Image from pixhere.com
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, I created the character Shelby Garrison on a challenge from some friends of mine, who added that he ought to be a traveling musician.
And, so – hey, presto! – Shelby was born.
What I didn’t know was that in the process of giving my new character something to do, I also gave him a love interest. Early in my WIP, Shelby agrees to play music for a gathering at Greybeal House. This would not have been unusual. People in the 1800s often made their own entertainment, and I figured that other people also would show up with other instruments and create an ad hoc band.
And that is exactly what happened. Shelby is joined by a banjo player named Paul Warner, a drummer Richard Hancock, Jr., and a woman fiddler by the name of Millie Turner. I think Millie has emerged from my enjoyment of Mean Mary James’ music blue-grass style music. Here is the first meeting between Shelby and Millie.
A short while later, Millie Turner, a waitress at the Norton Arms Hotel restaurant, strolled over. She was carrying a fiddle case. “May I join you, gentlemen?”
“You know how to play that?” Paul asked skeptically.
Without a word, she opened the case and took out the fiddle. The she began to rosin up her bow. “You tell me,” she said.
Shelby commented, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lady fiddler before.”
“How sad,” was her reply. “But I have good news for you. You’re going to see one now,” With that, she let fly with a blistering version of “Arkansas Traveler.”
Everyone around them stopped talking. Mouths fell open when they saw who was making the music. Conversation did not resume until Millie had finished playing, and this was met by a round of loud applause.
“So…” Millie turned to Shelby and Paul. “Once again, may I join you, gentlemen?”
In case you don’t recognize the name of the song, here’s a video clip of Mean Mary playing “Arkansas Traveler.” I guarantee you’ll probably recognize the tune right off.
Shelby not only stands in awe of Millie’s musical ability, but also likes her as a person, and as a result I found myself writing fun, flirtatious moments between the couple.
In this next scene, Shelby goes to the Norton Arms Hotel’s restaurant in search of a late breakfast. He knows Millie works there as a waitress and requests that he be seated at one of her tables. They then engage in a bit of mild flirtation.
“May I help you?” a friendly voice said.
Shelby looked up.
Millie broke into a wide grin. “Mr. Garrison!”
“Good morning, Miss Turner. I thought I’d come and try out your morning tea menu.”
Her almost-black eyes crinkled teasingly at the edges. “Missed breakfast at Greybeal House, huh?”
He smiled broadly and confessed. “Yep.”
“Funny you got my table.”
“Mm, hm.” Her tone indicated she didn’t believe his words one bit. “So, what’ll you have? Our new breakfast and tea cook makes a delicious cream cheese and watercress sandwich. Or so I’ve heard.”
Shelby perused the menu. “No, thanks. I don’t care for watercress.”
Millie chuckled and made a face. “Me, either.”
In this next scene, Shelby has landed a job at the restaurant as a dish washer. Mary enters the kitchen and the two engage in more affectionate banter.
…a loud voice called, “Two orders bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Three flapjack orders with plenty of syrup.”
He knew that voice.
Shelby looked up to see Millie striding across the room toward him. She had a wide smile on her face that made him unaccountably happy. Perhaps she was smiling because of him.
“I don’t have much time,” she said hurriedly. “But I just wanted to wish you luck on the new job.”
“Thanks! So far, so good. I mean, I haven’t broken anything.” He chuckled. “Yet.”
She gave his shoulder a playful push. “The restaurant closes at 2 o’clock. That’s when the staff gets their dinner. Sit next to me.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he teased, and she gave him another little push.
Grinning, Shelby watched her go before he returned to the ever-growing pile of dishes.
And so they have dinner while sitting together. As they dine, Shelby works up the nerve to pop the question. No, not that question, but an important one, nonetheless.
…he glanced around the dining room to regain his composure. It was then that he saw Josiah Norton enter. Following him were Dr. Lightner, Lydia, and Philip. “Huh,” he said, half to himself.
“What?” Millie asked.
“Look who just came in.”
Millie turned followed his discreet finger point. Her eyes widened. “Mr. Norton? What’s he doing with Dr. Lightner?”
“The town’s doctor.” She frowned. "I don’t think I know the other two.”
“The woman is Mrs. Smith’s daughter, Lydia Frost. The fellow with her is her husband, Philip Frost. I met him last night.” His forehead creased with a slight frown. “Interesting quartet.”
“Somehow I don’t think they’re going to sing.”
Her dry wit touched his funny bone. Shelby grinned at Millie. “Me, either.” He sat back in his chair. “Well, I say, let ‘em have their chat. Let’s talk about something else.”
“Like how about spending your free day with me?”
Millie held back a smile. “Doing what?”
“Anything you want.” Shelby held his breath.
“How about a picnic?” she suggested.
Relieved, he broke into a big smile. “A picnic, it is.”
For me, I use incidental scenes like the above so my characters can play with each other. This does a couple of things: it aids in their development and it helps create side-stories.
But when I took the “Shelby challenge" from my friends, I seriously had no idea I’d be giving the guy a job and, from the looks of it, a girl friend. That said, I think Millie and Shelby make quite a cute couple, don't you?
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder