I had wanted to write a story for Benjamin Chaney for a long time. We saw him as a boy in The Doctor’s Wife and again at seventeen in The Lawman’s Bride. Because of his past, I knew that a relationship with a woman would be difficult for him–especially the physical aspect. And I wanted to develop his growth and see him become the man I knew he could be. But all along I knew it would take a special woman to break through those barriers of the past and show him he was worthy of love.
Occasionally I would ruminate on Benjamin’s predicament, but the right time was coming. When I decided it was time to write his story, I developed it the way I always do. I start with a grid on which I chart the characters, one for each of them, and I listed the things I knew about him. He’s competent and stubborn and inside he’s filled with anger. His motivation is all about sex and self-control. In his eyes passion is a weakness. He has sworn to honor and respect women. He’s kindhearted, but jaded. He knows the dark and seedy side of life and feels tainted. He has to learn how to be a man, the good man he wants to be.
A woman would have to come along of course. A woman who would challenge his strictly held beliefs and rattle his all-important self-control. Being a good man has been easy until now. Until this woman. So who would she be?
After much deliberation I came up with three possibilities. I drew three columns on a sheet of paper and headed each one.
Prostitute’s Daughter. Preacher’s Widow. Preacher’s Daughter.
Under each heading I listed the reasons she would create emotional conflict for Ben. The prostitute’s daughter was obvious–his mother was a prostitute. This person’s seen as much dirt as he has. She’s the last woman he’d ever want. All good. The Preacher’s Widow didn’t have much going for her. She provided another man for Ben to compare himself, to, but that’s about it. The preacher’s daughter on the other hand had a list: She’s untouched, pure and innocent; He’d place her on a pedestal; She’s his heart’s desire; He’s see in her all he values; He’d believe she was perfect; He’d feel unworthy; She grew up in a life he only dreamed of. Oh, yes….
My working title was The Perfect Wife. (Great title, and Victoria Alexander just made #1 on the NYT list with her story by that name!)
Her name came next. Prudence was obvious, but not pretty. I liked Carrie because it was sweet. But Lorabeth…now there’s a name that brings a picture to mind. You can almost see her by her name, can’t you? She’s hungry for love and affection — love he’s doesn’t know how to give. She’s passionate — eek! She’s impulsive and expressive, warm and emotionally intense. Thirsty for life. Her greatest fear is that she’ll only wanted and loved because she’s perfect.
I found my perfect visuals, a picture of him and a picture of her that hung above my desk. And then I placed the two of them together and let them develop their story. It was a delightful experience. Once I created and defined Ben and Lorabeth, they did all the work. Er, sort of…
I’m giving an autographed copy away to one of you today. If you already have The Preacher’s Daughter, I’ll fill in a book from my backlist that you don’t have. I’ll draw names tonight. Simply comment to have your name in the fish bowl.
Are you excited to hear the winner of the Spring Round Up Contest?