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.
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.