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This past week, my daughter went on vacation and stayed with her grandparents for the week.  She came back ecstatic about spending time with her grandmother, and then announced to me, “I hate Grandpa!”

The next twenty minutes was very frustrating, as I tried to figure out what she meant, all the while trying to figure out what to say when I found out what she meant.

Her grandfather is one of those insufferable people that no one likes, with the exception of his immediate family — the one that he grew up with, not the one that he created himself — and that’s probably because they are just used to him.  He’s got a reserve of pent-up anger that he wields like a weapon in the form of sarcasm.  What’s worse, he’s one of the most narcissistic people that you will ever meet, and he spreads misery with glee.  After being in the same room with him for twenty minutes, you have an incredible urge to go get some ice cream and pick daisies, just to cancel out some of his misery.

Of course, I can’t tell that to my daughter.  Despite her words, she actually loves him.  (On a personal note, however, I do find it hilarious that she is figuring out for herself what a miserable bastard he is.  My husband and I laughed for a straight ten minutes about it when I told him what she said.)

The point of all of this is that he makes a wonderful villainous character, although I’m going to have to dredge up some redeeming qualities from my imagination, otherwise he would become too cliche.

As it just so happens, I am reading a great book about Earnest Hemingway called Write Like Hemingway: Writing Lessons You Can Learn from the Master, which deals about characterization:

Hemingway took his inspiration for his characters from listening to the people around him.  To begin seeing which habits of people might make them an interesting character, it’s useful to start looking for your fictional characters among family and friends (p. 87).

I think I will stick him in the series of short stories that I am currently writing, as the “nemesis” character.  Hemingway was famous for doing that, of course, especially toward people he did not like.  (Methinks the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” would be appropriate here.)

As for my daughter, I gave up the effort to figure out what to say.  Instead, I just listened.  She is now writing and drawing a children’s book of her own, called Spongebob Square Pants Eats Crabby Patties.