July 30, 2020

Characters Develop the Story

Paul H Yarbrough

I was born and reared in Mississippi; lived  both in Louisiana and Texas and spent most of my business career in the oil business.

I took up writing as a hobby 15 years ago and love to write about the South. I write essays, short stories and a few poems, though poetry is something I do as an amateur chasing a hobby. Just as well, considering the payment for poetry (at least mine).

But now I have just finished a fourth novel. The Yeller Rose of Texas.

When I begin a story, (so far anyway), I have no clear idea of a plot. I usually just think about characters and what they are or what they can be. Then a story develops.

I read once where Damon Runyon said, “Give me characters and I’ll find a story.” That’s why he hung out at race tracks, pool halls, beer joints and places where he would find the most eccentric people. And characters made his stories.

My first two novels took place in Mississippi (where I was born and reared). The third in Louisiana (where my wife was born and reared). And the latest in Texas (where my son was born and reared).

Of course, I have spent, now, most of my life in Texas. In fact, I’ve lived in Texas longer than Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Travis combined.

But Texas is first, Southern, and I like to write about the South. I Began The Yeller Rose of Texas as a nostalgic story centered mostly in East Texas—almost a family story. It was going to be about a family with two young sons whose father was overseas during the Korean War—serving as a military field doctor. That was the original background, and I held to that background as part of the plot.

But the idea of a concept of roses (I had just written an Easter poem about roses) and their having different meanings for different colors, put me onto the thought of something opposite to beauty—violence. This idea touched off the concept of good vs evil and those two opposite nonidentical twins.

I thought, as I revealed the plot, I would also reveal the different nature of domestic roses and their colors and wild roses, Rosa Canina, Dog Roses. They actually are not roses, technically, but are called such—something like “knock-off” roses by nature.

Therefore, the story is throughout almost like a Robert Louis Stevenson “good guy, bad guy” adventure.

So, the story has nonidentical twins both pretty good. But it has another set of twins, nonidentical boys who have a different history altogether. Before I knew it my “down home” Texas nostalgia story was plodding through and bleeding into some kind of (another author, yet) Flannery O’Conner Gothic horror.

Being Texas, the story has a good supply of hunting dogs and feral hogs to go with it, and a concomitant mystery.

But in the end The Yeller Rose of Texas shines just as it is called, The Yeller, not the Yellow—with a Texas twang.

Paul H. Yarbrough is originally from Jackson, Mississippi. For the past forty years, he has lived in Houston, Texas, where he has worked for two oil companies and been an independent consultant in the oil business, mostly as a landman. He is a widower with one grown son. Paul has published a handful of short stories, flash fiction and essays in a variety of forums: The Abbeville Institute, The Daily Caller, Lew Rockwell, Virginia Right, Independent Journal Review.
His first novel, Mississippi Cotton, was published by Wido Publishing in 2011. His second novel, A Mississippi Whisper,was published by WiDo in December, 2014. In December, 2017 Wido published a third Southern novel: Thy Brother's Blood: A Louisiana Novel.


  1. The Yeller Rose of Texas sounds intriguing! And I like that you let your characters take the story where it needs to go.

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