I'm about half way through my current work, and there is 3 (very short) chapters, which consist solely of meetings between a police sergeant and a politician.
At the moment, I have not named them. They are referred to occasionally by their role, i.e. 'the sergeant' and 'the politician', to set the scene. They are not main characters, but each of their discussions are critical in moving the story on to the next stage. It is their role that is the important factor, not their character.
Do folks think it is OK to leave it like that, or would I be better to give them names?
I don't think anyone can say anything beyond "It depends." Does the writing flow smoothly? Is it easy to follow who is who and gauge their importance to the narrative? Then you're probably fine.
I expect an un-named character to be less important. That is, it's his/her job or position that is relevant, and not him/her as a personality. But if a conversation goes on with one of them for 30 pages, it could seem pretty odd to only refer to him/her by role.
That said, surely the most brilliant move in Du Maurier's "Rebecca" is to not give a name to the protagonist.
If they cover 3 chapters, then they might be significant enough to warrant names. Is it like a sentence or two per chapter or entire paragraphs? The scenes aren't there just for filler, so yeah i'd give them names.
It is 3 complete chapters, but they are very short, only a few hundred words. The book cuts every now and again to a meeting between these 2, and it is mainly dialogue, so other than in the first few exchanges, there is no reference to them as it's obvious who is talking, i.e. there is a question asked by 'the politician', which is answered by 'the sergeant', and the dialogue continues from there, with no 'he said' etc throughout.
Although the chapters are short, they are important to move things on, but I question myself whether there is any benefit to the reader in me referring to them by a name.It wouldn't be the first time I've read a book and when an infrequent character comes up again, I can't remember who 'Dave' or whatever he gets called, is and I have to check back!
@1001, as per the above, I think the writing flows smoothly (hope so anyway!) and the chapters are short. I just felt it was better to put their dialogue exchange as separate chapters, as these characters are not in the middle of the action, but the decisions they make effect what happens next.
I think I will leave the politician unnamed as, like most politicians, he's involved but pretty useless. But towards the end of the book I am going to try to work in dialogue between the main characters and the police sergeant, so he will get named then. This is the first in a series, and it dawned on me that having an insider in the police force will give the main characters and added edge going forward, so the sergeant's role may well increase in the follow up!
If they're not important characters to the story, there's really no need to name them. Take my latest book, Project: Death Cat, for example. There was no way I was going to be able to name every single terrorist and anti-terrorist agent unless they were leaders or important characters to the plot. It's like asking for the names of every single character in a cop movie if there are a lot of cops; it's not important to give everyone a name.
We all have characters who are basically insignificant, but if you make them too generic and two-dimensional, they can come across as flat. Rather than "the politician" for example, I would perhaps go so far as to name the office he is in or aspires to. "the mayor" tells me something different than "the councilman" or "the governor" or "the senator-elect". Just that little bit of distinction can add a tinge of color to the character with very little effort.
As for the sergeant, that is a title that is often substituted for a name. Do people address him as "Sergeant", or does he go by "Sarge"? The difference between those is nuanced, but one is more authoritarian, the other more approachable. It still gives them some character without benefit of a name.
Thanks, I should have explained that the book is based in Scotland, where Mayors etc have no real relevance. I initially referred to him as 'the local politician', which is effectively the local member of parliament, who represents the area, rather than being in a specific department of the government. I'm a bit worried now how it may come across to the American market now though!
Regarding the sergeant, up to now, as its 90% dialogue between these 2 people in a meeting, they don't really address each other as anything. I take on board what you've suggested though, and have changed the few parts where there are others involved, so when other members of the police force speak to him they have referred to him as Sarge, but the politician says Sergeant, to differentiate between the better relationship he has with his staff and and the more official and colder relationship he has with the politician.
The two AIRT agents in the "Interruzione" sections of my book "Maestro" do not have names until the very end of the book - and they only have them then because they have to introduce themselves to the main character. In my humble opinion, their conversations are just as dramatic as if they were calling each other by name the whole time.
As long as a character's voice is strong enough that the reader knows who is talking and who is listening, minor characters don't need names. But on the other hand, if you make it obvious that they don't have names or they won't tell anybody what their names are, you better have a good dramatic reason for it, because people have names and readers know that.
Another reason to give them a name, by the way, is if they will become more important in another book. The AIRT agents are significant characters in the sequel so it was nice I had already worked out names and personalities for them.
I have a short that is 34 pages. One one character has a name and it isn't revealed until the last paragraph. Several who read it have told me they didn't realize it until I asked them. Others did notice but said it made no difference in the story.