How Mystery Characters Are Born

How Mystery Characters Are Born

Now, don’t laugh, but Abit Bradshaw—a lead character in all four books of the Appalachian Mountain Mysteries series, well, I think of him as my boy. Seriously. I (somehow) conjured him, reared him, and now I'm marveling at what a fine young man he's become.

I vividly recall the first time he showed up in my writing. I had no idea he was about to make the scene. He just popped into the story and wormed his way into my heart. When I began writing the first mystery in the trilogy—A Life for a Life—I considered Della Kincaid the main character. Gradually, though, as I wrote, I felt Abit's presence more and more. I found I liked spending time with him so much, I kept making more opportunities for him. And when the reviews came in? People told me they couldn't wait to see Abit again. That's why, in part, he takes the lead in both the second mystery, The Roads to Damascus, and the latest, Murder Ballad Blues. (Please forgive the grainy photograph. I saw this in a department store, and I thought I looked just like Abit does now. Hard to believe he turns 51 this year!)

Along the way, Abit has taught me so much. Especially the epiphany he has in The Roads to Damascus. I was as surprised as Della when Abit shared how he plans to live the rest of his life. In fact, what he discovered continues to inspire me—every day. You may scoff and say, “Well, of course you know all that—you made it up." But actually, no; I really hadn’t seen life quite that way—not until Abit showed me.

Fiction is funny that way. It comes up and out of places inside you. Places you haven’t explored or accessed until you start writing. I don’t know why it works that way, but the act of writing—both fiction and nonfiction—unlocks some amazing treasures within.

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