Guest post: Just Part of the Family by Sandra Humphrey

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of characters is brought to you by middle-grade and YA author Sandra Humphrey.

Just Part of the Family

I’ve been working on a young adult novel that takes place at a summer camp for girls with emotional problems in northern Minnesota, and I find it more than a little disconcerting that some of my characters have recently moved in with me.

This morning I found the camp director, Mrs. A, at my breakfast table shoveling sugar into her herbal tea, and last night I found her rummaging through my fridge, looking for avocados for her guacamole dip.

And it’s not just Mrs. A who has moved in. Leslie (my Protagonist) and some of her camper friends are also showing up unexpectedly. I found Trisha (a young black girl who longs to have her own garden amidst the chaos of the inner city) wandering around my backyard last week. She wasn’t being a nuisance or anything. She was just out there smelling the flowers.

Then there’s anorexic Jennifer. She hasn’t actually moved in yet, but I see her in some of the young girls I mentor at our church. They talk about their control issues at home and how food is the only thing in their lives that they feel they have any control over. Jennifer doesn’t say anything at these meetings, she just nods in agreement.

And, of course, there’s Rachel, “the cutter”. There were so many Rachels at the state mental hospital who insisted that they had to cut “to feel better”. They shared with me how they could deal more easily with their physical pain than with their psychological pain, and how the physical pain gave them a temporary respite from their psychological pain.

I’ve even run into Cynthia Winston, the villain of the piece, right in my own bathroom—usurping the bathroom mirror while she apples her makeup. Actually, Cynthia has pretty much taken over all my mirrors. She’s always there, preening and giving me her little Mona Lisa half-smile.

Although I have never invited any of my characters to move into my home and take over so much of my life, I find I’m becoming used to having them around. And I might even miss them if they were to move out.

I think what I’ve concluded from all this is that to make our characters real to our readers—characters whom they really care about—we must care about them first. They must be so real to us that we see them everywhere we go and in everything we do, and sometimes we may even find them in the most unexpected places!

Creating new characters has to be the best aspect of writing for me, especially bringing characters back which I did for one of the Story A Day May stories this week. Thank you Sandra!

Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award-winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books.  She’s also the recipient of the National Character Education Center’s Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website at and her blog at

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with multi-genre author Sean Byerley – the three hundred and sixty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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30 thoughts on “Guest post: Just Part of the Family by Sandra Humphrey

    • sandra305 says:

      Or maybe the longer they’re with us, the “less” we understand them. Cynthia has so many facets to her personality (as well as her big “secret”) that I find my time with her more than a bit confusing!
      Thanks so much for dropping by!


  1. Sandra Nachlinger says:

    I’m laughing at the invasion of your home by your characters! When my co-author and I wrote our novel, we talked about our characters June, Peggy, and Kiki as if they were our friends. We’d see things or people that reminded us of their situations, sometimes even calling each other on the phone and saying, “I saw June’s ex-husband today” or “I passed by the hotel where Kiki stayed.” Until the book was finished, they were always with us. Gee, we sound like we were hallucinating, don’t we?
    I thoroughly enjoyed today’s post, and I’m looking forward to reading your latest young adult novel.


    • sandra305 says:

      And hallucinating can be so much fun! I was in the optician’s office the other day and an elderly lady so reminded me of Mrs. A right down to the pink tint in her white hair that I found myself staring at her and I had to restrain myself from following her into the optician’s office when her name was called. I so wanted to hear her voice and see her little (hopefully idiosyncratic) mannerisms. I know, I know–this probably borders on “stalking.” Thanks so much for dropping by!


  2. Paul Cody says:

    Having know Sandra Humphrey for many years, I can state I have never met a lady with so much Passion to inspire kids to read and follow the honor path of life. When she says Kids Can Do it,
    Sandra means it.


    • sandra305 says:

      Thanks so much, Paul, I appreciate your affirmation for my work–it means a lot and thanks so much for stopping by!


    • sandra305 says:

      That wouldn’t really work for me, Delinda, because my emotional development seems to have fixated way back in my adolescent period and I love to write for the middle-grades and the young, young adults (even the “young adults” are way too sophisticated for me these days!). Thanks so much for stopping by and your “nice, sexy, physically fit” protagonist does sound way cool!


  3. Amanda Stephan says:

    Ha ha, Sandra! This was a good post, and very true. When I finish a story, I have a hard time letting the characters ‘go’ ~ a good thing, I think! 🙂


  4. Peg Flaherty says:

    Sandra, you are truly amazing. I have had that experience with characters, and even had a new one tell me had to be heard. You have expressed it so beautifully and I am so grateful to you for being not only a wonderful person, but a wonderful writer.


    • sandra305 says:

      You’re so right, Lisa, and that took me a long time (actually, I’m still working on it) to learn that. I tended to have preconceived notions about who they should be, but now I’m trying to be a better “listener.” Thanks so much for stopping by!


  5. Lois W. Stern says:

    Sandra, just lot the idea of the characters invading your life and taking on life of their own. To me, good stories develop from a situation, maybe even a predicament that a character(s) find themselves in, and moves on from there. It’s kind of like digging for gold. The plot merges bit by bit and the character move the story forward.

    “Live in Beauty”,
    Lois W. Stern


    • sandra305 says:

      I agree, Lois, my characters are definitely taking on a life of their own, and I’d really like my mirrors back! I’m getting just a bit tired of sharing all my mirrors with Cynthia. Thanks so much for stopping by!


  6. Jade Sholty says:

    This is wonderful. I love the visuals of characters moving into your home. Very creative and actually sounds like fun (as long as the author isn’t writing horror stories ; )


    • sandra305 says:

      Mrs. A and Trisha are fun, Cynthia not so much! She’s beginning to get on a nerves as she usurps all my mirrors with her constant “preening.” Thanks so much for stopping by


  7. morgenbailey says:

    It is with deep sadness that I add to this thread that Sandy and her husband passed away recently. She was a great contributor (of two guest blog items) and it would have been an honour to have had more involvement from her. My heart goes out to all those who knew her personally, just by looking at the number of comments received here, I can tell she was a popular and talented lady.


  8. extraordinaryireland says:

    Thank you Morgen again. I don’t see the first comment I made at time of this posting so for the records, I send my love to Sandy and will forever love who she stood for as a compassionate author and friend. I miss her so much but through the tears, I will never for the blessings Sandy brought to our lives.


  9. morgenbailey says:

    Hello Rosemary. Thank you for leaving your message. Sorry your first one didn’t get through, perhaps it got caught up in the spam pile. WordPress is brilliant (usually) at pulling everything out that shouldn’t be here but perhaps was overzealous that time. Also sorry that it’s this circumstance that you come back…


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