Friday, January 20, 2012

John Wayne  

Okay, what did you see when you read his name?  Did you picture him in some favorite movie?  Which one?  True Grit?  The Shootist?  Or, The Quiet Man?

We all have an image we form when we hear names, especially if the names are well-known and famous.  James Bond, Dirty Harry, Quickdraw McGraw…the list is endless.

Recently, the movie Rio Bravo was on a cable channel.  The cast was as follows:

The summary of the movie:
“A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.”

As I watched it once more, this time I paid attention to the monikers. Dude.  Colorado.  Feathers.  Stumpy.  Life had to be interesting if those were one’s names.

Ricky Nelson’s character ‘Colorado’ had no life skills.  Not really good with a gun, he was ‘the kid’ who wanted to be bigger than life, as ‘Sheriff John T. Chance’ was huge.   He chose the name ‘Colorado’. 
This set me to wonder what name I would chose given the fact that I am a 60 yr. old retired school teacher with some extra pounds.

These were some choices:
Des Moines           Boise          Newark            Dubuque     or instead of cities,
Sourdough            Limburger   Blumenthal    Lentil        or, how about,
Lancet                   Boil             Incontinent    Salivate

Silly, I know.  But, what made me think is that the character’s names pre-established my perceptions of them.  Angie wouldn’t have come across well if her name was ‘Stumpy’, and Walter Brennan became ‘Dude’.  The character’s name is all important. 

Something to keep in mind in the crafting of a character in my writing.


  1. Replies
    1. Either that or Sassy. Both sound good.

  2. They don't make movies like that anymore. It's a shame. I loved all the old movies. Still do. I think if I had to pick a name for myself it would be something along the lines of Dallas or Little feather. I don't know why I chose those just go with it. It's better than Woman that talks a lot or Sunshine (which is what Phil calls me. I sometimes wonder if he remembers my real name.

    1. He'd better remember it! I think Dallas sounds great--or Montana. Has a wild ring to it.

  3. I just watched this a few months ago, I liked the names too. They don't make them like this at all any more. Now it's just some amusement park ride, a thrill for ten seconds and that is it.

    1. I love the old movies. They are timeless, while current offerings seem dated by the time they get to DVD.

  4. Dear Susan,
    I've spent time in the last twenty years working on three novels. One I'm polishing now, the other two are in various drafts. Finding names for the characters took much thought for names, as you say, do have an association for us.

    So first I think about what the name reminds me of. What it says to me. Then I wonder about what it might say to others. That all depends on celebrities of the past and the present. Just think of "Scarlett O'Hara." Would she be etched in our memory without that name. I wonder.


  5. The name 'Scarlett' really set the stage for her character. That was an inspired choice.

  6. LOL - those names had me laughing. And you are so right about names. I seem to get character names stuck in my head and I can't change them, which is tough when I realize that the "language" of my current WIP might make for different name choices - too bad, Clara is Clara, Salene is Salene, Dantor is Dantor, Stelia is Stelia (her chosen name). I can't change their names because their names are integral to the way I picture them.
    Great post!

  7. Such a great point about names! Oh and I immediately thought of "The Quiet Man." ;)

  8. Good point. It took me forever to choose my characters' names, poring over their meanings, what sounded good, what matched their personalities, and what was something everyone would be able to pronounce. Names are hard. My main character's came to me very easily, though.

    It's been forever since I watched a John Wayne movie. I grew up on them.

  9. When I read that name, or when I hear it, I shudder. But there's humour in the reaction, for even my husband who is a life long fan of this character smiles when he mentions him. You are right, naming a character is so important, pity we can't get away with the Dickens' style of character naming, but I'm sorely tempted. :0)

  10. Good point! I'll usually keep reading a book if I don't like the character's name or gives me the wrong impression, but it detracts from the story.

  11. Names are so, so powerful. I am really sorry for all the lovely people named Louise out there but as soon as I hear the name I see a permanently runny nose and greasy hair.

  12. I think you deserve a way better name than "Incontinent" or "Boil" but those really made me laugh!!

    I pictured John Wayne in "The Quiet Man", my favorite of his movies.

    When writing, I'll spend a lot of time (maybe too much?) searching for the perfect name for my characters. The wrong name can make a story hard to read.

    Happy Monday!


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