Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jump Off the Page

Judy O'Malley was an editor with Houghten-Mifflen when I heard her speak (yes, I'm too *lazy to see if she's still there.) 

Hmmmm, isn't this what we're all going for? (and I'm not talking about the laziness) Characters that seem to breathe and eat and yell and fight and cry and cause trouble and make bad choices and grow up and become a hero all on their own? 

And how do we do this? How do we make them so real? 

Study real people!Watch your family and friends and strangers. How do they talk? What are their weird habits? What are their faults? What do you wish you could tell them to change? What do you love about them? What are their secrets? What are their goals and dreams? 

Make your characters a puzzle. None of us make sense, not really. I mean, we're all strange and weird. We have odd things about us. We all have dual desires. Like, I want to have a clean house, but I don't want to go near the broom. Or I want to have toned arms but I don't want to spend my free time lifting weights. 

What do you think? How do you make your characters seem like they could jump off the page and live?

*Alright, another form of my laziness (aka mother of five) is that I don't respond to your comments like I'd like to. I really and truly LOVE getting comments. I'm always surprised how many people actually read this blog. And I'm so grateful for everyone who takes the time to share what they think or if they liked what I pounded out. But I don't always have time to respond. Sometimes it's because of the almost two year old girl saying, "Momma! Where ah yoo?" or "Mommy, pay wit me?" Or it's the fact that I have to hover over two of my boys so they will finally just get their homework done and stop getting distracted. Or it's that these kids expect to eat in a regular fashion. What? The fact that I fed you yesterday isn't good enough, people? *sigh* Or it's my oldest son who likes to download his day to me after he walks through the doors and since I don't want him to ever feel like I don't want to listen to him, I need to stop what I'm doing....or do something mindless, like fold towels, so I can listen.  

So, I'm sorry. I know all the Cool Bloggers say you need to respond to every comment if you want your blog to be successful. But....well....I do my best. And if I have to choose between letting my Molly Monkey grab my hand with her chubby fingers and lead me to her little pink castle, thrusting a plastic prince into my hand and expecting me to make him talk to her plastic princess or responding to every sweet and kind and wonderful comment....well, I guess you know which one I'll choose, right? :)  


  1. I love books that make me feel like I'm there. However, writing them that way is really stinkin' hard!

  2. I hate it when my characters jump off the page. They run around the house trashing things, eating all the Frosted Flakes and upsetting the Basset Hound. Even my protagonist likes to hog the remote. My wife starts yelling at me to get my characters back where they belong. Before you know it I've lost half a day.

  3. The princess. Totally the princess. :)

  4. Gosh, I totally forget to respond to comments, too! I definitely need to catch up on that :P

    Characters that jump off the page always have depth. They're the grey characters.

  5. Knowing your monkeys I would be surprised if you picked anything other than being with them! Your kids are so cute!! (I don't ever check to see if there's a response to my comment. :))

  6. I agree, you have to study real people and make sure your characters are making real choices, plus they need to make mistakes so we can see their weaknesses.

  7. I'm not sure if anyone reads the replies to their comments anyway. Your wee ones are so much more important and while you're paying make believe with your kids you're brainstorming great ideas for stories and characters so you get the best of both worlds!

  8. So many ways. Those characters that stick with you and follow you around the house until you pick up their book again are the ones to write. However, they have their own personalities, so they're not going to do what you tell them, are they?

    And don't worry about the comments. I never expect people to respond to the comments I leave on their blogs. That's why they're called comments and not discussions! Enjoy those wonderful monkeys. They're the whole reason for everything!

  9. Erin, it is totally okay not to respond to my comment. Play with your children. They'll only be little once. :)