Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Never Take a Wimp to a Gunfight

When I think about naming the characters in my novels, whether it’s the hero, heroine, antagonist or secondary characters, I want the names to match those characters’ personalities, their physical features, all of the attributes that make them who they are in the story. Sometimes I change a character’s name several times before I settle on what fits. Other times, I astound myself when the name fits perfectly the first time around.

So where am I going with this, you ask? Recently, I attended a conference and like most conferences there was an agent/editor panel. One of the discussion points was about names. All on the panel agreed names that are to difficult to pronounce or have a weird spelling, or simply doesn’t fit the hero or heroine’s personality, or a name that is in the wrong time period is a turn-off and could possibly warrant receiving one of those notorious rejection letters.

This comment got me to thinking about people in the entertainment field—especially male movie stars who’ve taken a stage name because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell. In the past, a stage name was often used when a performer’s real name was considered to denote a specific ethnicity that faced potential discrimination. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun, if not interesting, to research the names of movie stars. I think you’ll be amazed when you meet the REAL John Wayne, Cary Grant, and so many others.

Birth Name Stage Name
George Scott - Randolph Scott
Elred Peck - Gregory Peck
Orvon Autry - Gene Autry
Eugene Klass - Gene Barry (Bat Masterson)
Charles Buchinski - Charles Bronson
Francis Timothy Dirgin - Rory Calhoun
Issur Danielovitch - Kirk Douglas
Gwyllyn Samuel Newton - Ford Glenn Ford
James Bumgarner - James Garner
Charles Carter - Charlton Heston
Roy Scherer, Jr. - Rock Hudson
Eugene Orowitz - Michael Landon
Harvey Lee Yeary II - Lee Majors
Carlos Ray - Chuck Norris
Walter Palanuck - Jack Palance
Louis Lendley - Slim Pickins
Lou Tychurch - Lou Diamond Phillips
Leonard Slye - Roy Rogers
Marion Michael Morrison - John Wayne
Norman Eugene Walker - Clint Walker (Cheyenne Bodie)
Curtis Wain Gates - Ken Curtis (Festus on Gun Smoke)
Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors - Chuck Connors (Rifleman)
Maurice Micklewhite - Michael Caine
Archibald Leach - Cary Grant
Thomas Mapother IV - Tom Cruise

Okay, now that you’ve met Marion Michael Morrison, and have a visualization of him as one of your favorite cowboy heroes, can you image him being anyone other than John Wayne? Shut your eyes and imagine Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors standing in the middle of the street with his rifle and facing down a gang of outlaws—didn’t work did it? Now replace that image with Chuck Connors. Big difference, huh?

If you have a novel in progress or plotting out your next story, give specific thought the moniker you hang on your characters. They’ll love you and so will the people who read your story. What about the female stars? I haven’t forgotten about them. Tune in the second Tuesday of March. You’re in for an even bigger surprise.


Paty Jager said...

Fun and eye-opening blog, Loretta!

Helen Hardt said...

I had to stop over after I read your post on the TWRP loop. I knew who Eugene Orowitz and Thomas Mapother were, by you got me with Leonard Slye, LOL. Fun post!


Celia Yeary said...

Great, Loretta--the only one I knew was Leonard Slye. Most of those I never heard, and when you think about it, the names become funny. Monikers are important, very important. Characters' names usually come easily to me.And I look at strangers and try to imagine a name. Often, I find someone, who to me, is misnamed. I give her a new one, and if I'm not careful, I'll call her by the name I think she should have. Thanks--can't wait for the women's names. Celia

Cate Masters said...

Great post, Loretta! The Cactus Rose blog always has the most interesting info. Names always hang me up, too - I have to find one that really fits before I can get on with the writing. Looking forward to the women's list.

Mary Ricksen said...

I should change my name too!
Nice to see a fun blog and learn something interesting.
I had no idea Michael Landon was not his real name, but I had a real crush on him from Little House On The Prairie. But Eugene would not have worked the same.

Tanya Hanson said...

hi Loretta, what a great blog! A few of the guys I knew (e.g. John Wayne and James Garner and Michael Landon) but wow, some of those others seriously needed changing too!

Oh, I totally agonize about names for characters, even totally minor ones like a shopkeeper.

I love this post! Thanks!

Lauri said...

Wonderful post, Loretta!

Like everyone else, I knew some of them, but others caught me by surprise.

Part of the fun of writing is using names my husband refused to consider while we were expecting our boys!

Loretta said...

Thanks to all of you for stopping by. I always enjoying reading everyone's comments. I can't imagine what some of the actors' parents were thinking of when they picked names for their boys. Aloysius??? Oooh, makes me cringe to think of what poor Chuck Connors must have gone through in grade school.

Linda LaRoque said...

Great post, Loretta, and fun. I'm like you, sometimes it takes several tries before I get the name right.


Anna Small said...

Entertaining info, Loretta! I actually met Mr. Elred Peck at Newark Airport about 20 years ago. He was so gracious and kind as I babbled on and on while he signed the back of my ticket receipt.