Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Anonymity

I spent last night (after waking up from a three hour nap...) staring at a wall when I wasn't staring at this screen. I put Crashed and Ghost of Me on repeat because they've become the themesongs of my latest idea (the one with Janus and Elliot and that creepy house). I wrote the titles of my favorite books in various Sharpie inks on green Post-It notes and put the Post-Its on my ceiling. My brothers promptly laughed that I'd done something so stupid.

It makes sense to me, though, to wake up and see my favorite books first in the morning. The titles I chose are The Road, The Gargoyle, Dear John, and Cross.

Those are all favorites because of separate reasons.  I did notice one similarity between two of them, though. In both The Road and The Gargoyle, the main characters are unnamed. The characters of The Road are simply called "the man" and "the boy", while the main character of The Gargoyle never introduces himself to his readers. We know almost everything about those characters, except their names. So often names are chosen in some way to define a character. When they're gone, you (as a writer or a reader) can't define the character within the parameters of their name.

They could be anyone. Your best friend, neighbor, the dude who runs the flower shop across the street.

In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud says that there's a reason why some arts portray their characters as more "iconic" or more realistic. 

Archie is drawn less realistically than the Comedian. Archie can be any high school kid, struggling with high school issues. The Comedian can only be the Comedian. He'd be the Comedian without his mask and getup and he'd always act like the Comedian, no matter what universe we plunked him in. I don't know how Archie would act if he was taken from Riverdale and thrown into the universe of Watchmen.

I think the same thing goes for names. Names paint a picture of the character in a medium where we can't use literal images. So, if you were to write your characters without a name, would they act the same? I think mine would.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a new follower and I think this post was brilliant!

    I have to say that I agree with you, each character I write isn't really based on the name, they're based on the characteristics I give them, no matter what the name, they'd still be the same people. Now having said that I'm not going to name my character Hermione Granger if she's part of the fashion world in America, it wouldn't make sense. So names are important, but it doesn't make or break your character.