How can I write a short story without naming the places characters visit?

Example: If the main character visits a restaurant then I want to show it to the the reader without naming the restaurant.

  • 7
    Hi. Could you please clarify: By "not naming the restaurant" do you mean not telling the restaurant's name (such as "Fouquet's", "the Gavroche", "the Berghoff", etc) or do you mean not using the word "restaurant" at all?
    – Stef
    Mar 20 at 11:08
  • Why doesn't "they ate at a quaint little downtown bistro" work?
    – RonJohn
    Mar 21 at 2:17
  • i don't want to give any name to the restaurant and also want to compare all restaurants in the city but i also don't want to refer it with some other place name as 'restaurant near john's shop '. i am not using a single name in the story .
    – tony
    Mar 21 at 6:18
  • I think this should be in your question. As a gimmick or a challenge, you're writing an entire story in which nothing has a name. And for some reason, you're stumped on locations only? Not on people, days of the week, tv shows, clothing, or the like, just locations? Make that clear. Mar 21 at 16:26

4 Answers 4


We all have concepts in our minds ("table", "computer") and will unavoidably label the things we encounter. So a person visiting a restaurant will think of the restaurant as restaurant, even if he doesn't think that word explicitly.

Therefore, it will stand out to the reader and potentially irritate them if you describe your protagonist as making himself ready to go to "somewhere" and enter "that building over there", as we usually know where we are going and what purpose a building has, if we visit it intentionally.

You can avoid this by switching scenes and leaving out the parts where you would normally name what place the person is visiting: For examplke, end one scene when the protagonist gets the phone call, but before the reader knows that he is being invited to a restaurant (e.g. "Hey John, I'd like to invite you." End scene before John can ask where.), then pick up the narrative when the protagonist is already inside the restaurant and sitting at a table deep in conversation.

Another option is to have the character not pay attention to where he is being led, maybe because he is deep in conversation with the person taking him out, so he only notices that he's inside a restaurant when he steps inside and notices the tables and people sitting there eating (which you can then describe).

These are just some ideas. To give a better answer, I'd need to know why you want to avoid naming the places and what effect you want to achieve. What is the purpose of this narrative device for the story? Maybe the answer lies there. For example, if you protagonist doesn't know the names, then you can simply tell that to the reader (e.g. "John was taken to a place he had never seen before: People were sitting at tables, eating, and they were served by persons bringing the food on trays. Very strange.").


You can include a description. You don't have to mention the name if you don't want to.


Exactly how you do this will depend on the point of view you are writing, and your overall tone. But most of all, on why you want the location to stay unnamed. Some options include:

  • having the characters refer to it without a name: "that little French place near your work", "our fave italian joint", "the Chinese palace next door to my chiropractor" and so on.
  • using generic non-chain names. So not McDonalds, or Pizza Hut, or Olive Garden but "Joe's Place" or "Steve's BBQ" or "Pizza Paradise". Stereotypical names like "Thai Palace" can also work even if there happens to be a restaurant with that name somewhere in the world.
  • using clearly fake parody names: "Pizza Shack", "Olive Plantation" etc

Not using names, but having characters refer to places they both know, creates a sense of intimacy and community. Using non chain names you make up can be part of creating an atmosphere that is highly specific. I don't know what the decor is in Pizza Paradise, so if it's relevant you'll have to tell me. That's great if you want an excuse to do just that. Fake names can be funny, which might not be appropriate in your world.

A lot depends on why you don't want to name the restaurant. Some people are worried they need permission (you generally don't.) Some people are worried the reader will be upset if you get things wrong (that would never be on the menu there in May! Everyone knows that!) and that could be valid. Others want the location to be mere background and not get a lot of attention. Once you know why you are hesitating to give this restaurant a name, you'll find it easier to decide how to handle that.

  • Thanks it helped me a lot . I am not using any name because Its a short story and I want to make any type of reader familiar with the places. i have also not given any names to characters.
    – tony
    Mar 21 at 6:21

Being a short story, how many restaurants will they be in? If there's only one, you don't need to name it or even say that it's a restaurant. Let context handle that (show, don't tell):

They looked each other over as they moved to what looked like a quiet corner table. The waiter appeared silently and handed them each a menu. We set the menus down without looking at them.

"Burger, medium rare, and a cup of tea."

"Same for me. Earl Grey, if you have it."

There's no mention whatsoever of a restaurant, but it's blatantly obvious where they are.

If there's more than one, or if the characters need to discuss the restaurant before going there, you can do essentially the same thing:

"See you at 7:00. Same place as yesterday?"

"No, they left the anchovies out of my Caesar salad. Heathens. Let's try the one across the street. I hear they made a decent Lobster Thermidor."

Neither is named, but again it's obvious that they're talking about restaurants and they aren't going to the same one as the previous scene.

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