I have no clue how old I was when I met Nancy, but once I did, I longed for a twin sweater set, a pencil skirt, a flashlight, a mystery to solve, and a Ned. Probably a ten-year-old Ned. Not an adult Ned. I wasn’t ready for that. Most of all, I longed for the next book and the next and the next.
That’s where it began, somewhere between the “bright blue roadster, low-swung and smart” and “the young sleuth” disappearing into holes and closets and unraveling mysteries. I devoured new words and worlds. Anne, Peter, Pippi, Heidi, Meg and Mrs Whatsit, Colin and Mary at Misselthwaite Manor, and more! I fell in love with reading, words, and writing.
But it really started with Nancy, and so I thought it would delightful to reflect on Nancy’s character and sleuthing tools and how they might inspire the writerly me today.
1. Flashlight. Essential for spying in dark attics or deep forests. Also necessary for revealing characters, motivation, conflict. A flashlight creates some bright light but what’s really interesting is everything else is in darkness. Shadows. Oblique, filtered, and indirect light. Ah, then I might have a scene worth keeping.
2. Winding road. I’m pretty much a pantster. My stories wander a bit, and along the way, I pick up hitch-hiking characters. Just like Nancy. I don’t think she picked up a hitch-hiker, but she always drove on winding roads. There was always a surprise at the end of the winding road. A clue. More mystery. Good stuff was around the corner.
3. Flaws. Nancy was pretty much always perfectly poised and prepared. She scampered up narrow staircases in tight pencil skirts. But her mother died when she was young. I always wondered if she missed her mother. Her lawyer father was quite possibly as stellar as Atticus Finch. I’m not really sure. Maybe not. But creating make-believe characters with real-life flaws like failing grades, hangnails, and sweaty armpits is a good thing.
4. Magnifying glass. The iconic image of Nancy is a silhouette of her holding a magnifying glass. Never mind the tiny waist and high heels. The magnifying glass is key for us writers. Every so often, I zoom in on a character trait, a quirk, a dinner plate that’s chipped. Details.
5. Sidekicks. George and Bess. They were often with Nancy on her sleuthing escapades. When I’m stuck, I need to remember this. Don’t let my protagonist go it alone. She needs a sidekick, a somebody who lightens the mood, offers a contrast, provides a laugh, or moves the story forward with her own crazy drama.
6. Spunk. Yeah, the best for last. Nancy was persistent, courageous, and determined to solve her mysteries. Likewise, I could do with that spunky spirit to keep my butt in a chair.
Thanks, Nancy, for your inspiration.
It was an honor for me to write this post for the Breathe Christian Writers Conference blog. Their awesome conference always motivates me to seek a healthy writing balance between pushing and resting. If you love to write, consider this conference next fall!