Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, girl gone nova, project enterprise series
I was browsing the Facebook home feed and found this funny tee shirt and had to smile and repost it. I’ve been short all my life, including during my grownup years when I hoped not to be short anymore.
My husband is tall. His mom, sisters, dad, brother, all of them tall. My kids are taller than me. I have laughed when my nieces and nephew measure themselves against me, “hoping” to be taller than me. I told them they needed to aim higher. They did. Passed me like I was short.
The tee shirt reminded me of Randy Neuman’s tongue-in-cheek song “Short People.”
As is often the case with random things, it sparked the random realization of how often I imbue my characters with qualities and traits that I don’t have. People often ask me if my characters are based on me or someone I know. The short answer (pun intended) is that at least some are based on how I wish I was. In fact, you might take some of my characters as my “me” wish list.
So I thought I’d revisit my leading ladies and see where they fit in my life: as real or wish list.
Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, girl gone nova, project enterprise series

Spy Who Kissed Me:  Isabel “Stan” Stanley describes herself as this way: Isabel. Picture someone petite, fragile and blonde, done is soft pastels, lusciously formed–and you’ll know how I don’t look. Most people find it less stressful to call me Stan when faced with a reality that is tall, lots of leg and colored in crayons in brown and pasty white.

Obviously I’ve already given away the fact that the tall is on my wish list. Brown and pasty is kind of like me. Spy is my first, full length novel, so in a way, Stan is my first, full blown character, so it’s not really a surprise to find a bit me in there. I was just finding my way in character development. But like all good characters, in the end she became wholly herself. Her issues, her family, her everything are…hers. (Part real, part wish list)
Let’s see, next up in chronology is Luci from Do Wah Diddy Die. That girl is just plain crazy and not crazy like me, crazy like, well, her. So she is all made up except I used to have great legs, too. Just saying. (So a little wish list, not much real there. Grin)
Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, girl gone nova, project enterprise series

After Luci, I “met” Dani in The Last Enemy. I like to think that Dani is more “everywoman” than me. While she is a bit understated (like me) she is a famous romance author (I’m not). What I loved about her is that was the best of the women I’d met in my real life, and the writing women I’d met online. She uses humor and determination to defeat the forces aligned against her and she’s happy to have a happy ending with the hero–but strong enough to have gone on if he’d been too chicken to man up and propose. I liked that about her. But she is a LOT braver than I’d be in the same circumstances. A lot. (Not much real me in this one.)

In keeping with that tradition, I wrote strong heroines for the brothers introduced in The Last Enemy. I’m not a thief or an uber-geek like Phoebe in Byte Me nor am I a genius like Amelia in Missing You. I will admit that I have to look hard to see much of me in either of them, and again, they are both tall. Do you see a theme developing here? (Not much real)
In A Dangerous Dance, Dorothy is, wow, tall and brave and sassy. I’m sassy on paper, but still short. (Tiny bit of real, mostly wish list)
Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, girl gone nova, project enterprise series

Moving along to my next novel, Out of Time, we have Mel who is amazingly enough, tall. Sara in The Key  is a tall red-head (also on my wish list and I even tried it for while because you can change your hair color). She is fearless and flies space ships. Not me at all, though I would like fly/ride in a helicopter, which I accomplished fictionally in Tangled in Time…by a tall heroine named Olivia. (Do I need to provide an answer?) And Doc in Girl Gone Nova? Dangerous, deadly…and yeah, tall. (not much real here)

Let’s see, Emily in Steamrolled  is also tall. Ashe in Kicking Ashe? Tall. Even my short story characters are tall. (still not real)
What they aren’t is stacked. It seems my imagination isn’t quite good enough to imagine what that would be like, though I have tried. (And I can read and enjoy books about stacked heroines.)
Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, girl gone nova, project enterprise series

As I’ve gotten older, I have found a few good things about being short. I can see stuff that the hubby can’t. When I fall down, I don’t have time to pick up much speed. They have petite lengths in pants now, so not so much shortening of hems. My husband thinks I’m cute.

But there is no question that my height has had an impact on my writing. I’m pretty sure I would have written stories regardless of my height. I do wonder if the characters would have been different? And in the end, I’m glad they aren’t different, because my issues eventually ceased to matter as they began to live and breathe on their own. They became them and not my wish list anymore. Their height was part of their character and how they acted and reacted to their environments and the people around them.
Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, girl gone nova, project enterprise series

For a writer? That is a seriously cool moment, the pay off for when the writing felt more like bleeding, for the re-writing, the pacing, and the pondering. But it does make it complicated when people ask me if the characters are based on my life or me. Let’s face it, it all comes from my brain, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it does. It feels like I”m watching it happen, like a movie or real life. So if I hesitate, that’s why.

If you’re a reader, do you care if the heroine is tall? Or has red hair? Do you just “cast” the story how you want? If you’re a writer, is there a personal wish list in your character traits? (Please say yes, cause right now I’m alone out here.) And to show my thanks, anyone who comments on a blog post in the month of May will be entered into a drawing for a $10 gift card from AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats

Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, girl gone nova, project enterprise series

P.S. In early drafts my characters are also always more patient than I am until I realize that’s just not realistic and turn them loose. And I hose them a lot, which would make a saint lost patience and I haven’t written a saint yet.

Pauline Baird Jones is short, not a red-head and not very patient, despite years of trying to change all three. (Apparently a hair cut does not affect height no matter how often you ask to be taller.) You can “meet” her taller, much cooler heroines in her 12 novels or check out her website at 
Short Me = Tall Characters?

11 thoughts on “Short Me = Tall Characters?

  • May 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Great post Pauline. Wow…you kinda sound like me. My hubby’s tall, everyone around me is tall, and I also write female characters who are…yes, tall. Being short has it’s disadvantages, aside from the ‘trying to be cute’ but ‘still sarcastically funny’ comments coming from those taller than you (and those kids that grow past you). Like you said, falling (which I also do a lot of) isn’t as disastrous as when a six-foot-two tree falls to the ground (not that it doesn’t still hurt). The other advantage of being short, well, I still look like a kid (although, sometimes, that’s not such a good thing).

  • May 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve been surprised by it, too, and also not sure why. LOL! I guess we build a picture about what we think someone looks like from their words, particularly if they write first person (isn’t Dresden FP? It’s been a while since I read one). I could do another post about hair color, because I always wanted to be a red head, too. So I occasionally give a character red hair. (grin)

  • May 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Interesting post. It made me think of the time I saw Jim Butcher in a book store. I always figured he’d be tall, like his character Harry Dresden. Nope. Not even. Don’t know why that surprised me so, but it did.

    • May 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      Many thanks, MissyFrye! Most kind of you!

  • May 9, 2012 at 12:17 am

    @ Denise – many thanks for stopping by and your thoughts. That’s interesting about your characters. It is true that it is tough for short guys. I kind of like that the Laiden guys are always short. Makes for interesting story dynamic.

    @ Jaleta – You do like to make it hard for yourself, don’t you? LOL! I keep making my characters smarter than me. grin.

  • May 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I’m not vertically challenged. I’m 5’7″ in my bare feet, which is their usual state. When I put on my Klingon heels, I top six feet. But I’m not petite. Think more along the lines of a chubby German peasant valkyrie. Yeah, that would be a fun character to write…

    The main character in my series is extremely short. It’s a main hangup with her. She also hates being female. And fire. And a lot of other things. Messed up people are more interesting to write about.

    As far as writing characters who are my opposite, I don’t do it deliberately. Wish list of traits? Not really. And the hardest character I ever had to write was a very feminine girly woman. Getting inside her head was very difficult for me. I’m a total tomboy…

  • May 8, 2012 at 1:29 am

    Interestng. I’m short. Two of the heroines I’ve written are small and tough. One is tall. I like the fact my heroine’s mate in my vamp series is 5’6″ and 120 lbs. soaking wet. It’s even tougher for short guys. Tall people make more money and get elected to high office more often. Cool post, Pauline.

  • May 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, JC. You make a good point about being treated differently when you are short. At times I’ve been downright invisible! My hubby likes me the way I am, but I’d still like to be taler. LOL!

    @ Missyfrye – What we call that? Height sisters? LOL! Totally been there and done that one. I think about doing short, but then I just can’t. Just like I can’t make them stacked. LOL!

  • May 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    My nephews, nieces, and multitudes of cousins measure themselves against me and when they “I’m as tall as you” or “I’m nearly as tall as you” I always tell them that’s not much of an accomplishment. I’m five feet even.

    In my writing, I’ve noticed that I usually make the female characters tall, or at least taller than me. Maybe I should make it a point to create a short character.

    Great post!

  • May 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    As a reader, I like the heroine to make sense. I despise wishy-washy and submissive heroines. Her physical traits don’t really matter so much. I’m short, so I don’t really relate to tall well. It’s been my personal experience that men have diferent attitudes towards petite women than tall women.

    As a writer, I find those attitudes ranging from condescension, protectiveness, dismissal and attraction, are all VERY useful in storycraft. All my life I’ve been told that dynamite comes in small packages and I use that.

    Both reading and writing fiction is a way to take a grand escape and experience things you might never otherwise get to do. I say push the envelope and venture as far from yourself as you want.

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