The Dream Cabin

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By Mary Lou Cheatham

An author, who is incapable of practicing generic purism, has tried one more time to write a romance. Each time in the past, she has not abided by the guidelines. Every book she has written up to now contains a romance, but they are not true romances. This time she hoped to succeed.

Referring to manuals about how to write a romance, she planned her novel with care. The synopsis and outline, adhering to the rules, though soon they became irrelevant to the story. The characters refuse to act the way the outline requires.

In the novel, a beautiful young woman, who is a pastor of a church, falls in love with the son of a wealthy rancher. Conflicts and separations occur. In the meantime, the author has found the perfect picture for the cover. In every book the author has written, she’s emphasized the plights of downtrodden elements of society. The young woman looks slightly Hispanic. Perfect. The problems of immigrants—some illegal—crop up in the church community.

How can anyone write about such people without including strong conflicts with the legal authorities? Oops, there goes the author into the genre of a thriller. Not a complete thriller, just a slice in the pie. Suspense is the natural outcome of the situation.

Since the main character, Alison, is a minister, who works in a traditional male role, another wedge of the story makes it read like women’s fiction. How can she gain acceptance from her congregation?

The writer cannot—does not seem to be capable—of writing just a romance. She has heard from writing conference speakers to give the readers reasons to turn the page. She knows that the love element is enough as it flows from some authors’ pens to keep the readers engaged, but this writer needs suspense to fuel the plot. If she’d started from the angle of writing a thriller or a detective story, she’d still need a big portion of the story to involve romance.

She creates the characters and lets them act the way that is natural in their situation. All the characters she invents have multiple personality traits. They’re not simply lovers.

Here’s another problem. In a romance, somebody or something always must be left out. Nobody likes to be in that position. The writer shows how that person acts. He isn’t merely a spurned lover, who sweetly steps aside so the man and woman who truly love each other and deserve to live happily ever after can be together; he’s a neurotic villain, downright scary. When he chases Alison and she barely escapes, the novel leaves the romance genre again. Who knows what the villain may do by the end of the book?


Mary Lou Cheatham (Mary Cooke) began her life near Hot Coffee in Mississippi. Now she lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, with her husband, a talking cat, and three chiming antique clocks. Long ago she taught English, and not so long ago she retired from her career as a registered nurse. She loves to write.


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