Inez Macbeth lived a miserable life on the edge of the Dismal Swamp, so she hired a man to kill her abusive petty thief husband and tried to run away with her lover, the son of a wealthy planter.

But things started going awry almost immediately. The hired killer didn't want money; he wanted her. That made her boyfriend suspicious, and their relationship fell apart."Her life is a series of horrendous catastrophies," said Deborah Pryor, the Virginia writer who created Inez and the other characters in the play "Briar Patch."

Written in 1987, "Briar Patch" won Pryor a Governor's Screenwriting Competition award at the Virginia Festival of American Film in Charlottesville in October.

"I usually start with the characters," said Pryor, who has been writing plays professionally since 1983. "This time, I started with the plot."

Pryor has written seven other plays including "The Love Talker," a fairy tale based in the Appalachian mountains, and "Wetter than Water," a story about a retired couple that moves from Detroit to an island off the Louisiana coast.

Eventually, she said, she would like to see one of her works performed on television or become a movie.