Write about what you know—I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve heard, read, and taught those words. They’re why the Callie Parrish mysteries take place in the south. I’ve lived in South Carolina my entire life. The laid-back charm of the land and life are as distinctive and apparent as the southern dialect.
Southerners are gracious—A successful mystery writer recommends that protagonists have “unusual occupations.” Callie was a kindergarten teacher, but she grew tired of five-year-olds who wouldn’t be quiet or lie still for their naps. She solved that problem by becoming a mortuary cosmetologist, a job she loves because her clients are silent, don’t jump around, and don’t have to tee tee every five minutes.
The “Bless her heart” syndrome grants grace—Authors say they like to write southern because it’s okay to say anything bad about a person, so long it’s followed by “Bless her heart.” Example: “That woman is just an evil, conniving bitch. Bless her heart.” The blessing makes everything okay.
Southerners are easy to describe—When Callie says her daddy “looks and acts just like a sixty-something-year-old Larry the Cable Guy,” nothing else is needed.
I love the grits and gravy heritage—Southern greats set wonderful precedents. William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe wrote sentences that ran on over half a page, longer than my paragraphs. Some are about as lengthy as my chapters. (Hyperbole is part of the southern speech pattern.)