"You're quite the character."
That's what my mom said whenever I'd play a practical joke or pop off an anecdote that was too risque for my young age.
And I'm sure my follow-up question -- "What kind of character am I?" -- proved her original assessment.
I figured my question was valid.
Even at eleven years old, I knew the variations found in characters. Practically an only child (my sisters are six, nine and ten years older than me), I surrounded myself with fictional characters from books, movies, cartoons and television shows.
Other people's fictional characters helped establish a foundation for building my own for stories I'd write later in life. Through those characters, I discovered a definition of the word I hoped my mom meant.
I wanted to be beautiful like Daisy Duke. I loved pretending to be the only Duke girl, helping my cousins solve problems that the law couldn't. (Although in my fantasy world, I didn't like Ennis. What on earth was that girl thinkin'? Seriously.)
I wanted to be tough like Princess Leia -- twin sister of the chosen one, Luke Skywalker. Who wouldn't want to be the girl who fights epic battles against Storm Troopers and an evil empire? How could a girl not want to tame a scoundrel like Han Solo? (But kissing my brother? Contrary to popular thought, we don't do that here in Nebraska either.)
I wanted to be mysterious like Jem, the cartoon pop star who led a double-life. I was older by the time Jem's popularity grew, but I fell in love with the idea of a tough rocker-chick heroine with identity issues. The deepest heroes/heroines have flaws to which everyone can relate. (But it really bugged me that she never minded her boyfriend's purple hair and the fact that he cheated on her with her other self. I mean, c'mon girlfriend. Have some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for yourself!)
Perhaps most of all, I wanted to possess the innocence of Anne Shirley. Remember Anne of Green Gables? She's my all-time favorite book character. I always likened Anne and her best friend-kindred spirit, Diana Barry to myself and my twin cousin Jill. (We're more like twin sisters than cousins.)
Over-the-top. Melodramatic. Hopeless romantics. Always getting into trouble. Sitting next to each other in punishment with smiles and whispering, "It was worth it."
I'd have a hard time creating a heroine for a story who didn't possess each of these traits in measured amounts. And I hope when my mom told me, "You're quite the character," she was talking about a little of each of these traits.
Maybe I'll go ask her again.
What about your favorite characters in childhood? How have they impacted your writing or life in your adult years?