Monday, July 26, 2010

Captain Jack Sparrow

Think about his name.

Captain.
He's the boss. You know right away. End of discussion.

Jack.
Jack Be Nimble
Jack of All Trades
Jack the Ripper
Jack Kennedy
Just Jack
And the list goes on.
Jack is his first name. Who he is. His essence.
With a wide range of Jacks, think of all the variations and layers that can be added to a character by using a simple name with a built-in history of sorts.

Sparrow.
A small bird with a melodic song.
Captain Jack Sparrow was but one man on a huge sea.
Yet his voice, his words, captivated all he met . . . one way or another.

I've read that Johnny Depp based his characterization of Sparrow on Keith Richards. After I read that, I could see how his translation of the character played out. He did a great job.

As writers, we don't have a Johnny Depp to interpret the characters who populate our stories. It's our job to make our characters feel just as much alive for our readers as Depp's portrayal of Sparrow felt to viewers. How readers view a character can begin with a single name.

Next time you name a character, remember Captain Jack Sparrow.

And choose your name wisely.

25 comments:

Mason Canyon said...

I don't think I will ever hear the name Captain Jack Sparrow again without thinking of Johnny Depp. It's amazing how one person can claim a name. Kind of like there can only be one Rhett or one Scarlett.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Carol Kilgore said...

Same here.

kimberlyloomis said...

Right there with both you Carol and Mason. Of course I *do* have a thing for Johnny so that kind of aids and abets my obsession, I mean fascination with the character. Generally, I haven't been paying attention to the names of my characters until my current WIP - now many of the names chosen are for what they symbolize, either popularly or in meaning.

Joanne said...

Interesting that a name alone can open the door on a character's personality. It's an intriguing tool to use, acutally.

KarenG said...

Excellent points! What if he had been named Captain George Smith? (Then Johnny Depp probably would have changed the name LOL)

Talli Roland said...

Great reminder - thank you! And now that you say it, I can totally see Keith Ricards in Captain Jack.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

It is a brilliant name, personified wonderfully by a very talented actor.

The best story I ever heard about that movie was when the writers were told that there was going to be not one but two sequels they were absolutely panic stricken. Why? Because, as they explained, they had used up every bit of 'pirate stuff' they could think of in the first movie. They figured this was their one chance to write a pirate movie.

Carol Kilgore said...

Kimberly - Obsession? What obsession?

Joanne - It is a good tool, one I should use more - LOL.

Karen - Probably so :)

Talli - Can't you! There's a fine line there.

Carol Kilgore said...

Elspeth, what a great story. I hadn't heard that. I'd have been petrified, too.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

What a great example of the power of a name, and the importance of selecting the perfect name for a character!

Lydia Kang said...

I loved Depp's interpretation of Jack Sparrow. He really made an interesting character become unforgettable!

patti said...

Wow! As soon as I click on this blog, my pulse lowers. SOOOO peaceful!!

I will check this film out. Maybe am the only person today who is clueless about Jack Sparrow.

Get out more, Patti!!!

Helen Ginger said...

What was most amazing to me was that Depp took a character and totally turned him upside down...and pulled it off. No one else could have played that character the way he did.

Carol Kilgore said...

Jane - I wish I was more successful at choosing perfect names. I often change them - sometimes more than once - during the course of the writing.

Lydia - I agree. Imagine the character with any of these actors playing the role:
Tom Cruise
Brad Pitt
Harrison Ford
Clint Eastwood

Patti - Captain Jack Sparrow, portrayed by Johnny Depp, is the lead character in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The first one is Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Come chill with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Helen - Didn't he! See my comment to Lydia above - LOL.

VR Barkowski said...

Johnny Depp is a miracle. When I'm watching him, I'm never reminded I'm watching Johnny Depp. He *is* whoever he is portraying. Not so with Tom, Brad, Harrison or Clint (sorry guys).

Ann Best said...

I've started an MS Word document that contains interesting and useful blogs I want to remember and/or refer to. This post is going there! Yes, we need to choose wisely the names we give our characters. Hmmm. My names. Your post has given me an idea for a post of my own on the subject.

Maryann Miller said...

I'll admit I have been more cavalier in choosing names for my characters than I should be. I had not thought about how each name could say something significant about a character.

arlee bird said...

Names can sometimes be such a challenge, but they are so important to the identity of a character. I sometimes model characters on people I've actually known and it's often very difficult to give them a name because only the real life name seems to make sense.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Carol Kilgore said...

VR - It's magical when that happens.

Ann - You made my day! I'm happy to have written something you find useful. Thank you :)

Maryann - So have I. And sometimes with even the best intentions, the name still doesn't work. And I change it again.

Arlee - I rarely model characters after people I know, but I have stolen their names.

cassandrajade said...

Hard to forget Captain Jack Sparrow really - and he says his name with such a flourish. Depp really did bring this character to life for everyone.
Thanks for reminding us about the importance of the name.

Carol Kilgore said...

Whenever Depp's name was mentioned, I always thought of him as Edward Scissorhands - until Pirates of the Caribbean. Now he's Captain Jack Sparrow to me. I wonder if he'll take on another role that will change my mind?

arlee bird said...

Depp has gone through so many character transformations in his career that it's hard to stereotype him, which is a really good thing for an actor.

My favorite Depp role so far has been Ed Wood. He wasn't a fantastical character like in so many of his films and his portrayal was done with such optimism that I always picture Depp with that dreamy far away expression of anything is possible--it made me believe and for me that was real character magic.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Carol Kilgore said...

Johnny Depp is a fantastic actor with more talent than half of Hollywood combined. He's also smart for choosing roles that showcase his considerable range.

Aubrie said...

I would LOVE it if Johnny Depp played one of my characters in a movie.

Carol Kilgore said...

I have written a couple of characters he could play, but not too many of mine are of the type he usually chooses. I'd love that, too :)