Discovering Character-And Other Things

I should know Jo, my main character by now—I’ve just completed final edits of the second mystery, plus a short story prequel. But she continues to surprise me. I’ve been resisting.

Why? Hey, she and I started out the same age with the same childhood memories, but our personalities and life experiences are different. Over the years that I wrote and rewrote that first mystery, I aged, while Jo kept getting younger. By the time a small press said, “Is your manuscript still available? We want it,” I was nearly eighty and she was somewhere in her late sixties (never specifically stated).

As I started the sequel, I thought, 61. Yeah, sounds about right. But, as I wrote, I decided, maybe late 50s. That’s old enough to have the history I’d supplied. Some of those memories could be from Grandma, or a parent. Or, she’s into old stuff. Then I added a TV reference I remember watching with my kids. My kids are mostly in their 50s. So I wrote away, deciding she was that age. But, I still ┬áhad those ‘old’ references. Jo described herself as old in a variety of ways. I do not think of my 50s daughters as old. They do not look old. Perhaps—I just didn’t think.

Until, I saw an article about Valerie Bertinelli with her cookbook.8-13 Bertinelli cover She’s 55. Yoiks! How can that be? I remember her on TV as a teenager. I’m realizing that fifty is definitely the new thirty. Finally, I have an image of my fifty-something Jo—maybe not a beauty, definitely not a Valerie twin, but certainly not a hag. And a whole new image of my market. And the possible cover. And possibly a redo of the first cover. And, definitely, a redo of Jo’s attitude. She’s been much too laid back about the guy who’d like to know her much better. I mean, let’s have a little chemistry there.

And maybe I’ll try Valerie’s recipes. (I do love to cook!)