Between the Lines

pansy, blogging, getting to know youWhat’s a fun way to learn about individuals? Perhaps by asking them to list the books they’ve read. Or, even better, to read the books they’ve written. Even though we authors may revel in our fiction (allowing our characters to act in ways we’d never dare), still, there are ways to delve into the likes and dislikes of someone by reading between the lines.

Here’s an example through my innocuous flash fiction, below, based on a set of questions I was asked when nominated last week for the Real Neat Blog Award by Darlene (a real neat blogger). The questions are included at the bottom of this post.

Spring is blooming toward summer, and I am zooming off to meet my girlfriends in San Francisco for a long weekend. Rose will be there, as well as Daisy, Iris, and Lily.

For the sake of anonymity on these trips (in case we girls get a bit too crazy, which has happened in the city where hearts are left), we go by our flower names. You know, the names we would have selected if our moms asked us before we were born.

I am Pansy.

Ivy picks me up at SFO, holding out a warm slice of spinach, tomato, and mozzarella pizza. She’s the most generous one of the group; because she lives in the Bay area, she picks each of us up at the airport with our favorite savory snack in hand.

The mouth-watering concoction revives me from my long flight. “I could scoop you up like ice cream,” I proclaim, licking the tomato sauce from my fingers.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Ivy smiles. “That’s next. Chocolate chip mint, right?”

I nod, remembering our last girls’ weekend, when we visited a different ice cream shop up and down the Ocean City boardwalk last summer. A guilty pleasure we keep to ourselves.

“But don’t forget,” I remind Ivy, “we decided that on this trip, less ice cream and more walking up and down the streets of San Francisco.”

Ivy grimaces, “I know, I know. Particularly since Rose and Lily are counting calories.”

San Franciso, Gone with the WindFrankly, dear, I don’t give a damn,” I retort. “On these getaways, we don’t count calories, we swear as often as we want, we don’t wash our hair every day, and we flirt with any man under the age of 90.” I let out a big whoop.

Ivy laughs. “Stop doing your Scarlett O’Hara impression. I was just joking.”

I hit Ivy’s arm playfully and watch the sailboats glide across the San Francisco Bay. Ahhh, life is really neat.

The Questions for the Real Neat Blog Award:Real Neat Bog Award, blogging

  1. What is your favorite season and why?
  2. If you were given a plane ticket to visit any place in the world, where would you go?
  3. What is your favorite savory food? sweet food?
  4. If you could change your first name, what would it be?
  5. If you could be a character in a book, which one would you choose and why?
  6. What is your one guilty pleasure?
  7.  If you could be any kitchen utensil, what would it be and why?

golden gate bridge, San Francisco Bay

Are you willing to let me know you a bit better? I dare you to answer this question:

If you could be a character in a book, who would you be?

145 thoughts on “Between the Lines

  1. Got to think about this? I’ll be back with an answer! Great post Pam – the Golden Gate Bridge brought back a lot of memories from the 90’s – I crossed it on my way from the airport to my hotel in Marin County on my first trip to America – a flying visit – working as it happens, doing my science thing for a week.

    • Oh, and I was there then. I would have met you for a cuppa. Hmm, Marin County – wonder if your meeting was in San Rafael? Larkspur? Most of the science things I would have guessed were happening in Berkeley, though. Okay, waiting, waiting, waiting to hear what character you’d most like to be…

      • Larkspur and Richmond ring a bell – I was over in the USA to advise transatlantic colleagues in the company I then worked for on a particular aspect of chemical research I was (allegedly) an expert in at the time – all things are relative! It was a January and the temp was about 60 F and I well remember catching the ferry into the city and just walking anywhere and everywhere for a day with the biggest smile on my face – it makes me buzz thinking about it again! Okay back to business – the character I’d most like to be is Gabriel Oak (Far From the Madding Crowd) – the Dorset location is near where I grew up (Devon/Dorset border) – and – well – I’ll let you figure out the rest? All the best Pam – Eric.

  2. Pam, a lovely piece of writing including your answers for the award (congratulations!). You’ve integrated the replies perfectly and the piece reads seamlessly as you build a real sense of atmosphere of the fun the group will have during their time in San Francisco! An original take on an award presentation! As for your question…I’m still pondering. Wishing you a lovely weekend, my friend! Xxx

    • HI Annika. Well, this is an “award-free blog,” like so many others. I am always so honored to be selected, but the awards were flying fast and free for awhile, which would keep us blogging writers too busy to…write. But Darlene was so sweet to invite me to these questions, and I realized I could write them into a story, so a win/win. 🙂 And now, Annika my friend, I’m waiting for a book character you admire or would like to be. Really, I know it’s a very personal question, but I DID leave my heart out here for all to see…. 🙂

      • Okay, I’ve given this a thought and I keep coming back to childhood books with strong independent girls, who have gone through hardship and live a bit on the edge, slowly learning to love and trust others, whilst still being slightly flawed themselves. These include Anne Shirley of Green Gables fame (which I recently reread), Heidi (which was my go to comfort book for years) and Pippi from Astrid Lindgren fame. What wasn’t there to love about her, her strength (literally!), freedom from convention … although I always felt slightly sad for her as well. Furthermore one of her best friends, gradually convinced to take part in the adventures, was called Annika!

        • Well, then, of course it must be Pippi who wins the ‘best character award’ from you. “Give the children love, more love and still more love – and the common sense will come by itself.” Wisdom indeed, and you, my blogging buddy, are a wise woman (after all, you’re one of Pippi’s best friends)! ❤

  3. Hello Pam,

    great post, Golden Gate is a real miracle. That is a real proof what we humans are capable.Congratulations on your award, I must admit the questions are very interesting 🙂

    • Thanks, Ben. I crossed over that Golden Gate Bridge thousands of times for work and play, and each time, marveled at its beautiful construction and incredible views of the SF Bay while crossing. ❤

  4. Wonderful post, Pam. Congratulations on the award. Since Gone With the Wind is my favorite book and movie, I would love to be Scarlett O’Hara. Those dresses! Can you imagine wearing them? Happy Friday! xo

    • Why am I not surprised that Gone with the Wind is close to your heart also? From the age of 12 on, I think I’ve seen the movie a dozen times. At least. I “made” my daughter go to the theater with me and see it when she was 12. Did the same thing to my son two years later. They still haven’t forgiven me for that. haha

      GUESS WHAT??? We had our first hummingbird five days ago, and now they’re coming regularly to our feeder. Such a celebration in my household. 🙂

      • I think I was 13 when I saw it at the theater. It was the first movie I’d ever seen with an intermission. Since then, I’ve probably watched the movie two dozen times and have read the book three times. Yay! I’m so happy to hear your hummies have arrived, Pam. That’s definitely a reason to celebrate. Enjoy! 🙂

  5. Nicely done!

    Not sure there is a character in any book I’d care to be – although I did love Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged. She was a great role model for a badass wannabe in the 70s 🙂

  6. Pam, the way you answered those questions was so original. Good for you. I would want to be Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. I have always admired characters with spunk.

  7. Nicely done, Pam. My younger daughter would be right there with you with the ice cream! 🙂
    I would love to visit San Francisco again, too. We were there once when older daughter was a baby, but didn’t get to see very much of the city.
    I don’t think I’d want to be any character, but I’d like to traipse along with some, if I could pop in and out whenever I wanted to. (It’s like my time machine has to have a bathroom, running water, a/c and heat, and coffee.)

    • San Francisco would be a terrific trip for you and your guy. You see so many nooks and crannies of Philadelphia; it would be fun for you to compare to the City by the Bay.
      I’m with you with the idea of being a shadow to some of the characters in our favorite books. I’ve actually been reading a time travel series lately (first one is Just One Damned Thing After Another) and the main character, Madeleine Maxwell, is a fun, feisty, smart, courageous woman. But she gets into heaps of trouble, so I would just hang around her for a short time. 🙂

  8. LOL!! I love how you so cleverly answered the questions. Pansy is a cute name for you. I would want to be Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. She is a strong character; has a good relationship with her father, is not intimidated by the likes of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and refuses to marry the pompous Mr.Collins. She is a good sister and friend, and after she puts him in his place, she gets Mr. Darcy!!!

  9. Reblogged this on Darlene Foster's Blog and commented:
    Pam over at RoughWriting answered the questions to the Real Neat Blog Award in a clever fashion. Please do check it out. She has a great question at the end for all to answer. You can see my answer in the comments. Enjoy!

  10. What an inventive way to answer the questions! Flower names–what a great idea! Congratulations and good luck on your nomination for the blog award–it’s well deserved!

    • Thanks Amy, but you don’t get away that easily. You’re a big reader. You’re a terrific writer. Please, please, tell me what character you would like to be, if even for a short while? :-0

  11. Great post. Tough question about “who would I be?” I can’t give you an answer just now. Have to think. Someone brave who has adventures and lives happily ever after…. Maybe I have to write about this character in my own novels. Hmm … the wheels are turning.
    Love your girls’ weekend!

    • My SF girls’ weekend is a fantasy, but one of these days, I’d like to make it happen. Even if I have to go as “Pansy” for the entire time. :-0 Come on, Anneli, you can think of a character you particularly admire. I’m changing the rules – you don’t have to be her forever; maybe just for a day. 🙂

  12. Hmm, if I could be a character in a book… I’m not sure, but I’d like teleportation skills to be involved. 😁 Oh, and my character must fight for the underdog.

    • I like your caveats, Carrie. Hmmm, Sounds like Captain Kirk to me! Better yet, how about Commander Uhura. She was the Communications Director, after all. (I checked – there are Star Trek books to go along with the TV show). 🙂

  13. Flower names.. you’ve given a whole new generation of women some great ideas, lol! I find that few have read a book I loved, one that touched me personally (not exactly in the same way as Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre did, but powerfully enough). I’d like to be Penelope Lively’s “Kath’ in The Photograph. Of course, she was already dead when the novel begins, but it’s a minor detail overall. We get to learn her as the pages turn, and I honestly found the canvas of her something for which to aim, or at least hope. Have a good day!

    • “Behind and beyond her looks,her manner, there had been some dark malaise. But nobody ever saw it, back then, he thought. All you saw was her face.” I haven’t read about Kath yet, but reading the reviews (and your recommendation here), it’s top on my TBR list now. I like your reach from the classic Jane Eyre to a contemporary novel with a very contemporary character. ❤

  14. This is so cute. I’d love to have the name of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette protagonist: Lucy Snowe. I’d like to have Scout’s voice (Mockingbird). You can see where this is going. I’d like to pick pieces of them, but if I choose one I have to inherit their conflicts and I’m trying to avoid that hahaha.

    • I can do that. WE can do that, Luanne. 🙂 Actually, why not? Each of us (in reality) is a cosmos of different personalities, so we should be able to pick the characteristics we like best from the characters we read. Thanks so much, Lucy Scout. ❤

  15. I”d love to be Pippy Longstocking because of her spunk, her imagination and her adventures in travelling.

    My ticket to anywhere would be to the Isle of Skye to visit long gone ancestors, breathe the air and walk along its shores.

    • How could I forget Pippi Longstocking?? I admired her so much as a kid. And then my children did too, unfortunately acting out some of her misadventures (like when they rubber banded paper towels on their feet and tried to “skate” across the kitchen floor while also washing it). Here’s to Pippi’s spunk and adventures in the Isle of Sky. ❤

  16. Clever way to answer the questions Pamela. I like your spunk and would love to have a trip like this with friends to just play and let loose. My character would be Travis McGee from the John MacDonald series. A Florida beach bum who gets to mostly play and occasionally work at detecting and saving people. 🙂

  17. I’d be Vianne Rocher in Chocolat. I adore her zest for life and her ability to make people feel at home. I also relate a bit to her dark backstory, so that’s who I’d be if I was a character in a novel.

  18. Not sure who I’d want to be but I’d love to go out for dinner with a few different ones! Probably one evening would be enough. Like some of the other commenters, there are bits and pieces of many.

  19. Good question. I’m desperately trying to think of someone who had an interesting story, achieved something in life, found love (not necessarily in that order), suffered no pain and died peacefully in bed!

    • I thought I had a number of characters to recommend, but then I re-read the part of “suffered no pain.” I think most characters worth their salt in a novel have suffered some emotional/psychological pain. But perhaps I have it: A Gentleman in Moscow. That book may follow all your requirements. And it’s a fabulous read.

  20. Your getaway with friends sounds brilliant. I am tempted to forevermore call you Pansy. The question that jumped out at me, no big surprise, was regarding the plane ticket. The tip of South America please and thanks where I can head off to Antarctica.

  21. I love Darlene’s blog and her books. You have a great time with your girlfriends in San Francisco. If you want to indulge in some spectacular sweets go to the Tartine bakery in the Mission.
    1.My favorite season is summer, I love the long days
    2. New Zealand and Australia ( it’s on my bucket list )
    3. I love all kinds of food, savory and sweet but if I had to choose one it would be a German hotdog with German potato salad at the Frankfurt Airport.
    4 I like my given name and it’s a difficult one here in the States , Rose would be another name I would like.
    5 . I love to be Julia Child
    6. My guilty pleasure is eating my way through different countries
    7. I really like my food processor

    • I am thoroughly enjoying your answers here, Gerlinde. I’m with Darlene, I love your name. (And if I’d had another daughter, I’d have named her “Rose.”) Ummm, I’m my book, you ARE Julia Child of Santa Cruz and beyond.
      My fantasy girls’ weekend is just — a fantasy — so far. But if I’m ever able to make it real, we will definitely visit the Tartine bakery.

  22. Caroline Cameron in Eugenia Price’s SAVANNAH (Quartet) would be my pick. Highly recommended series and one of the top picks on my list. 🙂 Enjoyed the post…Part of my heart will always remain in San Francisco–My early childhood holds fond memories of The Bay areas.

    • THANK YOU, Bette, for telling me about Caroline from SAVANNAH, a book I haven’t read but just added to my Kindle. Sounds like a delicious novel to sink into.
      Yes, San Francisco should be called the City of Hearts, because so many are left there. :-0 xo

    • Good point, Jacqui. May we have a friend in our life who knows our savory and sweet likes, and supplies them upon demand. It’s a tall order, but I think I’ll work harder at being that kind of friend also. (Does sending homemade cookies to a friend who doesn’t bake, count?) 🙂

  23. Pam…as I write this, I am playing Tony’s song…
    leaving my desert and seeing that beautiful ocean and bridge, hearing you and your friends laughing,
    telling each other your
    stories, eating wonderful things and topping it all off with ice cream…
    what a delicious weekend in so many way!!!! Thanks for letting me share!!!
    I’d be a character in a new book of yours that you’re dreaming up!! :))))

    • Ohhh, Pat, thank goodness we both had time in the Bay area to become forever friends. I know part of your heart is left there too.
      I love the idea that you’d like to be one of the characters in my next book. In fact, Bea, in the book I’m writing now (As Lovely as a Lie) – I think she may be like you in many ways. ❤

  24. You’d change your name to Spinach, Tomato, and Mozzarella Pizza? How odd! 😉

    That was a great little story. And Darlene is, of course, quite right. You run a really neat blog.

    Your question has been puzzling me, however. I don’t know what book character I’d want to be. Maybe a pre-Go-Set-A-Watchman Atticus Finch (provided he lived in a cooler climate)? Better yet, I’d want to that slightly fictionalized version of John Steinbeck in Travels With Charley.

    • You’re giving me an idea. Instead of a “Kentucky Derby” Day with big hats and mint juleps, we all should have a “Gone with the Wind” day with Scarlett O’Hara hats and feisty attitudes. 🙂

  25. San Francisco is kind of our backyard but I have never had so much of fun as you evoke with your words Pam…I need a friend like Pansy, one of my favorite flowers. 🙂
    I would like to be Penelope Keeling from The Shell Seekers, a prized possession by the same name, painted by her father…a lady who knows how to protect it from the eagle eyes of her greedy son.

    • Lucky you, I know, to live where you do and able to visit “the City” whenever you want.
      I LOVED the Shell Seekers – a long-time-ago book that stays with its readers, which shows what a good author Rosamunde Pilcher was. Here’s one of her quotes: “Things happen the way they’re meant to. There’s a pattern and a shape to everything…Nothing happens without a reason…Nothing is impossible.” There. Yup, I knew you’d like that. 🙂 xo

    • Why didn’t I think of Jo? She’s been my role model since I was about 11. I live near the house where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women (Orchard House) and have toured it innumerable times, always kind of looking for Jo around the corner. ❤

      • Wasn’t she just the best young woman to be introduced to at age eleven? My sister Brenda chose Meg because, like her, Meg was the oldest in the family. I chose Jo because she was wonderful in every way!

  26. I honestly can’t think of a character I’d want to be but I like you concept here. I’ll have to think about it a bit more. I do agree with you about the ice cream though. It’s a great time of year to really work it in to conversation and books. Now off to check all your answers.

    • With all the reading you do, Cheryl, I know you must admire many of the characters in those books. Of course, being able to select the best characteristics of several different characters might be the best way to go. Now, get back to that ice cream cone. 🙂

  27. Wow, I loved your post! You creatively wove those questions into a wonderful story. Love the flower names. Yeah, I can see you as Scarlett O’Hara. Anne Shirley would be my pick because of her energy and passion for life, or Jo in Little Women.

    • Anne Shirley: ““It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.” So wise for a girl!! Jo, also, contains that same energy and passion – and practicality – for finding her way in the world. Thanks for playing along, Patricia! xo

  28. Pizza…mmm….basil, caramelised onion and feta please! Maybe a few olives for desert…-cough-
    As for a character I’d like to be. To be honest, I can’t think of one from a book but, I would LOVE to be the character of Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. What can I say, I have delusions of grandeur. 😀

    • I’m really surprised you didn’t pick Miira! She’s a character I admired the entire time I read your three-book series. Smart, assertive, courageous. But I smiled when I saw your selection: yes, Sarah Connor is all of those things too.
      And just to let you know, I’m not consistent with my pizza selection. Your combo sounds delish.

      • -blush- thank you, but…do you remember that scene in Terminator 2 where Sarah Connor is doing chin ups? I think I’m fairly strong mentally, but a part of me has always wanted to be…badass! 😀
        Oh and my second favourite pizza is Hawaiian with lots of extra pineapple. 🙂

  29. I would be Stephanie Plumb from the Janet Evanovich series. She eats junk food and never gains weight, has two hot leading men – Joe Morrelli and Ranger, works as a bounty hunter, and a best friend with street smarts named Lula. Fun post, Pam. Love how you wove an entertaining tale around all the answers to the questions. -Molly

  30. Like so many of the above commenters, I’m not sure that there is one fiction character whom I would like to be. But I would like to have known Marie Laure from All of the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr). I found her character to be very inspirational!

    • Wow, what a character to admire. Yes, Marie Laure is amazing in All the LIght We Cannot See. But I wanted to climb into the book and help her out at times, didn’t you? xo

  31. Dearest Pam, this is sooooo sweet (and savory!) – love it! In fact I saw this post as a heart warming, hilarious film! Fancy writing a screen play? 🙂 Isn’t it just the little things? 🙂 Being met with your favourite snack after an energy sapping flight – that’s just such a lovely thing to do for another person. Character? Lusa in Prodigal Summer, but aspire to be Deanna? Hugs to you dear one…Harula xxx

    • Harula, you are a woman after (or better phrase “just like”) my own heart. Barbara Kingslover is an amazing, courageous, beautiful writer. I’ve read many of her books, but not Prodigal Summer, and it’s now on my as-soon-as-possible must-read list. I’ll leave for you a quote from the book, which I find fantastic: “If you never stepped on anybody’s toes, you never been for a walk.” X O

  32. Pingback: Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! | Pain Pals

  33. We expect no less from you than such a creative response to the questions posed to you. As for the character I would be, it would have to be Tom Sawyer of course and Ben would choose the comic figure of Tintin. I have always been one to go for the dare.


    • Tom Sawyer, indeed. Although I see you more as a “Theresa” Sawyer – a traveling adventurer, for sure, loyal and kind to all, but also all girl. ❤
      And for Ben – don't tell him that I'm not aware of Tintin. But I found this funny quote: “Tintin! Are you dead? Say yes or no but answer me!”
      ― Jennifer Ziemba

  34. Loved the unique way you answered all of the questions! You are very clever Pamela…
    I am not sure what character I would like to BE. I know there are characters I would like to MEET in person if they existed. Perhaps one I truly admired and can relate to would be Veronica Speedwell in the Deanna Rayburn series. She is a precocious, inspired and independent female who speaks her mind and does exactly as she pleases! Even in 1897! Love her spirit! She has a handsome partner and they solve crimes together…doesn’t that sound delicious? 😉

  35. I know this may be the power of suggestion, but who else can compare with Scarlett O’Hara? I read Gone with the Wind when I was young enough for the romance of it to sink in. Who can forget that early scene with her on the steps of the plantation house? I can still see the beauty of her dress and how small her waist was and how smitten the young men draped on the steps were. And then there are the two men in her life, one representing goodness, the other passion. She suffers, but she has the strength to survive. She’s brave and passionate, and when she needs to, she can work hard.

    Sorry to copy you, but once you put her in my head, no one else would do.

    • No way you’re copying me in admiring Scarlett O’Hara as I do, because I think there are only about 10,000 others who feel the same way we do. Scarlett is certainly a flawed individual, but perhaps that’s why we love her so much. ❤

  36. Congrats on the award and love the short anecdote there. Certainly on vacation, nothing much to give a damn about but enjoying and treating yourself. What an interesting question you pose for us. Such an open-ended one – I could be a strong, good-willed protagonist, the underdog fighter, the cold hearted villain, or maybe just myself. You know, why pick one character when you can actually be multiple characters on different occasions and situations 🙂 Now. I LOVE pizza and chocolate chip mint ice-cream and you got me wanting for some right now 🙂

  37. What a lovely post, Pam 🙂 It’s creative thinking that you placed the questions at the bottom – what this did was your answers read like a beautiful piece of micro fiction. Thoroughly enjoyable. Thanks.

  38. Congratulations on the award, Pam! Love how you turned it into a story! Also totally love Gone With the Wind but have to admit that I always wanted to be Ronja Robber’s Daughter from Astrid Lindgren’s book. 😄

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