Characters without a name are a specific method of Playing With Nominal Importance, which can impact the story in several different ways.
Generally speaking, the more of a character's name that we hear, then the more important they are to the story. Just "we don't know their name", on its own, isn't significant. The Bit Character is unlikely to have a name, because their impact on the story is low. When a character "doesn't have a name", but are so important to the story that they are given a name anyway, it tells us more about the story. It might be as simple as the janitor who is called "Janitor", or they may have an external reference for the name. Sometimes if a minor character is only referred to by the stock character name (like The Gunslinger), but the major characters have regular names (Bob, Alice, etc) this is the author's way of reminding you that the person is a flat, undeveloped character.
If the work has no name, please see No Title.
Subtropes include: <!—index—>
- No Need for Names — A character or group of characters don't see the point in having names.
- Name Amnesia — A character has lost/forgotten their name.
- Take Away Their Name — Their name was stolen and possibly replaced.
- Nameless Narrative — All characters are identified by traits instead of names.
- Never Given a Name — A character never had a name given to them.
- No Name Given — None of a character's name is used within the work, although they presumably have one.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" — A character's title is used in place of a name.
- Only One Name — A character has one name, and it operates as both personal and family name.
- No Full Name Given — A character presumably has a full name, but only their surname or their given name is known.
- Unnamed Parent — A parent (or other adult) whose name is based on their relationship to the younger main character.
- The Scottish Trope — Characters avoid saying a name out of superstition.
- Somebody Named "Nobody" — Character is given a name that reflects their lack of a name/identity.
- Withholding Their Name — A character refuses to share their name with others.
- You Are Number 6 — Characters are dehumanized by having numeric designations instead of names.
- You Know the One — Characters refer obliquely to another noun.
Compare the following tropes, because they often overlap:
- I Know Your True Name — when this trope is in play, concealing one's name or lacking one entirely can have powerful ramifications.
- Last-Name Basis — A character's personal name is rarely used in the work, potentially causing the audience to assume No Name Given.
- Named by Democracy — A character gets a new name from the consensus of their fellows.
- Only Known by Their Nickname — A character's nickname is used so often, it may cause the audience to assume No Name Given.
- Spell My Name with a Blank — A character's name has been redacted at least once within the work. Possible to overlap with No Name Given, but does not always do so.
If you have arrived here from a wick describing a character, please correct that wick to the appropriate Sub-Trope.