Character dilemma

WikiCommons

WikiCommons

So, I’ve been working on this new manuscript, involving a princess, whom I’ll call C in this and future posts. I’m about 60% done with the first draft, and it suddenly hit me: should I make C a commoner?

I’m afraid I’ve passed the point of no return with C and will have to keep going, leaving it up to a future agent or publisher to suggest I rethink using royalty (to which I’ll probably respond, like Bartleby, “I would prefer not to”).

If the protagonist is strong, realistic, fun, “easy to relate to”, then OK, no problem, green light. And I think I’m there. Although: one of my readers keeps telling me C’s a spoiled brat, which I don’t see and which also might not be a problem anyway, but the comment still rankles. There must be a thin line between feisty/independent and indulged/troublesome.

WikiCommons

WikiCommons

This is where advice I always gave my writing students is useful: Don’t argue with the reader. Just use the reader’s comments to understand the effects your words are having and decide if those match your intentions.

So, when I figure out what my intentions are, I’ll be able to use my reader’s comments.

Now I have to get back to my MS, where C is headed into some kind of trouble I haven’t figured out yet.

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
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8 Responses to Character dilemma

  1. simon682 says:

    I’m too confused over my own characters to be a fit person to offer advice. Best wishes.

  2. calmgrove says:

    As far as I can see, there usually comes a time when the character ceases to be a construct of the author and takes wing; if you have readers following the protagonist’s journey then their interactions with C or whoever it is may well mimic life — nurture (the environment your critical friends help create) will have as much effect as nature (the matrix that you as author have provided for your protagonist).

    Well, that’s my understanding. (By the way I’m of course using the phrase ‘critical friend’ in the academic sense, not in the sense of some carping so-called pal!)

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      You’re right, Calmgrove, about characters taking wing. There’s only so much an author can do to help her characters survive in the world of books, but then she has to let go and hope for supportive readers. It’s so much like parenting that I’m sure we’re not the first to draw this parallel.
      As for that “carping so-called pal”: she may move down a notch or two on my Hierarchy of Friends, but a part of my writing brain is still listening (and fighting the urge to argue).

  3. Rörschåch says:

    I would love to read the manuscript, but my comments would surely be biased.

  4. christawojo says:

    “Don’t argue with the reader. Just use the reader’s comments to understand the effects your words are having and decide if those match your intentions.” This is great advice! I’m about to implement my critique partners’ and beta readers’ suggestions. Keeping this simple objective in mind will help to save me from overthinking or getting too emotional about revisions.

    Thanks and good luck with your MC!

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      Thanks, Christa. I’m glad the advice is helpful. I was a writing teacher for decades, and it was something I kept telling my students, yet all these years later I still have to remind myself. Every response that disagrees with what I think about my MS feels like an attack, but (if the reader is doing her job well) it isn’t, and I need to get over that to figure out how to use the response. If you trust your readers, they’ll provide surprising insights. Good luck with your revisions!

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