After reading Ronda Rich’s What Southern Women Know About Flirting, I knew I had to have a Southern woman as a main character. Women of the south–from the Carolinas through Louisiana–are different from Texas women, especially the farther west you go in Texas. Their sweetness factor ranges from Sweetarts to saccharin to “diabetics, beware.” They can use their sugar as a weapon the poor target never sees coming, and gain favors, the upper hand, revenge, love. You name it, she can get it. And the more someone believes she’s just exercising her feminine wiles, the more someone wants to pat her pretty little head, the more he’s sucked into her web. The most dangerous mistake anyone can make when assessing the southern woman is believing there’s nothing between her ears but pecan pie recipes. But she’d never let you believe otherwise. It would ruin her advantage.
(Caveat: Keep in mind that Real Housewives of Atlanta doesn’t portray Southern women as depicted in Ronda’s book, nor does it represent the Southern women I know personally–the bulk of whom are family. I often wonder just how much reality is in that “reality” show.)
Wrapping an entire novel around a personality can be a challenge. An appealing character doesn’t make a story. For a romance novelist like me, the basic structure is simple: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. The story can take place anywhere along that continuum of events (ever see a movie about high-school sweethearts reconnecting at the twentieth reunion? The rest of the film is “boy gets girl back”). But any story, including romance, has to have stakes and conflict. Brainstorming these is where I am in my mental process for this new WIP. I’ve determined the setting, developed some of the characters, and dabbled a bit in backstory. I’ve even written the first scene, involving an illustration of the powers of Southern-style flirting. In fact, here is what I have so far:
- Southern Belle comes to Texas (because I want to light the fuse between a–yes, call it “manipulative”–Southern woman and a mule-stubborn cowboy).
- Competitions of young cutting horses, known as “futurities,” will play a major part because I love horses and seem incapable of writing novels that don’t include at least one (even The Cat Lady’s Secret has horses).
- Chances are huge the hero is going to be torn between the heroine and his family, and the heroine torn between the hero and her family in Georgia.
I’m still working on that part.
I like the title, Southern Futurity, but I may change it. Competitions for older cutting horses are called “classics” or “challenges.” Southern Classic is a good title–Southern Challenge may be even better! Hmmmm.
Anyway, there you have it from the very beginning of the process, the basics of what goes through my mind as I begin a new WIP: where the idea came from, the elements I need to develop, the challenges I face. I’ll spend hours in my head, brainstorming the solutions to all the issues, then I’ll write the scenes as ideas hit, and next thing ya know, I’ll have a first draft. As I bring The Cat Lady’s Secret to a close, it’ll be fun knowing I have another romantic comedy simmering on the stove.
Peppermint hugs and candy cane kisses!