• Jessica Sherry

Writing Ideas: What Sparks Joy for your Characters?

Little things matter. Unexpected gifts. Walks in the park. Laughter. Chocolate. If we can delight in these little things, so can our characters. What little things bring them joy?

“Paris is always a good idea.” ~ Sabrina (From the movie, Sabrina)
“Flowers are always a good idea.” ~ Me (wink to hubby)

My father sent me flowers for Mother’s Day, something he’s never done before. Imagine my surprise--sitting here at my desk, toiling away and guzzling my coffee--when Brownie starts barking like crazy and a man carrying a vase walks up to my door. I was SURE he had the wrong house! While my husband Joe often buys me flowers, he usually picks them up and brings them home himself--no need for deliveries. Me getting a flower delivery never happens.

Pretty Flowers

BUT, that’s when getting flowers is best--when they’re the last thing you’d expect!

Why do women love flowers? I don’t know. I can’t speak for them. All I know is that I love them! The pretty of them, the smell of them, the greens and pinks and yellows of them! I love flowers because they are beautiful and looking at them makes me happy, makes me marvel.

This Marie Kondo principle of cleaning up clutter--keeping only the things that spark joy--can be applied to more than our t-shirts, books, and knick-knacks. Writers can use this idea to create better more interesting and realistic characters.

Finding joy isn’t the same for everyone. Not all people get that way about flowers, but all people have a thing--flowers, Paris, something--that captures and delights in ways not everyone understands. It’s that thing that when you experience it, you light up. I’m the same way about the beach. 

My husband’s thing tends to be video games (and me, I hope). For my daughter, it’s horses or any animals. My son loves new tech and good food. Brownie finds joy in the mailman, Fed Ex or UPS trucks, and doggie treats, and Coldplay, and pets and cuddles (Brownie has lots of things). Our new cat Jimothy enjoys stalking, pouncing, and gnashing his fangs at birds and bugs (Should I be worried? Check out this blog on how we came to have Jimothy).

  • What sparks joy for your character? Try brainstorming at least three things that make her smile. For Delilah Duffy, the heroine of my mystery series, it'd be books, especially mysteries, strong coffee, wine, or beer (depending on the time of day), and, of course, Sam, her childhood sweetheart turned mystery-solving partner.

  • What do her joy-sparking-things reveal about her? My love of flowers might suggest I'm a romantic. So is Delilah, but her book-love fine-tunes her mystery-solving skills and helps her business; she manages Beach Read, a seaside bookstore.

  • Give your main character an unexpected surprise that delights her. How does she react? How might it move your plot forward? Or backward depending on who sends the surprise? The flowers brightened my day, inspired this blog, and prompted a call to my Dad. Delilah Duffy often feels suspicious of surprises, and looks for motives. She's probably read too many mysteries.

What sparks joy for you and your characters? Share below. Need more ideas on building plots and developing characters? Go to www.coffeebrained.com and dive into the brainstorm. Plus, see what else I'm up to...

P.S. Another thing that sparks joy for me... new readers, shares, and comments! *wink.