Sometimes my stories start with a picture in my head. A scene that I can so vividly imagine it will take nothing to write it out. The book I’m working on now started out like that. A picture of a girl, wearing a dress, long hair flowing in the wind, walking along the side of the highway carrying a guitar. Okay. I needed to find out why she was doing this and how she got there and where she was going.
I had a hero who picked her up. He was a straight-laced kind of guy. Toed the line. He had a job to do and he was going to do it well. My heroine was a flighty kind of girl.
As I dug deeper I found out that she had two sisters who were classically trained violinists. She never felt that she measured up to them. She has always been trying to please her father and her mother. Who were also classically trained musicians. My hero is a rancher, and the heroine is supposed to be working at the ranch. So I need to do the job for her to do. How about she’s a nurse’s aide, and she’s come to help the hero’s father? But why is she living this erratic life? She probably had some deep sorrow in her past, that she is trying to out run. Maybe some guilt?
So I’m slowly fleshing out this character, adding things, subtracting things, but the one constant was the guitar. I couldn’t seem to get that initial picture out of my head.
But why would a classically trained guitarist become a nurse’s aide? And how does that fit into the story? I came to the conclusion, that she had a husband. This husband died somehow. I wanted her afraid of horses, because I wanted a scene where the hero’s brother teaches her to ride. The hero and the brother have been at odds ever since they fought over a girl they both like. So when the hero finds out that is brother is teaching the girl he’s come to care for how to ride, this causes a huge problem.
But what about the guitar? How does that fit in with all of this? It was slowly becoming less and less a part of her journey at all.
But the picture!!!
With a sigh I set the guitar aside, realizing it wasn’t fitting. I was trying to shoehorn it in because I couldn’t let go. I did some more outlining and then I started writing the story. Opening scene, zoom in on hero driving his truck, talking to his father, sees a girl on the side of the road……
With a guitar case!
Well, I gave in I just couldn’t seem to get rid of that silly guitar. What I did let go of, however, was her reason for coming to the ranch. The father suddenly didn’t need help anymore. He was perfectly healthy. My heroine wasn’t a nurse’s aid anymore either. Instead, I came up with another reason she ends up staying. And the reason is…..triplets. For now. We’ll see once I get that far whether they stay or not. Or get reduced to twins. One thing I do know, the guitar will figure in the story with them somehow.
In February I have a new book coming out, Courting the Cowboy which also had elements I let go of and brought back in but then changed something else. I had a pair of matchmaking parents – her mom, his dad. But I couldn’t get the mom to co-operate. Then I was going to get the mom of the heroine and the father of the hero together. I realized I was trying to push things into a place they didn’t belong. So I had to let go of those elements.
As we writers work on our stories, we need to know not only what to put in our story but what to take out.
Even if some things keep coming back.
Courting the Cowboy is the first of the Cowboy’s of Cedar Ridge Series and is out in February from Love Inspired.
If you want to know more about my releases and when I have books coming out, you can check out my website at www.carolyneaarsen.com