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:~: Thursday, May 03, 2007 :~:

stealing characteristics

I blogged over at Magical Musings on Tuesday about naming secondary ( or even primary characters) after family members, crit partners or writing buddies. I don't mean using someone as a model for the character--just borrowing their name.

In this post I'm going to take that bit of borrowing even further. Yep, I mean sneaking their characteristics into certain characters in a book. I bet we all do it, often without even realizing it. We pattern certain characters after people we know, or we've met, or we've heard of. Rarely, do the people we steal from recognize themselves in our words (thank God) but often other people who know them and read our work, will recognize the characteristics.

I've been dying to pattern a character after my Grandmother. But I haven't to date and probably won't, because I'm sure she'd recognize herself and it would hurt her feelings.

But really, the temptation is terrible-- and a conversation I had with her last night pushed that temptation up an entire level.

The thing about my grandmother is that she has this need to own the best. Her car is the best car ever made. It has the smoothest ride, the most leg room, the most comfortable seats. She tells us this every time we go for a drive with her. She'll go on and on about how everyone loves and raves about her car. Her house is located in the best part of town. The very best. . . and everyone tells her so. Her vacuum cleaner is the best model on the market. Cleans the floors and the rugs better than any kind of vacuum you can find. And her dog ( of course) is the best, the loyalist, the smartest, the cleanest dog that anyone has ever met.

So last night I called her up for a chat, since my parents are on vacation and my Grandmother gets lonely without my mom's nightly phone calls. And we chat for a while. I tell her about the rain, and how I love it since I don't have to water the yard. And she tells me she didn't get any rain--which is why her house is in the best part of town, because it rarely rains. (grin) And I repeat that I don't mind the rain. And the grass looks great. To which she replies that the rain will just make the grass grow faster and it will have to be mowed faster. And that her grass is the best you can find because it doesn't grow that fast. She only has to mow it once a week. So I say that's okay. I don't mind mowing it. And I only mow mine once a week too.

The conversation deteriorated rapidly from there. It went something like this.

My Grandmother-- "Well if you're mowing it once a week, you must be keeping the grass too short. My grass grows to two or three inches before its mowed. That's the best length for grass. It's healthier. If you let it grow out you'd only have to mow it every two weeks."

Me, trying to be diplomatic. "I like to keep mine shorter. So once a week is just fine."

Her--"but that's not good for it. It shouldn't ever be shorter than two inches. That's what mine is. And everyone tells me my lawn is the nicest they've ever seen."

Me, thinking fast. "Well I like mine shorter so I can see the dog poop. It's hard for me to see the dog poop if the grass is too long."

Her-- "You know Marmaduke's (her dog) poop disappears. I don't have to worry about about it on the lawn because it's simply gone in no time."

Me-- "He's probably going in the neighbors yard." (big mistake. Ohhh boy. Big mistake)

her-- "Oh no. Not Marmaduke. Why everyone tells me he's the best dog they've ever seen. He never poops in other people's yard. His poop disappears because of what I feed him. It's the best food on the market. Not only does it make his poop disappear, but his poop doesn't stink. Everyone tells me how he's the only dog they've ever known who's poop doesn't stink."

Honest to GOD!! this is exactly how this conversation went.
She must have taken my silence at this statement as disbelief.

"It's true." she said, her voice climbing. "His poop doesn't stink in the slightest. You'd never even know he went poop. You're just like your mother, she doesn't believe me either."

Which begs the question--well two questions actually--just what are my mother and grandmother talking about on their nightly phone calls? And has she actually gone out and smelled Marmaduke's poop? ( my grandmother, not my mother) Eweeee.

"So what do you want to do for Mother's day?" I ask her, trying to change the subject,

Only she isn't going to give in so gracefully. "I want you to come out and smell Marmaduke's poop." She tells me without missing a beat.

Ahhh.....like NOT.

You can see why its such a temptation to pattern a character after her. . .but then again, nobody would find such a character believable.


Blogger Joan Swan said...

ROTFLMAO -- Reality is so much stranger than fiction!

4:23 PM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

I borrow bits of people all the time. I just try to weave them in such a way they won't recognize themselves. The personality of a skinny person in the body of a larger one; or the characteristics of a man into a female character (minus the machismo, of course). I used the names of my maternal grandparents for secondary characters in my third book. They both passed away a long time ago, and it's my way of paying tribute. =o)

4:26 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

LOLOL Theresa, your grandmother is hilarious! I'm tempted to put her in a book, and I don't know her. I can even see this is a film, or she could be a continuing character on a TV cable series. *eg* My relatives aren't quite as funny as yours. :(

8:28 AM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

Your grandma sounds like the grandma in the Stephanie Plum mysteries. You gotta love eccentric people!

4:02 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


Reality can be hard to believe sometimes, can't it. lol

I have to admit, she gives me lots of great material

9:12 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


I combine people all the time too. It certainly makes the people more realistic, don't you think?

I really like the idea of using the names of my great grandparents. Their personalities too. My great grandfather was quite the character.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


I've almost convinced myself to make her into a characer in my WIP. Maybe the heroine's grandmother.

ROTFLMAO-- I can just see the hero and heroine's grandmothers meeting for the first time.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


she does make a great eccentric secondary character. And since I'm envisioning the WIP as a stephanie plum mets the ghost whisper, I think this is the book to slip her into...


9:18 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

LOLOL, Theresa. That is just too funny. I agree, the temptation to use her in a book must be almost too much to resist.

11:09 AM  

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