robert" for most of the story, then all of a sudden referred to him as "the red-head". I didn't recall any previous mention of the color of his hair, and I had to re-read the paragraph a couple of times to figure out who the writer was referring to. Even switching between "Sally" and "Miss Miller" or the like can be confusing.
    – Jay
    Apr 25, 2016 at 14:00
  • @Jay All the nicknames for Aragon in LOTR must drive you nuts, then. :) Apr 26, 2016 at 17:28
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    @LaurenIpsum I wondered why it was difficult to defeat the orcs when they had that whole army of rangers.
    – Jay
    Apr 26, 2016 at 18:02
  • As a matter of fact he can have as many names as intelligent entities who are referring to him or her. I don't think that's an accurate maximum, since an entity can call another entity by multiples limits. For instance, I, as an intelligent(ish) entity can refer to my SO using multiple different names, which may or may not be also used by other beings. So, while I get your intent, I'd argue the number of names is not directly correlated to the number of entities refering to the subject.
    – xDaizu
    Jun 20, 2018 at 12:12

The answer to this and your other similar question is the same: Your Mileage May Vary. If you can get it to work, go for it. There's no rule about it one way or the other.

In Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the main villain is always referred to as "the gentleman with the thistledown hair." He's never given a name at all. The book has done very well, so it doesn't look like that was a dealbreaker.

  • 1
    Can I just give you 10.000 likes for the JS&MN reference? Please?
    – Filip
    Apr 24, 2016 at 15:14
  • @Filip Feel free. :) Apr 24, 2016 at 15:53

This is at least the third question you've posted about revealing the name of a character. I think you're obsessing over this tiny point way too much. Just give him a name and be done with it.

Most stories start out identifying the main characters' names in the first few paragraph, usually in a totally nonchalant way. Often at least one main character is named in the first sentence. Lots of stories start with a statement like, "George lived in a small apartment in Chicago with his wife Sally."

If there is some good reason in your story why the main character's name should be unknown or a secret, okay fine. Otherwise, just give him a name and move on. Just start the story, "Fwacbar, the Dark Lord, thought he was the only man alive" or whatever, and get on with the story.

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