Friday, September 5, 2014

Shredding Words With Sofie Couch, (Well, Kinda)

Okay, I'm not so much “Shredding Words” as carefully cutting and snipping around them while simultaneously talking about novel characters.
The book I'm mangling today was actually meant to be mangled. It's an old, early 1900s magazine. Sadly, there is just this one page left in a box of ephemera at the family antique mall. In it, I found this little guy, “Brother Bob”. Apparently, Bob’s entire family appeared sequentially in this particular vintage magazine. And this child was just so stylin’! Check out those cute little togs Brother Bob is sporting.

There is also something very zen about cutting out these little characters, which it makes all the more a pity that most of our children will never know the joy of paper dolls.
And while I was snipping out "Brother Bob" and his togs, I started thinking about how paper dolls - building them, dressing them, playing with them, is similar to building a character in a novel. You snip away at a composite – a stereotype. All written characters begin flat, like “Brother Bob”.
Then the writer begins to flesh him out. 
For example, did you know that Bob is a little rapscallion? (Yes, I said rapscallion.) He’s the youngest child in my novel, KEEPING UP WITH MR. JONES. He has a penchant for collecting dead animals. It’s a worry for his mother, but what she doesn’t know is that his real goal in life is to be a veterinarian. That dead bird in his pocket is research – a secret that he will share with the only male figure in his life – Mr. Jones.
So check it out! And the next time you’re in an antique shop, check out some vintage magazines and don’t be afraid to bring your scissors. J


  1. Sofie, you just brought back the nicest memory! Paper dolls on a rainy day. I loved playing paper dolls, but it never occurred to me I was in training to be a writer. Nice post.

  2. Now I may be dating myself, but one of my very best favorite things to do as a child was play with paper dolls. I used to also design their clothes by tracing the bodies on blank paper and hauling out my Crayolas.

    Nice comparison. I guess I could have also beein a designer, but Tim Gunn would proabably have to comtinually tell me to "make it work" as my blank paper desogned clothes were a little out there.

    Glad I became a writer instead.

    1. And it's good that I also didn;t become a speech writer because I have so many typos!

  3. Hi Sofie--
    I'll join the party with my admission that I also enjoyed playing with paper dolls. I haven't thought about them in years but did indeed create characters and plots with them :-)