Tag Archives: character development

A Girl Called Dilsey

Mary Murphy's Children

Mary Murphy, mother of Dilsey and Little Sean… among others.

If you have never written multiple novels about the same set of characters, you will not have inside knowledge of the process I am going to talk about in this goofy blog post.  Because you don’t fully understand what I am talking about, you are welcome to call me an obsessive-compulsive fool.  I am definitely a fool, but I prefer to believe the obsessive-compulsive part is off base.

I fell in love with Dilsey Murphy.

“You’re kidding!” you say with a disbelieving smile.  “You fell in love with a fictional character from one of your stupid hometown fantasies?  Nonsense!  Not only is she not real, she’s just a supporting character.”

I think that might be the one thing I love most about Dilsey.  She’s never the one demanding to be on center stage.  She’s a shy, sweet-natured girl from a big family who does the best she can to avoid being the ant under her brothers’ magnifying glass.  And yet, when she is called upon for empathy, or a little bit of sister wisdom, she mines the gold from King Solomon’s mine.

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A new picture of Dilsey Murphy wearing her father’s old Carl Eller T-shirt.

You may not know this if you are not a writer of fiction, but a lot of the character-building process consists of compiling the character’s personal facts, personal history, and back story, developing an in-depth storehouse of details that may, in fact, never get used in any book, short story, or other writing.  In order to create a character that feels real to the reader, an author must know the character far more intimately than the reader will ever be made privy to.

Dilsey is a member of the Murphy family who live in Norwall, Iowa.  Her parents are Warren Murphy and Mary Murphy.  Her father was a member of the infamous Murphy Boys, all of them brothers, that played brutal linebacker defense for the Belle City Broncos high school football team in the 1960’s.  Mary Murphy is famous for being a small woman with a very large personality.  The family is Catholic and of Irish heritage, determined to avoid church and yet hoping to get into heaven.  They ar e also devout Minnesota Vikings football fans.

Dilsey’s older brother is Danny Murphy, a skinny, goofy kid that grows up into a reliable problem solver and mature young man.  Danny eventually falls in love with Carla Bates, the sister of Blueberry Bates, Mike Murphy’s girlfriend.  Danny and Carla marry in 1992.

Dilsey is the second oldest, born in 1977, so she is a young teen in most of the stories she appears in.

Mike Murphy is her younger brother, a member of the Norwall Pirates, a kids’ gang and 4-H softball team.  Mike is a year younger than Dilsey. His girlfriend, Blueberry Bates, has a terrible secret, one that makes Mary Murphy turn resolutely against her even though she previously loved her.  Mike and Dilsey refuse to abandon Blueberry even when Mike is forbidden to see her any longer.

Tim Kellogg is Mike’s best friend.  Dilsey believes him to be a jerk and a hopeless goon. And yet, even though Dilsey hates him and is a year older than Tim, he is the only boy she dreams about naked.  They eventually go on dates in high school and it is rumored that they will be married in 2000, though my hometown stories never progress beyond the 20th Century.

Dilsey is based on my unmarried sister and my daughter, though she really isn’t very much like either one in the long run.

Okay, so I know I haven’t sufficiently explained why I am so much in love with Dilsey Murphy.  I, of course, take that as a challenge.  I will write more stories.  You will fall in love with her too.

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Filed under artwork, characters, goofy thoughts, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Dramatis Personae D&D Style

One of the most fascinating things about Dungeons and Dragons, the story-telling adventure game with sword battles controlled by dice rolls, is the characters.  They are a creation by committee.  You take a blank character sheet, roll six basic numbers by complex rules on dice, and then decide who that character is; paladin, rogue, magician, archer, swordsman, etc… what that character is; human, elf, dwarf, hobbit… I mean halfling, orc, gnome, or Minotaur… and then do the complicated math that those choices entail.  But then you have to do the real work and give that character life in the form of hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, personality quirks, and goals.  They have to become collaborative characters for a play that won’t actually be written until the players perform it.

These, you may recall if you are nutty enough to read Mickian regular features, are my children’s player characters.

Adventure1Ditty Bytcha who prefers to be called Fate is my number one son’s original character.  He is a fighter wearing magic armor who loves to make things as an artificer (one who builds devices with magic).  He eventually wants to cut his own arms off and replace them with mechanical ones.  He is also quick to leap into the fray and is fairly deadly with his chosen weapons.  He once made a crossbow that had explosive power enough to blast apart a ship and kill everyone on board, including the people he was trying to save.  He is also a good leader and is always ready with a joke that can even make the Dungeon Master laugh.

Adventure 3

And number two son’s character, Gandy Rumspot, is a food-loving halfling that also likes making ships.  No kidding, he likes being a shipwright and designing sailing vessels… and flying airships powered by captured air and fire elementals.  He likes riding pteradactyl-back and firing crossbows at the evil enemies from the air.  And he is good at making fun of other characters, even to the point of making some of them angry to the point of tantrums… especially his sister’s character.

Adventure2

And, of course, my daughter the Princess’s character, Mira Mirkestasia is a telekinetic Kalashtar who floats everywhere instead of walking.  She possesses an intelligent throwing knife that not only comes back to her hand after every throw, but seriously wants to kill Gandy for his sister-jokes.  She protects the whole group from those like the evil Dr. Zorgo who threaten to take over your mind and put your brain inside a stone golem.

And, of course, three people is probably not enough to actually survive in magic-rich and dragon-filled Eberron.  So additional characters are required to go on and actually survive dungeon-crawling adventures.  These are known as NPC’s, Non-Player Characters.  I will tell you more about them in another post, but here are the two most important ones;

Druaelia is a female wizard whose familiar is the owl Temper.  She was there for the very first level-one adventure killing rats and gnolls who were particularly weak and stupid.  She started as a magic user looking to be the fireball expert.  But her fire magic kept going astray (rolling a 2 or a 1 on a 20-sided dice is catastrophic failure and not a good thing to roll when fire is involved).  And she eventually learned she was much better with ice and snow magic.  She is naturally immune to cold and can wear bikinis in winter, a useful thing when more than half of your team is made up of adolescent boys.

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Elytharra, more commonly referred to as El, is the cleric and healer of the group.  She is much more modest and devout, being a worshipper of the blue dragon Aureon, god of wisdom and magical knowledge.  She is the one charged with learning how to heal boo-boos (and re-attach heads and raise the dead) because hunting for treasure in dragon caves is a dangerous business and dice rolls can make really bad things happen.  She was also part of the very first adventure, and the rats almost ate her.

So the main reason we have enjoyed D&D adventures so much is the fact that the characters are so surprisingly real.  We learn to care deeply what happens to them, and want them to prosper in the face of evil, no matter what comes.  And the real secret behind them is… in truth they are really us.

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Stardusters… Canto Six

Galtorr Primex 1

Canto Six – The Tadpole Nesting Quarters

Unlike the other tadpoles, Davalon put on clothing all over his body as they returned to their sleeping chambers and assigned areas.  Alden and Gracie Morrell also dressed, of course, but they weren’t Tellerons whose skin needed to stay moist and open to the mists.  Drying out was bad for Telleron health.  Still, when they saw Davalon put on his cadet uniform, Tanith, Brekka, Menolly, and George Jetson all found their Mickey Mouse Club jackets and put them on.  Naked otherwise, but covered on their upper torsos.

“So, Dav,” asked Menolly, “What was it really like to live on the Planet Earth?”

“I don’t think I can tell you what it was really like.  I was only there for a couple of weeks.  That isn’t long enough to really know.  You should ask my new mom and dad.”

The little green faces all turned to Alden and Gracie.

“Well, I only lived there for forty years,” said Alden.  “I don’t think that is long enough, either, to really know.”

“Oh, you old fuddy-duddy!” said Gracie.  “You kids can ask me.  Go ahead, ask me anything.”

“Tell us about sunshine,” said Tanith.  She was the prettiest of the Telleron girls, as far as Davalon was concerned, even though, as a nest-mate and daughter of Xiar, she was technically his sister.  For Tellerons incest had never really been a “thing”.

“Ah, sunshine,” said Gracie with a twinkle in her eye, “it was yellow and warm and… gorgeous.  You could bathe in it.  It made you feel loved by God.”

“Until the UV rays cooked your skin and gave you bright red sunburn,” added Alden.

“Yes, well… there was that,” admitted Gracie.  “But I always loved sunny days, and the bright blue of the Iowa sky.  Oh, and sunsets… sunsets were beautiful in ways that are hard to describe.”

“And rainy days,” said Alden, “dark and overcast with thunder and lightning rumbling on the horizon.”

“Ah, you’re just being an old poop,” said Gracie with a frown.

“No, I mean it.  I’m a farmer, remember?  A farmer needs the rain.  And it cools things off… and rainbows.  You remember rainbows, Gracie?”

“Ah, yes.”

“But,” said Brekka sadly, “you both gave those things up to live in space with us.”

“Yes,” said Menolly.  “Will you miss those things?”

Alden looked at Gracie, and they both nodded to each other.  Davalon could feel the sadness.  And that in itself was something new.  Before they had met Earth people, Tellerons had not really known strong emotions.  Tadpoles were programmed while still suspended in their gelatinous egg sacs with years’ worth of technical knowledge, math, and science.  But nowhere in their training had they ever learned how to love, or laugh, or have empathy, or feel remorse.  Those things had come from Earther TV broadcasts and actual contact with human beings.  It was hard to be around human beings and not get a bit infected with human emotions.

“We’ll experience those things if we colonize a planet,” said George Jetson.  “There could be sunshine and rainbows on Galtorr Prime.”

That brought smiles to every little green face, even Davalon’s.

“But we hear that Galtorr Prime is a very dangerous place,” said Gracie.  The little-girl twinkle was gone from her eye, replaced by a sad longing, a remembered pain.

“Yes,” said Menolly, “I’m scared of Galtorrians.  They eat meat, and would eat us if they catch us.”

“That would not be so nice,” said Brekka.

Gracie, in the frilly dress she had put on, moved to put an arm around each of the two female tadpoles.  She looked like Shirley Temple to Davalon, the girl in that old black and white movie with the orphans that needed comforting.  Was it Animal Crackers?  Or was that a Marx Brothers’ movie?  Dav didn’t remember.

“Maybe we should be brave explorers and go down there to find things out,” said George Jetson.  “We could be like Davalon, and help out our entire race.”

“That’s not wise,” warned Davalon.  “We could get into trouble we could not get out of.”

“You could be our leader, Dav,” said Tanith.  “We have faith in you.”

Davalon didn’t like the fact that they were all warming to the idea so quickly.  It was a scarier world than Earth.  They stood to lose everything they had gained from the Earth adventure.

“None of us know how to pilot a Golden Wing,” warned Alden.  “And we can’t all stow away on the adults’ missions.”

“I was programmed with pilot skills,” said George Jetson.  “And you and Gracie are really adults, just in child bodies.”

“I think they may have a good idea here,” said Gracie to Alden.  “If we are going to be star-explorers, we need to start somewhere.”

To Davalon’s utter horror, it was decided at that moment.  There would be a secret tadpole mission to the surface of Galtorr Prime.

*****

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There you have it, Canto Six of the extremely alien-based goofy sequel to Catch a Falling Star that I call Stardusters and Space Lizards. I would apologize for inflicting it upon you, but the truth is, I really like it.   I did a good job of telling what really happened… um, errr…  Well, I mean, telling it just as I once imagined it.

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My Imagination has Wings

DSCN4453  I am certainly not bragging.  I have a too-vivid imagination, and sometimes lose track of what is real and what is fantasy.  In my current novel-in-progress, I just wrote about kids believing they have used fairy magic to turn a favorite teacher into a swan.  (I told you I would work that German Schwan thing into my book.)  So here is a brief Canto to show you how that went.

Canto Twenty-Six – In Miss Schwanneke’s Music Class

Miss Swan was busy in the gym, so it was no surprise to Blueberry and the other Norwall kids in her first period class that she was running late.  Blueberry decided to use the time to work on the goal of making students believe in fairies.  She was armed with a folder filled with colored pencil drawings of fairies.  She had carefully crafted them from the descriptions Garriss had given her during those long nights when she was too excited to sleep anyway.  Working on the fairy project helped take her mind off the terrible conflict brewing with Tim Kellogg.  He had been so mean since his best friend, Tommy Bircher, had moved to Chicago.  She was sure the only reason he was being that way was because she was so deeply in love with Mike Murphy, and Mike was Tim’s replacement best friend.

“Those are neat pictures, Blue,” said Bobby Niland, a Norwall farm kid.

“Thanks.  Share them around.  It will help people believe in fairies.” 

“Aw, you Pirates have such weird ideas.  Nobody is gonna believe in dumb old fairies!”

“Bobby, you are a Pirate, and you’ve seen Garriss, the fire wisp.  How can you not believe in fairies?”

“You guys get me all worked up, talking to the empty air, and I start to see things that aren’t really there.  Tim just made up the little fire guy.  You know he is always making up all kinds of elaborate lies, and making us believe them.”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“Hey!  I like this one with the pretty naked lady with the white wings!”  Bobby showed the drawing to its creator.

“Garriss says that one is a storybook named Odette.  She’s an immortal fairy princess because of the tale of the Swan Princess.”

“Huh?”

“The story of a princess cursed to turn into a swan by day, and can only be a woman at night.”

“Oh, that’s a neat story.  Too bad it isn’t true.  I’d like to see a naked lady turn into a swan.”

“Well…  Garriss did teach me Odette’s spell.  He claims it can turn somebody into a swan.”

“Oh, neat!  Who can we change?”

“But, Bobby, you don’t believe in the fairy stuff.  You just said so.”

“Yeah, well…  How about Miss Swan?  Her name makes her perfect for the spell!”

It was obvious that Bobby was hot to see Miss Swan naked.  He was secretly in love with her, but he drooled over her so openly that everyone from Norwall who really knew him, knew that secret too.

“You know her name is actually Schwanneke, right?  Swan is just a nickname.”

“Ah, come on.  You said you want me to believe.”

“Well, I don’t want to hurt Miss Swan or anything.  She’s a nice teacher.”

There was general restless talking in the classroom.  No one was trying to sing any of the pieces they had been learning in class.  And no one was paying attention to Bobby and Blue.  Blue pulled out the white feather.

“What’s that?” asked Bobby.  “Is that part of the spell?”

“It’s the focus item.  You have to give it to her and say,  Möchten Sie einen Schwan zu werden?”

“What’s that?  Pig Latin?”

“German, I think,” Blue answered.  “The fairies seem to use German more than other languages.”

“Cool.”

Bobby made Blueberry teach him the words again and again until he could say them correctly.  In the meantime, Miss Swan came in with something of a cold.  She was sniffling and sneezing.  Bobby, excited beyond measure, ran up to her, holding out the white feather.

“Möchten Sie einen Schwan zu werden?” he chanted.

“What?”  Miss Schwanneke, the vocal music teacher, took the feather.  She suddenly looked ill, as if a cold wind had blown in and frozen her very soul.  She put a hand over her mouth and ran out of the room.

Everyone began asking each other what was happening, and of course, nobody knew.  But two Norwall kids, Bobby Niland and Blueberry Bates, stood staring at each other with white faces.  Thirty minutes of rampant speculation, rumors of the teacher’s death in the bathroom, and the eventual arrival in the classroom of a substitute had Bobby looking whiter than a ghost.  Blue didn’t feel very well herself.

“Well, class, the period is almost shot,” said Mrs. Thompson the all-purpose substitute teacher. “We will just kinda sit here and wait for the bell.  Sit down and be good for a few minutes more.  At about that time, they began to hear a ticking sound at the window.  Meghan Baumgartner was the first to see it.

“Miss, miss!  There’s a big white bird pecking at the window wanting to get in out of the snow!”

Blueberry and Bobby looked at the same moment.  It was a huge, white… swan.

Bobby’s pants were immediately soaked, and he, too ran out of the room.

*****

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Filed under artwork, colored pencil, drawing, humor, irony, Pegasus, strange and wonderful ideas about life