Friday, July 25, 2008

Are You Too Close?

by G.Parker

You know the expression "Can't see the forest for the trees?" I had an experience with that recently.

Remember that story I said I was very fond of a while back? How I felt the characters were almost real and true friends? Well, I finally introduced it to my crit group. I figured since the other stuff we'd been working on needed extensive revision, I would have them look over something else.

On a side note; I came to the conclusion that all the things I had written and thought were about ready to submit -- weren't as ready as I thought. The more I work with my writing group, the more I realize how much I need to improve and how much my stories need editing.

Anyway, so, I give my crit group the first couple of chapters of my book (the chapters are short) and wait with bated breath to see if they like it. While the initial response was positive -- they all like the main premise and the characters -- they had lots of questions. Who is in the first chapter? Who is speaking to whom? They thought one of my characters was a man until a later paragraph indicated it was a woman. Sigh.

Part of the trouble is this story was started somewhere else entirely. The version they saw was after I'd done all the character work, written out a plot outline for a whole different book, but they don't know any of it.

They are plopped down in Hawaii without knowing why they are there (outside of a vacation) how many are married, and what their names are. Oh boy. It's a case of too little trees in the forest. I'm too close to the characters -- I know who and what they are, but the reader doesn't.

Have you experienced that? Are you too close to your characters and not letting your reader get to know them? If they aren't familiar or likable, the book isn't going to be finished. The reader needs to know things like why a character is called by a nickname rather than her full name. They need to know why these characters are best friends and have been for 25 years. Who is going to tell them if you don't?

That is one of the main reasons to have other people read your work. Sometimes you can be too close to it to know what's best or how to improve it.

At least now I know what needs to be done -- It's all a matter of it making sense. Although, I might have to go back to Hawaii ...which wouldn't be all that bad. Only this time I'd take my hubby.


Annette Lyon said...

That happens a lot to me, sort of, "Wait--it was in my head when I wrote it. Can't you SEE that?" This is one area where critique groups are very valuable.

The flip side, though, is not throwing in so much information right up front that you get info-dumpy. It's a difficult line to walk--but chances are, your group will tell you when you err on that side, too!

Anna Maria Junus said...

That's the way it is for me all the time. I'm not good at description so I avoid it.

And then people ask "what does it look like" and I'm thinking "can't you just make up what it looks like in your head?"