When writers think about characters, their thoughts often turn naturally towards characters in books. In presentations, we might see them presented alongside characters from movies, but it’s not where we go to first when thinking of our favorite characters. At least I don’t.
I’ve decided this week though, that my favorite character – anywhere – is Mrs. Jessica (J.B.) Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote fame. Thanks to Netflix, I’ve rediscovered this gem of a TV show and have been watching it as a counterpoint to my chores, my net-surfing, and occasionally, my writing. Which means that somehow I’ve gotten to season three without realizing it.
(I feel like this is a good place for me to rant about today’s shows which only have about 6-10 episodes per season on average. So far, Murder, She Wrote has been averaging 22 episodes per season, and it looks like that will be the case no matter which season I’m watching because the total number of episodes listed for this 10-year-long program is a whopping 259! No wonder we fell so in love with this show and its characters – we had time to!)
I had a few days away from my “new” favorite show while I was attending WANACon from home. (Totally worth attending!) While in the all-day conference (9a-6p each day), I obviously didn’t have time to watch anything, and after each day was ended, I went out with a friend (or more). So I was curious to see if I would be “done” with Murder, She Wrote with the time away; perhaps it was just a fling – an addiction, with no grounds for a long-term relationship.
It wasn’t. Or rather, I wasn’t – done, that is. In fact, I’ve been itching all day to sit down on my slightly beat-up, dual-recliner, comfortable-as-anything loveseat to relax into another episode.
So as I said, I’ve decided that Mrs. Jessica – J.B. – Fletcher, is definitely my favorite character (at least for now).
Why? She’s graceful, and I don’t mean in her movements, although I suppose she is there too. No, I mean with people. If someone gives her a compliment that’s actually somewhat back-handed – “You’re a dang good writer for a woman” – she accepts it in the spirit it was intended: as a compliment. Even if you get the feeling she’d never be friends with someone who might say something like that, she’s still friendly towards them and so builds bridges. By the end of that episode, that person might even think her the best detective ever. With no for-a-female qualification tagged on. She doesn’t get offended by things that aren’t meant personally.
And it’s obvious she truly enjoys people: when in the course of a murder/theft investigation, two flight attendants realize that they’re both having a madly-in-love affair with the same man. It’s a bit of a comical moment, and Jessica – being human – can’t help smiling. She doesn’t judge people’s actions – including having affairs – as long as those actions aren’t hurting anyone in any way and enjoys what very human moments come her way (which helps makes her a great writer).
When in the course of the same investigation, they later discover that a harmless, middle-aged couple has committed a terrible crime – sneaking their small white fluff of a dog onto the plane to avoid putting him in quarantine once they reach London – she apologizes for the reveal and later suggests they go over to France where the quarantine restrictions don’t exist, instead of returning home to America on the next flight as they’d planned. They’re thrilled with the idea.
But this love of, and for people doesn’t keep her from being a “tough cookie”: when a bunch of filmmakers are in her tiny seaside village doing a documentary on her, she doesn’t hesitate to yell at them for standing on her lawn. And she has no problem investigating murders and calling killers out on their actions, even if doing so will put her in danger. (She also has no problem asking her doctor to sneak her in some food when she’s confined to bed and all her nephew can make are “tuna surprise” meals of various kinds lol.)
As you can see, I really love Jessica Fletcher. I’ll get the shirt later this week. I think she’s going to be a good model for my own characters for here is a character who is fallible and so fleshed-out that she feels real, and very, very human.
So I’ll keep watching Murder, She Wrote – for research, of course – and keep on writing.