Over a decade ago, I was getting gas at a local convenience store when I saw a man walking down the sidewalk. He had a long ponytail and carried a green canvas backpack with a leather bottom. He didn’t wave or seem to pay any attention to me, but his presence sparked an interest in my writer’s brain.
Who was he? Where was he from? What did he do?
I didn’t know him, but I was curious about his story. Immediately, my mind jumped to conclusions, but then I halted that stereotypical thinking to consider maybe he was a youth pastor or an educator of some sort. Perhaps he was a pediatric surgeon or even a busker who had a passion for music...I didn’t see an instrument, but I don’t know what was his backpack.
Then, I began thinking about the characters swimming in my head—what if one of them wasn’t who she seemed? Maybe she comes across as a free spirit, but actually, she’s simply an energetic, positive youth worker who championed for the underdog.
I started writing her story, but when I ran into plotting roadblocks and received discouraging feedback, I shelved it and moved on, writing other books and finally getting “the call.”
As I sold more books to Love Inspired, this character wouldn’t stay quiet, constantly demanding for her story to be told. After restructuring the plot (I had grown a lot in my craft since then) and strengthening the characters, I sold the story to Love Inspired.
So, after being two of the characters I’ve known the longest, Alec and Sarah’s story is being told in Lakeside Romance, which released this month.
Lakeside Romance is the story of a cynical real estate agent who teams with a free-spirited youth worker to teach cooking to teenagers in a summer outreach program. Problem is, she can’t cook, and he hates teenagers.
By taking a stereotypical view of a stranger and twisting it, I came up with a fun heroine who tends to annoy my cranky hero...and yes, he’s been cranky since he entered my mind, but now he’s a lot less of a jerk. As they get to know each other, Sarah and Alec realize their first impressions weren't entirely accurate.
As one of our human flaws, we are quick to jump to conclusions. We may see someone who doesn’t dress or act the way we do, and we form an opinion without getting to know her. That first impression may not be her finest moment. However, we need to be more sympathetic and compassionate because we don’t know what journey she’s taking through life. We can take the time to get to know people and realize our first impressions may not have been the most accurate. And, yes, at times, we do need to trust our instincts, especially if those first impressions signal danger.
Our paths have never crossed again that I’m aware of, but that ponytailed stranger will never know what an impression he made on me.
What about you? What kind of impression do you want to imprint on a stranger’s mind? Will you be forgettable? Or a lasting memory?