This is the third in a series where I talk about the inspiration for characters I’ve written about in my books
Patty Monaghan began as Patty McIop, a girl of Irish origin with bright red hair, light skin, freckles, and light eyes. In other words, someone with a similar appearance to me. I can’t remain in the sun for a long time without burning, so you won’t see me hanging around the beach during the height of summer. And so it is with Patty.
As such, I picture her as looking something like this:
In the original Travel Club stories, each of the girls were paired off with someone who was their “best” friend. Just like in the Babysitter’s Club books that I loved so well. In those stories, Patty and Nellie were besties. Beyond that, Patty really didn’t have a personality. She was just the Irish girl who hung out with Nellie. I hadn’t really fleshed out much of her character. So I had some work cut out for me to bring her to life then. Because you know me, I like to have vibrant characters that jump off the page. It makes the story that much more engaging!
One thing I knew had to go was Patty’s last name. When I wrote her character, I picked a random name that sounded Irish. Of course, I know a lot better now! The truth was, I didn’t know what I wanted her last name to be then. There were so many different, actual Irish surnames to choose!
One evening during a family visit, I happened to be watching the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. That night, the special guest was actress Michelle Monaghan. I’d vaguely heard of her before, but couldn’t place where. What struck me though was the sound of her last name. Not only did it roll nicely off the tongue, but most of all, it sounded Irish. To verify, I checked several surname databases and sure enough, Monaghan is an actual Irish last name.
So Patty McIop instead became Patty Monaghan. More specifically, Patricia Anne Monaghan, a.k.a. Patty.
So now that she had a new name, what about her personality? Like in the original Travel Club stories, Patty and Nellie are very close. They aren’t best friends, but they do spend the most amount of time with each other, though they get along well with the other girls. I figured that they should have similar personalities then. As such, Nellie and Patty are not afraid to speak their mind and can both come across as abrasive to others.
However, Patty is very sarcastic. In a way, her sarcasm is something for her to hide behind. She wants to seem tougher than she actually is and doesn’t like to show any vulnerability to anyone. It is fitting then that her Twitter page quotes The Hunger Games, her favorite book series. She knows what she wants and she says it, usually shrugging and adding, “I was just telling the truth” at the end of her statements. In that respect, she is quite a bit like me. I have strong opinions about things I love like music and writing, and I know that it can put people off. So I added that bit of my own personality into Patty’s.
When it came to determining Patty’s interests, I wanted to give her something that other girls her age might see as something they could try: math and science. I read somewhere that even now, the number of girls in higher level math and science classes is much lower compared to the number of boys. I say even now because when my mother was Patty’s age, almost forty years ago, she and one of her other friends were the only two girls in their higher level math classes. Math was something that my mother absolutely loved and still does. She even says that she contemplated a career using her math skills, but she never did.
That always fascinated me about my mother. I always wished that I had been more inclined in math and science, but I’m a language and musical person. You make do with what you are given! So I decided to make Patty into someone who enjoys her math and science classes to encourage other girls her age to give that math class a try and see what happens! Maybe it’ll turn out that you’re better at math than you ever thought! I myself didn’t like math when I was in school, but because of my interest in sewing, I actually enjoy geometry. Clothing is wearable geometry, after all.
Because of her interest in math and science, Patty’s goal is to become a veterinarian. She loves animals and biology. She can rattle off the names of bones in a cat’s body right off the top of her head. That aspect of her personality was inspired by a student I had a few years ago. She was really good at animal anatomy and even asked if she could look up the names of different bones in French for extra credit! Giving Patty something that I am not as familiar with allows me to step outside myself and play as someone else who isn’t me. 🙂
And isn’t that half the fun of writing? 😀
Tune in next time when I’ll be talking about another Traveling Society character: Anna Anderson.