Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I tend to be a character first kind of girl. More often than not, book ideas come to me not in the form of a scene or a plot—although that has happened—but in this feeling somewhere around my heart.  It’s hard to explain, really, but I’m betting if you’re a writer you’ve felt it.  And if you’re a reader, you’ve probably experienced the same tug when you met a really well-written character.  Because, you see, great characters start from the heart.

Not that it happens very much lately, but I’m a huge advocate of letting your mind wander. The best way to do that?  Take the iPod, get in the car, roll down the windows, and drive.  Aimlessly, preferably through the back country.  Sometimes I do it when I’m first starting a story.  Other times I do it when I’m stuck and can’t hear my characters talking. When I hit the road, inevitably there’s a moment where one song suddenly catches my attention.  It might be because the light hit a tree just right or the breeze through the window was perfect, or it could just be something about the words or the tune, but it unlocks a character’s voice.  There’s that feeling, right behind my heart that quiets me.  Someone has something to say.

It happened when Kate—whom you have yet to meet—told me she was a Colbie Caillat circa 2009 kind of girl… when she was so full of anger I’d have sworn she was an angry rock band blow out the speakers chick. When her hero, Ryan, let me know Tobymac’s “Ignition” guided his life walk, it fit everything I knew about him and made writing his scenes even more fun. 

It happened when Shane in Freefall showed up in an old 90s Def Leppard song, “Two Steps Behind.”  And his ex-wife Cassidy? She never would tell me.  And you know what? It took me longer to get to know her than anyone else.  To this day, I think she believed music was a waste of time.  I’m thinking that’s not cool, even though she grew on me until I love her just as much as the rest.

In Quilted by Christmas, Taryn didn’t have a song right off.  Like Cassidy, she was slow to let me get to know her.  But one day, I had the iPod on random and heard that ol’ Nitty  Gritty Dirt Band song “Fishin’ in the Dark.”  If you’ve ever heard it, that song just bounces.  And I remembered in high school, one of my best friends and I would open up the sunroof on my old Maxima and spend hours driving around and singing old 60s music our dads had taught us and always, at least once, bouncing up and down in our seats to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Suddenly, I could see Taryn in her grandfather’s old pickup, Justin in the passenger’s seat, zipping around the curves down the mountain to their high school, and singing at the top of their lungs.  It was crystal clear and Taryn grabbed me… right behind the heart.

Jodie Bailey writes novels about freedom and the heroes who fight for it.  Her novels include Freefall and Crossfire, from Love Inspired Suspense, as well as Quilted by Christmas, from Abingdon Press.  Her devotions have appeared in Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. She is convinced a camping trip to the beach with her family, a good cup of coffee, and a great book can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her daughter, and two dogs.


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