Home to Stay Competition

Although I write my stories in familiar topics and settings, I still perform a great deal of research. It’s the details that can trip up a story. However, if I filled my books with said research, you would toss the book against the wall and scream who cares! Still, it’s a fine line selecting the right amount of information. One reader requested a more detailed explanation for the competition parameters for Home to Stay so I decided to share my answer. Inquiring minds! 😊 If you also had questions, I hope this provides answers for you.

Art Butler leases and sells commercial Sunberry property. The building on Main Street, Boundary Street, and College Street are available. Boundary and College require renovation. Main Street, the prime location across from the Opera House has a tenant who is moving out. Ava and Ryan want the Main Street location, but the lease price is outside of Ava’s budget.

Off page in the story, Ava has proposed to renovate the College Street property for minimal wages. If she completes the renovations by the deadline, Art will lease her the Main Street property at an affordable reduced rate. Ryan contacts Art, a longstanding family friend, after Ava makes the agreement. Art supports veterans and wants to accommodate his friend. However, he’s already accepted Ava’s proposal. Art doesn’t want to go back on his word but feels guilty about turning down Ryan and Schmidt. To avoid making a choice, Art creates the competition between Ava and Ryan.

Does this sound like a Southern agreement? My father always said, “It’s not what you know but who you know. Art backtracked on his agreement with Ava. Ryan’s friend made a cash offer. Ava proposed a barter so business-wise, Ryan made the better offer. With the competition, Art removed the burden of making a personal choice between Ava and Ryan. The competition offered Ava and Ryan a chance to win the prime lease based on completion time and quality workmanship.

This setup allowed me to show Ava’s independence and her can-do attitude, while testing Ryan’s desire to protect and serve. Ava’s a capable woman, who has raised four children alone. She doesn’t need a savior. The situation forced Ryan to partner and not dominate Ava.

I wrote two endings to evaluate if Ava or Ryan should win the competition. Since Ava’s win felt predictable to me, I gave Ryan a last-minute win. Since it’s easier to be a good winner, Ava’s gracious loss shows her courageous character. Plus, the work she and her family performed added value to the project and honored her deceased husband. Their trial by challenging work healed the family and provided confidence and pride in their accomplishment.

I hope my explanation provides additional insight into my Home to Stay plot development. Below is an excerpt I cut from the final story:

Home to Stay Outtake Scene

   “Hey, Ryan,” Butler said, his voice cheerful and full of energy despite his seventy plus years. “Good to hear from you. Saw your mother last week. She said you’ve been busy on base.”
   “No, sir. Trying to help my CO. He wants to retire in Sunberry and open a business with his wife in the historic district. Your Main Street property would be perfect for their plans.” Ryan flexed his fingers around the steering wheel, feeling the tension easing in his back and shoulders. “I’m sure my CO will agree to your terms. I can pick up the paperwork and get his signature and a check tonight.”
   Does it have to be that site?”
   Ryan rubbed at the back of his neck. Something was up.
   “I have that place on Boundary,” Butler said. “Foot traffic isn’t as heavy, but it’s got more customer parking. There’s also the residential place the city rezoned commercial near Sunberry College. If you want to build, the building across from the opera house is available. It’s condemned so you’d have to raze it and build new.”
   “They plan to open an upscale boutique,” Ryan said. “The target audience is women not college girls. The Main Street location across from the Opera house would be perfect.”
   “Well, that’s a problem. I agreed to hold it for someone else.”
   Ryan froze. “I’m sorry, sir. What do you mean by hold?”
   “A friendly barter. I’m paying the interested party to renovate the College Street property. If I like the work, they’re going to lease the Main Street building. It’s a win-win for me. College Street is vacant and needs work before I can rent it. With this deal, I get a good tenant and improvements to lure another one.”
   Ryan’s thoughts spun. “My CO has the cash to lease it now.”
   “That’s a good offer, but I’ve already entered an agreement. I know we go way back, and I’d like to help your CO. But I gave my word. If the deal falls through, I’ll give your CO first chance at a lease.”
   Ryan rolled his shoulders. Schmidt had looked near the breaking point. A signed lease could reduce the pressure on him. “I’d like to talk more about this. Are you home?”
   Silence. Ryan noted his speed and eased the pressure off the accelerator. He didn’t need this, especially with his CO already mad about the car.
   “I can’t tonight,” Art said. “Gracie and I are going to a concert at the Opera House in thirty minutes. But there’s no hurry, son. My tenant’s not vacating for six weeks, which is the deadline on the renovations.”
   “How about tomorrow?”
   “No, sorry. It’ll have to wait until next week. Me and Gracie are going out of town. New grandson in Raleigh.”
   “Congratulations,” Ryan said, tamping down his disappointment. His CO was relying on him to secure a deal. “I’m sure Mrs. Butler is anxious to hold that baby.”
   “Yep. I’ve been loading baby things in the car for almost an hour. You know you’re not getting any younger.”
   Ryan braced. Dude, not tonight.
   “Best find a good woman like my Gracie and start baby-making for yourself.” Butler chuckled. “I know your momma wants a grandchild.”
   I’ll keep that in mind, sir. Can I call you Sunday to schedule a meeting?”
   “Best make it Tuesday,” Butler said. “If I know Gracie, we won’t leave until late and we’re not as chipper as we used to be. That drive will beat us up.”
   Tuesday. Double trouble! “How about Tuesday at noon? We’ll go to Gina’s for lunch.”
   “Easy boy. This ain’t New York City. Besides, I’ve got three properties available. At least I will have as soon as Mike Tucker vacates. Never did like that guy. I told him a smoke shop wouldn’t go in Sunberry. But you can’t tell people anything. Everybody already has the answers. Tattoos and piercings,” Art muttered.
   “But the smoke shop died for the same reasons a women’s boutique should make it in that location.”
   “Nothing wrong with the location on Boundary. With the right touch, the place on College could be a sleeper.”
   The residence turned commercial on College was a nightmare and they both knew it. Ryan waited.
   “Well,” Butler said, hiding his sharp mind in his good-ole-boy Carolina accent. “You think about it, and we’ll talk next week.”
   Frustrated, Ryan didn’t press his luck. Mr. Butler would dig his heels in deeper. He’d come around if Ryan gave him time.