By Natalie Bright


Writing Exercise #1.

Develop a new twist on the characterization of an iconic character.

On a cold, foggy Saturday this past weekend, my husband popped in True Grit (TG#2) starring Jeff Bridges. Later that afternoon John Wayne’s True Grit, from 1969, (TG#1) happened to be on television. Over dinner we talked about the differences between the two movies.

My husband made a good point in that Bridges played a meaner, darker version of a crusty, old Marshall, which is why he likes TG#2 better. Directed by the Coen brothers and released in 2010, I agree that TG#2 is more realistic to the old west. It never made sense to me that the Marshall would have walked that far in TG#1. In TG#2 they rode Little Blacky to death first and then Mattie was carried by the Marshall on foot to save her life.

On Sunday afternoon, we introduced my son’s girlfriend to The Cowboys (1972) with John Wayne. If you don’t own the blue-ray version of this movie, you must find it. Filmed on locations in Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico the scenery stands out as a character on its own. TV reruns don’t do these ranches and sweeping landscapes justice. Roscoe Lee Browne is my favorite character as the chuck wagon cookie, and I’ve had a crush on A. Martinez as Cimarron from the moment he defiantly proclaims, “I’m a mistake of nature.” This movie is so good. Tommy Lee Jones is reportedly writing a new screenplay for The Cowboys. I’m happy/sad about that news.

To sum up our weekend, my 18yo likes TG#1 and TG#2 equally as well. His girlfriend loved The Cowboys. Our 14yo tells me he’s not really into John Wayne, but he really likes that new Netflix show Lonesome Dove (What? I thought he only watched Walking Dead). I’m so glad new generations are discovering these “new” western type shows! When’s the last time you watched a good ole’ family western?

Writing Exercise #2.

Using one of your own characters, rework the description into something more… more dark, more funny, more brave. Dig deep into their personality and motives, and see what you can find hiding there.

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The Magic of John Wayne

The Magic of John Wayne

By Natalie bright


While driving a carload of boys, I listened with interest to my 15yo son and his friends chat about movies. I was shocked to hear one of them say that their favorite movie star was John Wayne. What followed was a surprisingly in-depth discussion of his movies, and if the remake with Jeff Bridges lived up to the original version (they all agreed that both actors owned the part). 

I’d like to say thank you cable television. I guess those John Wayne marathons and boring summer days have a way of coming together in every young man’s life. Did you ever imagine that kids of the 21st century would still be watching John Wayne?

Satellite Dish Enchantment

I realized that the youth of today are exposed to so much more than we were. I really didn’t have control of the television channels until I moved out on my own. My children have a television, iPad, and gaming system, all affording exposure to a wide variety of material. My two boys like westerns and 007 and transformer movies, those ridiculous videos on YouTube, and the history channel. Plus we have horses and cattle and lots of chores. It’s a busy and varied life. 

Books for every Taste

And the same goes with books. I read across all genres, and I’ve come to realize that kids are like most adults.  When I speak at schools, I open discussion to talk about their favorite books. I’m always surprised at the variety of answers, and my kids read a mix of genres too, except it’s not the stories I would have chosen for them.  I’m clueless as to why my youngest refuses to read about Harry Potter and prefers zombies instead. And my oldest went from the Jack and Annie series straight into nonfiction about World War I. 

Editors and agents work hard to produce amazing stories, and thanks to social media and eBooks there’s so many ways for readers to discover them. Opportunities abound for writers too.

Rock Songs of the 70’s

As we drove along, we programmed my sons iPhone to the car so he could play his music. The teenagers sang along with today’s country, but the rock songs were from the 70’s and 80’s; Boston, Journey, Eagles. The same rock songs I used to sing to and the same songs that drove my parents crazy. This younger generation thinks they’re the first ones that came up with everything relating to hip. Does that ring familiar?

More Than a Feeling

As More Than a Feeling blasted through the car, my son asked, “How do you know the words to that song?” 

I smiled. Thanks to me, my children are watching excellent movie stars, expanding their interests, considering all the possibilities and realizing that they can be anything they want to be while being exposed to the technology of a new century.

Now if a cable channel would run a Clint Eastwood marathon and if some teenager would take out the trash, my modern world would be complete.