Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Lasting First Impression

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?


  1. I want my granddaughters to know that they were loved by their grandmother unconditionally. My husband and I are blessed to see them every week and when they are at our house, we devote the entire day to them.

  2. Great post. I want people to see the good in me. A smile, a greeting. I try to look people in the eyes and let them know I see them. Sometimes, a person might need that in ne smile to make their day better.

  3. Hard question. At church, I very much try to greet people I don't know and make them feel welcome, but there are days I just want to hide in the back pew and be left alone. Luckily, there are not many of those days.

    Gish, all kinds of scenarios.

    I'm pretty sure I'm a lasting impression kind of gal, which isn't always good, especially when I'm trying to make sure my 11 year old is getting the schooling he and all his classmates deserve.

  4. Mary, I'm so glad you spend so much quality time with your grandchildren. I have such great memories of spending days at my grandparents' farm that it inspired my new book series.

    Lenora, when I think of you, your beautiful smile is the first thing that comes to mind! You never know just how much that smile will mean to someone.

    Pamela, maybe your lasting impression is that you're a champion for others.

  5. I love the premise of your story, Lisa. I've been guilty of forming less than generous opinions when I first encounter someone. I don't like admitting this, but I used to look the other way when I saw homeless people, assuming they weren't people I'd want to know.

    But God wasn't content to have me remain ignorant in that area. He prompted me to volunteer in a homeless shelter last winter. My preconceived notions fell away as I got to know our guests. They're people who've come on hard times, each with stories that make me want to weep.

    These days when I see a homeless person, I rush up to him/her, eager to pass on the information about all the services that are available to the homeless here in our community. I love how the Lord can change a person's heart. I'm so grateful He's changed mine.

  6. What a fun behind-the-scenes look at your story, Lisa! I love it when characters develop over time. It must be so exciting to finally have them in the limelight!

  7. Love that Lisa! The other day, we were waiting for some friends, and the mailman pulled up in the mail truck. This guy got out, and he looked like a rockstar. Had the rocker hair (think 80's but not so big), had this total confident stride like he owned the place, and was really nicely built. My question was, "why is this guy a mailman?" I tried to get my kids to play, but they thought I was crazy. But I was just so curious about why this guy looked like a rockstar when he was a mailman. I'm thinking maybe he is trying to make a go of it as a rocker but needs to pay the rent so he's a mailman by day, rocker by night. :)

    You just can't take me anywhere without me wanting to write a story!

  8. Lisa, maybe I made lasting impression on a nice lady an hour ago at Walmart!! lol She was seeking "christian" books, and their supply was low. So many don't realize LI books are faith based so I pointed her to their supply ...6 authors only. YOURS was on the shelf so I hope she chose yours....I know she did walk away with some books!!


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