Discovering Character Secrets from Your Relatives!

Much of the time, we treat relatives as obligations: “Yeah, but what can you do? He’s family.”

This year, during the holiday break between December 25 and January 1, the kids and I and Grandma and Grampa piled into a rented minivan and trekked 7 hours to southern New Jersey… where the aunts and uncles and first and second cousins reside. And while I was there, I finally understood why Brothers and Sisters makes me laugh.

But the biggest epiphany I had…

The last time I was in New Jersey was the summer of 1995. It was a year after my grandmother died and a year before my eldest was born. Back then, I knew little about human personality, and even less about how to write fiction. In that time, my entire perspective has changed, and I was honestly amazed at how much real-life character drama passes by right under our noses. The old adage is true: You can get loads of great character ideas by looking at the people around you. Of course, using these character ideas is another matter. But notice just some of the things I noticed about the people in my own family:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Actually, the trip inspired me at almost every turn. Indeed, it is true that the best ideas come from real life.

Of course, the most touching realization is that no matter how much your family makes you laugh, it’s always hardest when you have to say goodbye. We’ll have to go back soon and visit again.


P.S. That is, if they haven’t disowned me after this post.

P.P.S. I picked up a bunch of postcards from my trip. I’d be happy to send you one. Just click here to email me, and ask for a postcard from Longwood Gardens. First come, first serve, and I can’t get any more until who-knows-when. So if you’d like a free postcard, email quick.



1 – Gravy makes everything better.

(Except ice cream.)

(Don’t be surprised if this becomes the topic for my next post, by the way.)

(And cats. Cats are better without gravy.)

2 – Happy New Year!

(Without gravy-covered cats.)

OMG, that’s funny! “Cats are better without gravy.” 😀


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