Pay Heed to Your Neighbors

by Andy ScheerIMG_2860 2to3

They may offer the keys to great characters.

Need inspiration for a character for your novel, short story, or even a comic strip? Pay attention to your neighbors.

That what a young cartoonist named Sparky did.

While living for a time in Colorado Springs, Sparky was developing his new strip and trying to build its audience. In the evenings, he’d play bridge with a neighbor couple. Sparky and Philip Van Pelt had served together in the 20th Armored Division. Recently they’d been surprised to meet in the stairway of the office building where they both worked.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”] ‘During that time, when they were all playing bridge, he was developing the characters.’ [/cryout-pullquote]

“We grew up a few blocks away and they would play bridge all the time,” said Philip Van Pelt’s daughter Martha in an article in the Colorado Springs Gazette. “During that time, when they were all playing bridge, he was developing the characters.”

Philip Van Pelt’s wife was named Louanne. In 1952, Sparky Schultz introduced to his strip a new character named Lucy Van Pelt.

“Mom always said … she was much nicer than [Lucy],” Martha said. “She was a loving mother, but she was very bossy. She even looked a little like her [Lucy], if you look at some of her old pictures, with dark wavy hair.”

“[Lucy] really does reflect a lot of her character,” said Louanne Van Pelt’s son David Merrill. “What he did with her, a lot of it was accurate. But he was pulling out the eccentric moments instead of the normal moments.”

Schultz lived near the Van Pelts for only about a year before moving to California—and to fame and fortune with his comic strip “Peanuts.” But he continued to stay in touch with the Van Pelts.

Louanne Van Pelt died April 6 in Colorado Springs at age 85. An article in the Gazette said she left behind “three children, a ‘passel of grandchildren’ and an enduring, if somewhat ill-tempered, comic legacy.”

About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.
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