Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What A Character

It is blog chain time once more, and I am really excited about the question for this round, which came from Eric. He asked:

Do you create characters that are larger-than-life or are your characters more like the average Joe?

Excellent question - right?

So, for as long as I can remember my mother has used the phrase "he/she is a real character" to describe certain people. Now these aren't movie stars or sports heroes, or even the local newscaster but just - you know - regular people that she came across in everyday life. Maybe it would be one of my sister's boyfriends, or a teacher, or a someone she works with - and after meeting them my mom would say, "they're a real character" and I would know exactly what she was talking about. Basically, these are people who are both average Joe's and at the same time larger-than-life.

Okay, so that's a bit of a vague description, but no worries I have some excellent examples of some real life "characters".

The first comes from a commercial posted on YouTube. Not only is this commercial hilarious, but the main guy in it definitely qualifies for my mother's "real character" designation. The best part comes at around 40 seconds in when he opens up and shares some personal details about himself.

My next example of a great character comes from a story that I heard on a "Best of NPR" CD that I borrowed from the library for a road trip. It was so hilarious that when we reached the destination of my parent's house, I had my mom and dad listen to it too.

The story was called Amy's Answering Machine (they have a part 2 as well) and was about this woman whose mother leaves her these insane messages all the time, until the only thing she could do was collect them on a CD and share them with the rest of the world. If you have the time click on the links above and listen yourself, because it is really the delivery that makes these so wonderfully funny because the mother is so completely serious and sincere. Here are some examples of the messages left on Amy's answering machine.

"Amila, I hope you're on your way home. I just heard on the weather there's a big storm headed for New York. On the weather map, they have snowflakes the size of bagels. So if you have to go out, wrap a scarf around your face to protect it because you know there's that man who climbed Mt. Everest and lost his entire nose..."

"Amila, I'm having second thoughts about that little palm-size computer that you bought. You could swallow it and, God forbid, choke... I just read an article about a fellow who lost a tiny cell phone and when he dialed his own number to try and locate it, he heard a ringing sound coming from his dog..."

And I can't totally remember, but I am pretty sure that after my mom listened to the NPR story, she said that Amy's mom sounded like, "a real character."

For my last real life example is the Twitter feed called "shitmydadsays". I am not a big Twitter fan, however I heard about this when I read that it had led to both a book deal and an option for a TV pilot. Yes, the grapes in our house did go a little sour when I first read that, but when I started reading I couldn't deny that this was some funny stuff. The basic story here is that of a 29 year old guy who lives with his dad and just writes down the stuff that he says. Here are some of my favorite lines (I *** out some of the swear words, just because I try to keep this blog at least PG13, so warning if you go to check out the site yourself - the language is a little R rated):

"There's a word for people like that...No, I'm saying, there's a word and I don't know what it is. I'm not being ****ing poetic."

"Pressure? Get married when you want. Your wedding's just one more day in my life I can't wear sweat pants."

"We're out of Grape Nuts... No, what's left is for me. Sorry, I should have said "You're out of Grape Nuts."

"Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn't invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that."

"You worry too much. Eat some bacon... What? No, I got no idea if it'll make you feel better, I just made too much bacon."

"My flight lands at 9:30 on Sunday...You want to watch what? What the **** is mad men? I'm a mad man if you don't pick me the hell up."

Okay, I think at this point you all know where I'm going with this, but for those who are just skimming through I'll say it once more: This guy is definitely "what a character" worthy.

All right, so these are all (as far as I can tell) real living people somewhere out there in the universe. But how does the whole "real character" translate into my fictional writing?

Well, basically I just try to write people who if my mom met them she'd say... okay, okay - you know what she would say. This doesn't just apply to my main character, but all of them. I want them to be like someone you could meet in your everyday life, but also someone who if you did meet them you'd remember them and tell other people what a character you'd just met.

Okay, that's it from me, but make sure to check back here next week cause I am starting the next chain and you just know that's gonna be fun. In the meantime though, make sure to check out the rest of this chain. Rebecca was before me and Sandra is coming up next.


  1. Okay wow, I thought Rebecca's was awesome but now I have to say you two are tied for the best answers to this question. This was such a really neat and interesting perspective. Nice job.

  2. How funny. I'm gonna have to listen to those messages. They sound hilarious. I model some of my characters off of real life people and funny things they do too. :)

  3. OMG! Is that commercial for real?!? Please, oh please, let it be for real. If I'm living in a world with that guy in it it just makes it that much better :)

    Awesome post!

  4. That's so true! Our characters need to be real and yet memorable.

  5. They sound like characters you love to hate! I could just imagine Jane Austen skewering these people. Great take on the question.

  6. Amila's mother is absolutely a diamond. I couldn't stop laughing as I read her messages. Wonderful!

  7. That was one awesome blog post and a great way to write characters. Oh my goodness. My mom uses that expression too and I may or may not have picked up the habit from her... Usually in connection with my kids. Well, if I used the phrase, of course, which I'm not going to admit doing. ;)

  8. I always thought it was a compliment when my mom said I was "quite the character." After watching that commercial, I'm not so sure.


  9. My mom was another one who used the expression of someone being a real character. This was a fun post, Kate. Interesting.

  10. Oh, wow. That was hilarious!! The trailer guy was awesome. And my mom uses that phrase a lot, too. :D

  11. How absolutely adorable! I love that about you mom and real characters. In the end, aren't we all trying to impress our moms?