Now that we’re back to back…
Step forward ten spaces…
And instead of drawing your steel…
Look between your character’s eyes
And spit out the first name that pops in your head.
Okay, got it?
The name that popped into my head was Clint Eastwood. The sinister outlaw from the spaghetti westerns. The soulful, grumbling cop with one hand spinning the wheel and the other blasting a magnum out the window. A director, an artist, a human being that I can’t help, but respect and admire.
Not only is Mr. Eastwood a virtuoso actor. He also picked a legendary stage name.
Only thing is…….
Clint Eastwood is not a stage name.
The man’s man himself was named after his father, Clint Eastwood Sr., who was named by his parents. Who knows why they named him that? What’s this have to do with naming characters?
Everything and nothing. In the best possible situation: Your characters names are already there. There’s no searching involved. They just fall from your head and on to the page with little effort. Most likely, the more you write there will be occasions that you’ll need to tinker with a few names here and there. Swap them around as they grow with the story. You may have to be patient and let them ooze onto the page from the other side. You may have to play with combinations from baby naming books. You may have to read the obituaries. You may have to sit on a bench at a train station during rush hour with closed eyes and listen to the people call out for each other.
The name can come from anywhere. There are no rules. You may not know if it’s the right name, but you will definitely know when it is wrong. You want a name that can pop in a stranger’s head as first thought. You want the equivalent of what Clint Eastwood was for me when I started writing this piece, for the masses.
Below is a list of some of my favorite characters that Clint Eastwood has played in his films. Notice that some don’t have a last name. Others come with professional titles such as Inspector, Doctor, and Marshal. A few of them made their way into the title of the movie.
When you read the names…
scroll down slowly before you look closely at the picture.
When you read the character’s name,
try to picture
that fits the words.
When you have it, take a look at the picture.
Is it what you expected from the name alone?
Is there a different Clint Eastwood in each one?
Marshal Jed Cooper
Insp. ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock
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