First Came the Character by Lynn Chandler Willis

The character of Gypsy Moran had been dwelling in my brain for years. I knew his personality inside and out; I knew how he'd react to certain situations. I knew the wise cracks that would roll off his tongue. I knew what he'd look like and how his voice would sound.

But I had no where to put him. I tried a beach setting with swaying palm trees and white sand—he'd make a great beach bum—but it didn't click. I tried the tough streets of Jersey but I couldn't get the lingo right. I tried glittery Las Vegas and actually gave that one some consideration. Everyone loves a Vegas P.I., right? Still, there was something missing.

Vegas might work as a secondary setting, but my heart wasn't in placing Gypsy and whatever story developed from him in sin city. There had to be somewhere the character belonged.

I found it the first time I saw the movie No Country For Old Men. The setting of that movie hit me in the face like the proverbial ton of bricks. My private investigator had found a home. Gypsy Moran belonged in west Texas with the dirt, the rugged mountains, the random cacti and ever present multiple shades of brown.

So enthralled with the west Texas landscape, I began building a workable plot around it and Gypsy. Readers often ask authors which came first—the plot or the character. With Wink of an Eye, I can honestly say the character came first, then the setting, followed by the plot.

Book Summary 

When twelve-year old Tatum McCallen finds his father, a deputy sheriff, hanging from a tree in their west Texas backyard, he sets out to restore his dad's honor and prove he didn't kill himself. He and his disabled grandfather hire reluctant Private Investigator Gypsy Moran, who has his own set of problems. Like a double-cross that sent him fleeing Vegas in the middle of the night.

Gypsy agrees to help the kid and his grandfather, Burke, because he feels sorry for them. Burke, a former deputy sheriff now confined to a wheelchair is all Tatum has left. When Tatum shows Gypsy a private file his dad had been keeping, Gypsy knows the kid's father was on to something when he died. Eight missing girls, a cowardly sheriff, and undocumented workers are all connected to the K-Bar Ranch.

Gypsy is quite familiar with the K-Bar Ranch. Before running off to Vegas, he spent his summers as a teenager working for ranch owner Carroll Kinley while romancing Kinley's beautiful daughter Claire. But Claire, now married to a state senator, is managing the ranch now and is more involved with the case Tatum's father was secretly investigating than Gypsy wants to admit.

Aided by adolescent Tatum and reporter Sophia Ortez, Gypsy begins pulling the pieces of the puzzle together, but it could end up costing him his life. Or worse—Tatum's life.

Bio: With Wink of an Eye, Lynn Chandler Willis was the first woman to win the SMP/PWA Best 1st PI Novel competition in a decade. She has worked in the corporate world, the television news business, and the newspaper industry. She shares her home in North Carolina with Sam the cocker spaniel.



Anonymous said…
Hi Lynn,
Interesting that you had a character before a plot. Creating scenes and characters. To me, characters and plots are two parts of the same thought process. For me, it is hard to separate the two. At the same time I come up with a plot line, I am creating the story line I am developing the characters.

Richard Brawer

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