Saturday, April 6, 2019

5 Writing Lessons from Charlie Brown

This post was so spontaneous and fun to write. I may have to turn "writing lessons from *insert movie*" into a blogging series this month!

I'm not a die-hard, well-versed Charlie Brown fan. But I don't think you have to be to see that Charles Schultz really knew what he was doing. Or if he didn't ... there's still a reason that his comic strip ran for fifty years. Here are a few things that stood out to me as I paused my walk through the living room to watch a scene of The Peanuts Movie this week.

Character Catchphrases

We all know that Charlie Brown says "good grief." It's part of what makes him iconic. Do you even remember Marcie? She's the girl who calls Peppermint Patty "sir." That probably rings a bell.

As an editor, I often find a pet phrase or styling habit that authors tend to overuse. However ... if a one character is consistently saying something ... it stands out as unique to them. I think little traits like this make a character more memorable.

Pick a Token Object

Not every character should have a catchphrase. That could get annoying very fast. But maybe Linus always has a blue blanket with him. Or Pig-Pen is always in a cloud of dirt. Whether it's something that the character chooses to always have with him (a blanket) or something that stands out to others (the dirt cloud), characters come to life in the details! 

POV Goes a Long Way

Most people can quote any given adult from Charlie Brown. Why? Because they don't speak! At least, not intelligibly. Their waw-wahs are a nice dash of humor. The real power in this decision, though, is that this is an excellent use of point of view! The main characters are a bunch of kids. To them, what do adults sound like? Utter nonsense. So it's more than just funny--it's making a fair point that people can relate to. While the ins and outs of POV can be a pain, it's one of the most vital and engaging parts of a story.

Have Different Personalities

Lucy is bossy, demanding, prone to shouting, and a bit of a know-it-all crab. Charlie Brown tends to get down about life ("good grief"). Schroeder just wants to be left with his piano, and Sally is the epitome of everyone's overly-enthusiastic little sister.

Having such a variety of personalities makes for a much more entertaining ride. Some of you may be really good at this and write character-driven novels. For those of you who are more plot-driven, making sure your characters aren't cookie-cutter is a good way to add some color. I mean, really. Scenarios with Lucy and Charlie Brown must have practically written themselves.

Nicknames Are Helpful

When we see the dude with the hair squiggle, golden shirt, and black-and-white dog, we say Charlie Brown. Yet even a simple name like Charlie easily gets construed. Peppermint Patty (which is actually itself a nickname for Patricia) calls him Chuck. Marcie calls him Charles. And most everyone else uses his first and last name when that's not true of most the other characters.

Chances are, your main character's been nicknamed at least once by some other character. Nicknames people choose often say more about them than who they're nicknaming. Marcie's use of "sir" and "Charles" show her formality without ever having to tell: " the way, Marcie's really formal." Having one character nickname another is a great way to show personality.


Were any of these a new thought for you? For those of you familiar with the Peanuts cast, anything you would add to this list?


  1. Oh wow, thank you for this!!

    This post puts into words what I always felt were large drivers for making characters memorable. I've always struggled with my characters, because, 'lo and behold, I'm a heavy plot-planning type person. My story gets more attention than my characters, and that's when I run into problems. My characters end up being flat and they all speak like college, to put it aptly, this post came right at the perfect time! I'm currently preparing to edit my novel, so these pointers will really be a big help!

    Thanks, again, for this!

    ~ Lily Cat (Boots) |

    1. Aww, I'm so glad you found it helpful! Everyone has writing strengths and weaknesses, so I'm glad I could bring some clarity to yours. I hope the editing goes well for you, Lily. :)

  2. This is such a good post! You should totally make it into a series! :)
    Thanks for these writing tips!!!!

  3. This is perfection! And the peanuts stock image totally made it. ;D

  4. I love these posts! Please keep them coming! This one was full of nostalgia. :P And those were great points!!!

    ~Katja L.


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