Consistency between the characters and their locales are the keys to holding your readers. Points of view and voices make your characters real.
In my WIP, I have a southern family and a Yankee family talking around the southern family’s picnic table. They are arguing the fine points of social change with the Yankee protagonist, Beth, a research physician from Mainline Philadelphia. She’s Aaron, the hero’s girlfriend. She’s raising two children she adopted from Madagascar.
Their conversation in the seventies in a small town in rural Georgia goes like this. From Beth’s POV:
“I hear that,” John (Aaron's southern dad) said. “Aaron tells me you did a lot of walking and climbing in Africa, Beth.”
“It’s the only way to go.”
“No, I mean it is the only way to get around in that immediate area, although we used the Jeep coming and going from the hospital.”
Irene (Aaron's late wife's mother-in-law) chimes in. “I heard it’s very dry there.”
“Terribly dry in that part of Madagascar; the tropic of Capricorn crosses just south of that area. You can imagine the heat they labor under. They mine pink and blue sapphires for the titanium used on space ships.”
“Well, land sakes. Get me a map. I haven't heard tell of the Tropic of Capricorn since I was a school girl,” Ella (Aaron's southern grandmother) said.
A brief silence followed; then Joe (Ella’s husband) turned to her. “Ella honey, that had to be a hundred years ago. By now it’s probably been renamed.”
“Countries around that area are doing a lot of that,” Beth interrupted, hoping to defuse a storm.
Joe stroked his chin. “I remember ‘Istanbul’s not Constantinople anymore’ when we were coming up.”Beth felt everyone’s eyes turn to her as if they expected her to give a political speech. “Well, folks, since my Peace Corps days are over, and I'm no longer getting my paycheck from the World Health Association, and my children are safe under my roof at home, I don't care as much what they call it.”
Ella straightened in her chair and looked around the table. “I thought y'all were quite the activist. So you don't plan to take your children back to visit their roots?”
“First, they need to adapt to their new surroundings,” Beth said, “…take root in the Atlanta area. If they want to go back when they're adults, fine with me. I can hardly complain. I wanted to join up and save the world when I was a little older than they are now.”
“I was just sayin’ they might prefer to be with their own kind,” Ella adjusted her napkin in her lap in a prim manner that no one missed.
Beth knew better than to pursue this line of the conversation and turned to John. “Tell me what you do now that you're out of the service. Aaron said something about your promotion at the Post Office?”
The table filled with people of mixed interests and life experience struggled along until Beth felt she could safely excuse herself to leave.
I consider this a conversation I could have overheard while we were living in Atlanta, but only within the confines of a family home. Political correctness hadn’t been invented yet, but manners mattered in the South.
This WIP is set in the South during the changes in attitudes from 1958 until the mid-ninety’s. I’ve tried to stay true to that underlying theme while telling a story of this hero who was “man enough to be a nurse,” and the love of his life, Beth, a doctor.
Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and the sequel, Medium Rare. Daughters of the Sea is from MuseItUp Publishing. Visit Julie’s Web site at