Rewrite Anguish

Okay, so I’ve rewritten this book so many times I’ve lost track of draft numbers. The opening alone has been through more work than anything else I’ve written and I’m now on yet another rewrite.

In fact, the new opening is why I recently had asked yet another Beta Reader to look at it. She’s someone whose book is under consideration by a publishing house and she told that one of my book’s favorite characters is introduced wrong. Just so we’re clear, this is one of EVERYONE ELSE’s favorite characters. (I don’t know if I have a favorite.) This Beta reader has told me that not having his goal stated up front leaves the reader confused and unable to settle into the fictive dream. This is the first time anyone’s complained about this character’s lack of goal, which is his character flaw. It is purposeful. This character is someone who submits to everyone else’s will until he realizes he’s in a no-win scenario because of his lack of direction. It’s not that I disagree with what she’s saying, because I’ve read books whose characters would have benefited from this treatment. The problem is, I don’t think I can make this change without changing the character, which would in turn change the book and lessen its impact, so I’m not going to do it. At least not without editorial input!
However, I wanted to ask you, is this something you have to have in the introduction of characters? Do you need to know where they’re headed from the beginning?

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13 Responses to “Rewrite Anguish”

  1. Jen Black says:

    A hint of where a character is headed is helpful, but not mandatory as far as I know. If only one person made this comment, then consider it, and ignore it if you don't agree. If ever oneof your crtiquers says the same thing, then you know what? They might have a point!
    Jen

  2. Lisa Yarde says:

    Victoria, I respectfully disagree, especially if this comment is about Aiyu. I'm assuming it is based on the chracteristics you've described. Good storytelling is all about the journey of the characters. Sometimes, the path looks very clear but turns in an unexpected direction, as it is for Jie Liu. Other times, the character doesn't have a clear direction, but part of the joy for the reader is to go along that journey and see where it will lead.

    That's my really long way of saying no, it isn't always necessary for a character to have a clear plan from point A to B. IMO it's the journey that cements characters in the minds of readers, not the destination reached.

  3. Eve says:

    Do you need to know where they're headed from the beginning?

    Not always, though a hint would be nice. A red herring can work too – we initially thought a character would spend summer vacation traveling with her eccentric aunt, and it turns out her aunt is training her to be a vampire slayer.

  4. Rachna Chhabria says:

    A small hint about the character would be nice. Not everything can be said upfront; but dropping hints or foreshadowing is good.

  5. Victoria Dixon says:

    Oh, thank GOD!

    No, Jen, she's the only person who has ever commented on this or I would have taken the comment far more seriously.

    Lisa, this was about Hu Liao, the villain's cousin. Poor, tormented man. LOL

    Eve, this poor character is all about herring. LOL And I love the slayer story. ;D

    Thanks, Rachna! You all have made me feel SO much better about this. This character's "obstacle" gives the foreshadowing, but it IS there.

    I can now go do the Happy Dance!

  6. Giles Hash says:

    From what you've said in this post, it seems like you need to get some clarification from your beta reader. Do some crosstalk with her, bounce some ideas around, and then jump back in from there. But at the same time, if you've only received the comment from one person, take it with a grain of salt, consider ways you might be able to clarify a few points you've already written in, and go from there 🙂

    Good luck!

  7. Victoria Dixon says:

    Excellent point, Giles and thanks for making it. I didn't want her to feel like I was fighting her or her comments, but this could use clarification.

  8. Barbara Ann Wright says:

    I don't need to know where they're headed. Is his character defining lack of direction addressed? If I know he's that kind of person, I could deal with his goalessness just fine.

  9. Natalie Aguirre says:

    I had a critique with an editor once who recommended that I start with the scene before where my story was going. Especially in fantasies this can work. And I liked my story better as did other editors critiquing it afterwards.

    One thing I've realized from working on one manuscript for eons is that opinions are subjective and varied. So if what this person is saying doesn't feel like where you want your story to go, don't do it. But you can always keep the idea in the back of your mind if you later think you need to re-write. I can totally relate to that anguish.

  10. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Natalie! The character this woman suggests I change doesn't enter until a few chapters in, it's not a beginning of the story quandry. Thank God. I've got enough of those! LOL As far as the beginning goes, I did try a variety of begin before the action scenes and only one of them has ever worked at all. That's what I've returned to now, but it's extremely paired down. We'll see if the agent nibbles. 😀

  11. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Barbara Ann! Yes, it is eventually addressed and lead's directly to the character's fate. (No spoilers. LOL)

  12. Lisa Potocar says:

    I'm glad I read through the comments first…mine echoes that of Barbara Ann Wright's. As long as the reader is aware that the character is shiftless in his goals, the fun is in seeing their personal quest unfold.

  13. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Lisa! I agree, though I do like a hint of direction/foreshadowing in their words or actions. That said, the foreshadowing can be pretty darn subtle and thrill me when I understand. 😀

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