Characters Around Us

Balloons to Share

Life is all about meeting characters.  So is writing.  Very often the two mesh.  One of the most interesting aspects of meeting readers and talking with them about my book has been when they ask me questions about how I came up with certain characters.  Or they “just knew” a certain character was based on himself/herself.

I see these questions as an indication that person got really involved in the book, even willing to invest him/herself  by such identification with a character.

The other night my husband and I watched the animated film UP. I fell in love with Carl, voiced by Ed Asner.  However, looking at the character depiction, I saw Asner.  I loved how the curmudgeon in him softened always when he was around the love of his life, Ellie.  Later dealing with her loss, the character Russell, an inept, young Wilderness Explorer worms his way into Carl’s heart in so many touching ways. While the plot is fantasy, the emotions and how they build aren’t.  Kids would love the fantasy, the colors, the silliness.  Parents or the young at heart (like my hubby and me) love it on a deeper level.

Then, of course, Kevin, the huge bird is so delightful and also manages to rip away some of Carl’s grumpiness and return him to dealing with life as his deceased wife would have wanted.  The fact that “Kevin” so named by Russell happens to be female and the mother of little Kevins adds another perfect element of humor.

Most of us know Ed Asner for his long history of characters.  Whether that depicts is true personal character, I don’t know as I don’t know him.  But I know his on-screen persona well and Carl reflects that persona.  The writers “built” on that public image.

Haven’t many of us dealt with issues of grieving and wanting to isolate ourselves in the world of the past populated by those we’ve loved and lost?  And haven’t we been lucky enough to discover the perfect Russells or Kevins to pull us back to the present and look forward to the future?  Again an example of real life aiding characters depiction in fiction/film.

That was my take on the message of the film and it’s also how characters in life and in writing can mesh.

Just an example: this week my hubby and I also attended two events centered around St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  At one, a very large and public event, I sat and observed the people and how they celebrated, what they wore, who they were with etc.  All are fodder for some future work—or a paragraph in today’s blog.  The event had everything from great Irish music, to people dressed totally in green, to interesting headwear—I could go on but you get the idea.

The second event was a much smaller affair and most of the people there I’m either related to or have known in some manner for years.  But once again, as I people watched, I saw elements of characters for future books.  Not characters as a whole, but perhaps just an action, or a saying, that identifies that person so totally I know exactly who might be talking or acting even if I couldn’t see the person or hear the voice.  I’m quite sure I’ll put in some future scene the Irish sock line that was captured in digital format.  Or the absolutely scrumptious desserts I couldn’t pass up because I knew who made them.  And she never disappoints.

I'm thinking spring. Are you?

I love the characters in my life.  Those who reside permanently as well as those who flit in and out of my life like butterflies in a summer garden.  They enrich my life and my writing in some manner.

What about you?  Any character thoughts to share?

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6 Comments on “Characters Around Us”

  1. Edie Says:

    People have to watch out what they say to me. I warn them that it might show up in my book. lol I’m definitely putting our inherited dog in my next book. She has a lot of personality. I’m giving her the same name, too. One nice thing about dogs is they can’t sue. 🙂

  2. Deb Says:

    “I love the characters in my life,” you wrote. “Those who reside permanently as well as those who flit in and out of my life like butterflies in a summer garden.”

    We all have such a variety of characters in our lives – from the butterflies to the pesky mosquitoes, from the songbirds to the soaring hawks. Always someone to draw on for our stories.

    I’m dipping my toes back into the writing waters today. Been away too long. Your blog is a good starting point. Thanks for being there, MJ.

  3. caseyclifford Says:


    In the book my agent is shopping, my dog is a stand-out character and important for my heroine. I used her real name also and do so in the second book I’m revising now. Even used my friend’s daughter’s dog and his name in the first book. You’re right. I’m glad they can’t sue, though I use them with love. 🙂

  4. caseyclifford Says:


    So good to see you back online. Today is a great day to get your toe wet in the writing sea. Sunshine and spring breezes come your way to strengthen your resolve. 🙂

  5. Elle J Rossi Says:

    I think all of my characters reflect traits of people in my life. And it’s not always intentional. I don’t know any way around it. Friends and family are everything. I may write a character, go back and read the scene later and realize who inspired it and then cross my fingers they won’t get too mad (depending on the scene) when they get a chance to read it!!!!

  6. caseyclifford Says:


    Your comments are exactly why we writers must not keep ourselves solitary. All our experiences and the people we interact with are fodder for our creative muses. 🙂

    Have a great week and thanks for stopping by.

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