I have learned that most stories come in two flavors–plot driven or character driven. I’m a character-driven kind of writer. Don’t get me wrong. I like suspense. I like a good mystery. I like a good thriller. But what I really like is to develop a relationship with the characters I meet.
During my intensive study of the craft of writing, I have also learned that some of the best romance novels are written by men. Ah, what a formidable undertaking. I do, however, feel it is my duty to make sure, should some man out there decide to cast his main POV character as a Southern woman, that he get his facts straight. Girls and guys do not think alike, and even though Southern girls can hunt, fight, or tinker with an automobile as well as some men, they also possess a Southern belle femininity that cannot be denied.
So, all you guy writers out there, allow me to help you just a bit. Take a gander at the following:
A Southern Gal’s Guide to Creating a Character-Driven Storyline from a Southern Belle’s POV
Southern girls like to hunt. Some of them use a gun. Others use a credit card. Now let’s say your story takes place around Thanksgiving, the hours before Black Friday to be exact. Please don’t expect all the women to still be in the kitchen or in front of the TV after 8 p.m.
Yes, Southern girls like football–some do. But others are ready for big game. I’m talking major bargain shopping.
Yes, I know it’s Christmastime. Yes, I know this is the season to give, not receive. But we are talking SHOPPING here, Southern girl shopping. You don’t reallly expect a Southern girl to shop for others when retailers are offering 60% off, do you?
I don’t do Vera Bradley, but a lot of Southern girls do. If Vera Bradley is on sale, then the hunt is on. It’s every woman for herself out in the field. We HAVE to bag the bargains. It’s what we do. And we can only get the bargains if we KNOW what they are, i.e. the stuff WE like.
Now let’s say, Mr. Gentleman Writer, that you like to hunt. We women would NOT expect you to go out on opening day of deer season, quail season, turkey season, etc. and shoot something for someone else.
No. You put the scope on what it is YOU want, and YOU pull the trigger. You don’t say, “Oh, I bet Willie would look good with this buck in the back of his truck.” No. You’d shoot it for yourself. Put it in the back of YOUR truck, and take it to YOUR house.
Why then would a woman bag a bargain for someone else? Yes, it’s Christmas. But if a woman is serious enough to get up before dawn just to go to a department store, then she deserves her limit, and she deserves to bring home her trophy kill too.
By the way, I am not one of those women who likes to hunt. I prefer NOT to kill Bambi or his mother. But I acknowledge the fact that hunting does control the game population.
Bargain hunting is good too. Every woman is competitive, especially a Southern woman. I teach. I’ve seen the heels come off, the earrings come out. I’d much rather break up a guy fight than a girl fight. Girls pull hair, scratch, bite, and cuss if need be. It gets ugly.
It is my opinion that bargain shopping helps control this primitive urge that all women have to be number one. There’s something about snagging the last sweater or fine linen during a blue light special that makes a girl feel like a WOMAN.
And, yes, sometimes we do get caught up in the bargain frenzy. I’ve been there and done that a few times myself. One Black Friday I was up at 4 a.m. at the local Walmart. I didn’t know what I was in line for because women swarmed the stack of merchandise in the center aisle. I joined in, and before I knew it, I had three crock pots in my shopping cart. I don’t even like to cook.
A Southern woman MUST conquer, but not without saying “Excuse me” or “Bless your heart,” as she sees the look of disappointment in the eyes of the woman she beat to the last pair of half-off boots. On the inside, she feels like a winner.
So, dear Gentleman Writer, should your thoughts turn to the holiday season and should shopping slip into your storyline, please consider the heart of a Southern woman. Do not stereotype her as materialistic. You have to get into her head. You have to understand that shopping is a natural instinct. She is not seduced by the glitter and bling. She has a job to do to protect the name of all women, those who like to shop and those who don’t.
BTW…In case you are preparing to scold me for my very materialistic blog, please note that I am simply trying to bring a smile to your face. Surely, you don’t think I’m being serious. I bet you also think I’d actually stalk Steven Tyler. ;-)
I’m always searching for interesting blog topics, and think I found one—true confessions. Have you seen these posts on Facebook? A person confesses his or her secret for the cyber world to see. Makes for interesting reading.
Why would anyone do that!
But I’ve decided to follow the trend and publish my version of true confessions. Okay, here it goes.
The question? If you were to be granted only one wish for Christmas this season, what would it be?
My answer? A black 1969 SS Camaro with racing stripes and a variety of other muscle car features that I really know nothing about but nevertheless excite me.
The correct answer, of course, is world peace, love, and harmony for all the children of the world.
I would have made a terrible Miss America.
My true confession is I can be horribly selfish. I don’t mean to be bad. I just am.
Case in point, Black Friday, THE day for maximum Christmas gift shopping. But I rarely buy anything for anyone else on this day. All I think about is how cute those shoes would look with the outfit I bought at the last store. Or how could I possibly pass up a bargain on a sweater or a pair of jeans.
When I walk into a store, my eyes light up at all the beautiful things, clothes especially. I’m not usually materialistic. It’s that I love shopping—for me.
And when it comes to gifts, I know it’s the thought that counts, but I really like opening up presents. I really like surprises.
According to Dr. Larry Chapman, who wrote the book The Five Love Languages, I’m not materialistic. I [thrive] “on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.” It’s true. I associate people with things. Take jewelry, for example. I don’t wear expensive jewelry. I don’t like expensive jewelry, but I like cheap, unusual necklaces if they hold special meanings.
I’ve worn rings from candy machines, and I’ve worn shell necklaces from the beach just because one of my little boys gave it to me. When I wear these gifts, I feel as though I have a part of them with me.
Allow me to clarify the gift of an expensive ’69 Camaro.
I would have no problem accepting that gift from anyone at anytime. So, last minute shoppers, just throw the keys into your shopping cart, and send that sucker to me. I won’t complain.
The four other languages include words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. My mother always told me, “Actions speak louder than words, and, ironically for a writer, I have always lived by her advice. But each person has his or her own language.
I know that at the holidays it’s better to give than to receive, but, true confession, I really have a difficult time doing that. Fact is receiving brings out the kid in me. I get sooo excited.
When I get something in my mind, that’s what I want, and nothing else will do. I remember writing to Santa one Christmas for a blue banana seat buzz bike. I pictured it in my mind. It was all I ever wanted. And on Christmas morning, I woke up and found a sparkling metallic gold bike with a basket and tassels hanging from the handlebars.
I couldn’t hide my disappointment. I didn’t get what I wanted. I got what somebody else picked out for me. How could Santa do that when I specifically asked for a blue bike?
My parents were disappointed too—in me for my lack of gratitude. My heart sunk when I realized I had let them down, but I couldn’t believe Santa didn’t read my letter closely enough. I’ve always been a perfectionist with outstanding handwriting. He should have caught my specifics. Looking back now, I realize the gold bike was the prettiest one at the North Pole. But it wasn’t what I wanted.
I attach way too much sentimental value to objects. Even chocolate donuts.
When my husband and I first married, we rarely saw each other because we were going to school and each working many, many hours just to be able to afford rent. Typical meals consisted of pork and beans and unsweet Kool-Aid. (I HATE pork and beans.)
In addition to my scholarship job and working at the library, I also used to babysit our neighbor’s little boy. To my horror, I saw the little boy in our living room, watching our TV, and eating one of my prized chocolate donuts that my husband had given him.
You probably don’t understand how special those chocolate donuts were to me. (I don’t eat them now—too fattening.) Chocolate has always been my drug of choice, and this kid was eating one of the last ones in the box. Pay day was weeks away, and I didn’t have the money to go buy another box.
After the father picked up his kid, I lit into my husband and picked up one of the last remaining donuts, zinged it like Josh Beckett straight at the man who invaded my stash. I caught him in the left ear.
I always kept my donuts in the refrigerator because I like cold chocolate. Plus, my father taught me how to throw a baseball. I didn’t throw like a girl, so I dinged him pretty good.
That was stupid. One, he is a lot bigger than me, and two, I threw away a perfectly good donut. This incident was totally out of character for me. I usually keep everything in. But when it comes to chocolate—
The donut was more than a donut to me. It was a symbol of reward after hours of sacrifice. That kid didn’t deserve my donut.
Just a couple of weeks ago my journalism students and I played Secret Pal, and we brought small gifts to our people. I had a nice chocolate candy bar picked out for my person. But I was so stressed out that I ate it before I could give it to him.
I’m working on my selfishness. But I still have a terrible time during the Christmas season. I despise the commercialism, but I love shopping. I just don’t like shopping for others in general.
But when I’m shopping for a SPECIAL gift, I will go to the extremes to get it, even if it means traveling over the hills and far away.I put a lot of thought into special gifts. It really bums me out when people don’t appreciate my effort. That’s why I have to work on my own selfishness. Not everyone shares my love language of receiving gifts. Not everyone associates sentimental feelings with material things.
My efforts might be better spent focusing on one of the other four remaining love languages rather than worrying if my present sends the right message.
All the better for me—more time to shop—for me.
I know, say it with me. Selfish.
I don’t mean to be bad. I don’t want to be selfish. I just am. True confession. But I’m working on it.
Santa probably won’t bring me anything but a sack of coal this season, but I’ll still have fun opening it.
Gather round children, oh ye with aching feet and depleted pocketbooks. Most of you who are reading this have just awakened after your first round of napping. I know where you’ve been. I know what you’ve been doing. I know what you are.
If you think this blog does not apply to you, don’t stop reading. There is always the chance that you too could fall into danger next year and drink the Kook-Aid.
I don’t blame you. There was one a day when I too fell under the spell of desperate merchants tempting me with their buy-one, get-one-free one-day deals. But the truth is people just don’t think right at four a.m.
Now that you’re a little more clear headed, think with me. Did you really need that sweater or that toy? Did you get caught up in the frenzy and buy one of everything just so somebody else wouldn’t beat you to the punch?
And, hey, if I were to give you ten bucks, would you go stand in line two hours to buy one of those sweaters for me? No? Then why did you stand in line two hours this morning? Is ten bucks not worth your time? I’ll bet you’d consider paying somebody else twice that now to finish your shopping list.
I gave up early bird Black Friday shopping this year. Why? Because I found a mall where all the stores opened at ten p.m. Thursday. I’m a night owl anyway.
Before I left, however, I set some ground rules.
One, I reminded myself there was absolutely nothing I had to buy for me or anybody else. I was going for the sheer adventure of it.
Boy, was I stupid. I wore cowboy boots.
Okay, here’s the deal. I’m going to break a cardinal writing rule—don’t stray from the subject. But, hey, I’m driving this bus. Every now then it’s okay to take the scenic route.
See, I’ve had these boots for over year. They were a Christmas present from last year or the last. I haven’t worn them much. In fact, the only other time I’ve ever had cowboy boots was when I actually wore them to keep my feet from slipping through the stirrups when I was riding. But my absolutely adorable snuggly brown vest went so well with them, I wore them anyway.
Plus, there’s something about cowboy boots that’s empowering. I figured should I have to fight my way out of a mob of insane shoppers, I might as well be dressed for it. I only planned to shop for a couple of hours.
Again, stupid me.
The traffic was so backed up it took forever to get there. Then I had to wait in line forever in the cold because fire codes permitted a limited number of shoppers to enter each store at a time.
When I finally entered Old Navy, my eyes lit up. Mesmerized. Scarves! Only a dollar each. I grabbed an armful for everyone I knew. Then I looked at the line. It wrapped around the store twice. I came to my senses. I left.
I checked out several other stores, but again, I really wasn’t looking for anything except a little adventure, a little people watching. But everybody looked the same. They all had the same drop-jaw expression that said, “What am I doing here?”
I finally made my way to the Gap and endured the line. I figured I’d better bag something during my bargain hunt.
But my greatest act of stupidity was letting the aroma of coffee lead me to Starbucks. The line was out the door, for goodness sake! But I fell in line anyway. This is when I realized that my cowboy boots might come in handy despite my aching feet.
I was surrounded by a hundred caffeine addicts just dying to get a triple shot caramel latte. I found myself in the middle of several manly women discussing a Zombie run and their plans to check out an obstacle course the next day.
My greatest fear was the baristas would mix up my drink with theirs. The only advantage I had was my boots. There was no way I could outrun them even if I were wearing sneakers. I think one of them was a cage fighter.
Needless to say, my shopping experience was a bust.
I froze. My feet hurt. I waited nearly 45 minutes for a cup of coffee that was cold by the time I found my parking place, and I got so buzzed up on caffeine I couldn’t sleep once I finally made it to bed.
So children, those of you who make the vow to give up early bird shopping next year, don’ t be deceived by midnight madness. It is what it is.