The Story Behind the Story

Everyone wants to know the story behind the stories that we write. To be honest, probably only half of my stories have any real inspiration. Most of the time I stare at a blank screen until something congeals.

Characters sometimes have a little more to them, but not exactly. That’s because I use this person’s looks and that person’s personality. So by the time I’m done, it’s a jumbled mess.

People who knew my husband swear I write him into every hero. I don’t see how that is possible. But maybe I like certain types of males. I like a man who is intelligent. One who will hold a real conversation on things from metaphysics to how buttercups got their name or why political systems get corrupted. I also like a man who knows the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer and when to use each one. A man who can watch something and then do it. But I also like a man who can be tough as nails and totally gentle, sweet, kind, and loving. If he knows how to cook, clean, and do laundry, that’s even better. So maybe I do write my heroes to be somewhat like the man I married.

Heroines are a little different. I like strong but not overbearing. I think most women possess an inner strength. Even the shyest and timid women often have a very strong interior, probably because women are wired to protect and nurture their young.

Women come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and with their own idea of fashion…then and now. There are so many things to pull together when writing about women. So creating characters is fun.

Anyone is apt to become a character in my stories. I’ll see somebody and their hairstyle or hair color will catch my attention. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I see someone in person, on a screen, or on paper. And beauty…they don’t have to be beautiful. Very few people are beautiful, but most people are attractive. Most people have something about them that makes them attractive. Maybe it’s those little things that makes a person do a double take – that something that makes him or her stand out from everyone else.

I was watching and not watching a TV show at my daughter’s house. She always has the TV on. Anyway it was live cop show and the cop wasn’t what I would have called good looking. But he had the most beautiful blue eyes, mesmerizing blue eyes. But after watching this man for a few minutes, my brain has that big hunky guy firmly implanted in it and he’ll probably wind up as a hero in one of my stories. Lots of women love those big guys. Or at least, his eyes will make it into a story.

Think of some of the people you know or know of that don’t fit the norm for beauty. Barbra Streisand instantly comes to my mind. I’m certain James Brolin might differ on my opinion of her, but Barbra isn’t pretty. What is she? Extremely attractive! She’s taken her looks and learned how to make herself stand out. She’s got an incredible voice and a little chutzpah. Her very unusual looks and amazing talent made her famous. I think that’s a great thing.

There are very few ugly people in this world. Birth defects, disease, injuries, etc. often change the way people look. Yet, some of those who lack any sort of beauty seem to make up for it in personality. My mom’s best friend from the time they were little children was homely. Yet she was the most wonderful person that I knew. She was a very talented artist, and she was kindest, nicest person. When I was with her, I never once thought about the way she looked. When we accept people, appearance no longer matters.

The Internet has been a great equalizer. We’ve gotten to know people without ever meeting them or even seeing what they look like, except that is changing with selfies and posting pics. Today certain things are handled with surgery. One friend was born with six fingers on each hand. The extra fingers were immediately removed. Another friend was extremely cross-eyed. He recently underwent surgery to correct the problem. It’s made a huge difference in his appearance.

Thank goodness we can correct so many things today. But it wasn’t always that way. When I wrote A Husband for Matilda, I wrote a mail order bride, Mrs. Ketchem, into it. Most mail-order brides were women who had a difficult time finding a husband close to home.

They had a house full of children, mostly girls, and it was obvious that Mrs. Ketchem was producing more yarn than she could use. But what really impressed him was the house. He’d never seen a log cabin quite like this one.

“Did you build the house?” Zeke asked between mouthfuls.

“Ay, I did. I bought my own saw and cut the lumber.” Mr. Ketchem motioned to his wife. “We managed to do it together, but putting the roof on required help which I didn’t have. I built it on the ground and used ropes and a couple of oxen to get it up there.” He grabbed a child’s slate and drew a picture of the situation. “You planning on building one?”

“If I obtain the land I want, I might not have enough leftover for a house, but I’ll need one.”

“I’m from the Adirondack Mountains, and this area called to my heart. Bet you never heard of the Adirondack Mountains.”

“I know where they are. Tucked in the northern portion of the state of New York. Not far from Canada.” Zeke laughed. “I happened to like geography.”

“So did I. I was topographer with the railroad as they began to survey and make decisions as to where to put the tracks. I thought drawing maps would be exciting. I wanted to do something special with my life. Instead, I discovered I was bored.”

The man took another bite of food, chewed, and swallowed. “I came from a farm. We had apple and chestnut orchards to go along with our farm. We worked hard.”

“I know about that. I came from a farm outside of Philadelphia. My father would go into Philadelphia several times a week to sell produce.”

“I went all the way to California and as I came back, I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

“Were you already married?”

Mr. Ketchem shook his head and Mrs. Ketchem answered. “He wrote his mother and asked for a bride. I was twenty-two at the time and still not married.” She held up her hands. “Six fingers on each hand. No one wanted me. But my grandmother insisted that I write to Henry.

He said he didn’t care that I had extra fingers. He was more worried about my being able to move out here and if I could cook. He promised that he was a good man and would treat me well.”

Mr. Ketchem chuckled. “I don’t mind those extra fingers. She’s a hard working woman, and I couldn’t ask for a better or prettier wife.”

Zeke looked at the dark-haired woman with crystal blue eyes and porcelain white skin and smiled. He wouldn’t have called her pretty. He finished his meal and thanked both Ketchums several times before leaving for Homestead Canyon.

4 thoughts on “The Story Behind the Story

  1. You’re right. Beauty is in the beholder. Some of the most plain-featured people I know, are the sweetest, kindest and beautiful inside. A Husband for Matilda is a must read!

    Like

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