In The Writer's World

judy jessie selfieBefore there was Melody, Emma Golden’s sidekick in the Emma Golden mystery series, there was a Melody.

Let me state that a little more clearly.

In Book 1, An Unholy Alliance, Melody was a vague character. She was, for most of the novel, off in the South Pacific with her husband enjoying herself. She was a benign but vague background character until The Difficult Sister, when her nut-case sister Aurora went missing.

And then, gentle readers, I had to do something about Melody. I had to fill her out so she could be a major and repeating character. She and Emma were going to be tackling a huge problem together. She needed a back story, a way of dressing, a way of talking.

When I create characters, I can develop them to fit the situation, but I have to start somewhere. Often I find my characters in restaurants, or hanging out at the bakery, or talking on their cell phones in Costco loudly enough that one can hear every word whether one is interested or not, or wherever else people display themselves. All I have to do is let my imagination fill in the blanks.

For Melody I needed someone opinionated, someone who could boss Emma around and live to tell about it. Someone a bit arrogant and full of herself but lovable. I had the personality figured out, and I also happened to have a friend who looked like how I pictured Melody. While Emma is a fairly determined character in her own right, she is basically the type of person who tends to blend in to whatever background is provided–precisely why she is good at solving mysteries. She can be really shy. Nobody really notices her. People notice Melody.

I’ve known my “Melody” for 44 years, from the days when she sported jet-black hair, which eventually developed silver streaks, and now is grey. Jessie tells it like she thinks it is and doesn’t mince words. Every outfit she wears is a statement. And she has a way of turning a phrase unlike anything I have ever heard.

Why start from zero when you have material this good?  So here she is–the Melody I envision in my books only 10 years older. Of course Jessie and the Melody in the book are not the same person; they aren’t meant to be. But Jessie is the inspiration, with her fun ideas, snarky asides, and loyal friendship. And, much like Melody with Emma, she is still contriving ways to get me hooked up with the right man!




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  • Margie Hurle says:

    Yes. Yes. A real person sparks a character. The character develops her own life, has her own experiences, but always the source of the spark is there to keep her somehow grounded. A terrific way to work.

  • Carol says:

    I think we all know or have a “melody” in our life. Can’t wait for your next book.

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