Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Martha Is Ready To Kick Character's Ass

I'd like to share a sample of my recent editorial rejection letters.

"...the characterization didn't ring true for me..."
"...I didn't understand [the character]..."
"...I never fully connected with the characters."

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ow. And take the knife out of my gut, please.

The editors are on target. Character is the last thing I think about. My process goes:

1. Themes/Concept
2. Plot Points
3. Paranormal World, Rules, and Setting
4. Major Character Arcs (in line with theme)
5. Character (the actual person filling the role)

To be honest...I just...don't....get..people. We're strange and crazy and bizarre. Justifying and motivating actions with psych 101 bullcrap, particularly by conveniencing my 1st-person present-tense narrator with a rich internal monologue, feels trite.

I don't have a tidy way to sum up this post. I haven't found a fix for my problem although I did complete a major agent-sanctioned revision which focused on character. I'll be attending summer writing conferences and stalking every session on emotional and feeling and other hand-holding-kumbaya topics.

I absolutely have to tackle and beat this shortcoming to the ground. If you know the secret to writing awesome characters, fill me in. I'm in need.

Note: We've just added another term to the Sophie Littlefield challenge, my friends. In addition to a bounty for the first person to find use of the word "gasp" in her novel, an additional bounty is being offered for "muse" used as a verb. Let's find it, people!


Sophie Littlefield said...

ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!
if you ever find an instance of me using "muse", I'm buying rounds for everyone.

nice try, m dear....

Rachael Herron said...

Your characters are shaking in their character-ey boots, I know it. You'll get 'em.

Wyman Stewart said...

"...the characterization didn't ring true for me..."
Reply: Editor! Get a life!

"...I didn't understand [the character]..."
Reply: Dear Editor, have you tried THINKING?

"...I never fully connected with the characters."
Reply: Perhaps you should reboot your flawed mind to see if you can get a better connection.

Okay, I admit, you can't do that to Editors. Afterall, they're trying to do their job and most of them are GOOD at it.

Without reading your work, I can't begin to guess what might be wrong with your characters. Therefore, I will suggest that you look at some novels with notable characters that seem similar to yours to see what those authors did that you are not doing.

Best of luck to you!

Unknown said...

Sophie also doesn't like the word 'posited' which in certain situations really works for me...

I have no doubt whatsoever that you will conquer the issue of character, probably in your sleep while preparing for the apocalypse, writing movie reviews, and offering fashion advice. :)