One of the many amazing speakers I have listened to in my years with Romance Writers of America reminded us that our characters step onto the stage of our story fully formed. Like Venus on the Half-shell, any history they have must be revealed slowly and only as much as each scene requires.
If your character is going to be fully developed, then he or she will have all kinds of baggage, a few lies they believe, and flaws that make them more endearing. They will have lost loved ones, maybe seen friends and family die, and maybe think it was all their fault.
Like the characters, writers, too, have ghosts. Mine are clad as judges from contests I’ve entered, agents who asked me to submit, then rejected what I sent, and mentors who thought the only way to save the story was to toss it out the window and start over. Also I have a Greek chorus of friends who loved my writing, but are no longer here cheer me on.
How do you settle your ghosts and write without worrying about what they will think? Good question. I only have suggestions, and nothing concrete. Any comments with more ideas would be appreciated.
First of all, I know most of the judges who scored my stories low in contests were honest and right on. I tend to think my writing comes off my computer full blown and without the need to edit. I love Scribophile because my critiquers give me even measures of support and suggestions. Just because I understand what I wrote doesn’t mean anything. I have to connect with an audience that doesn’t have the ability to reside in my head.
I also have learned that when I get stuff back from judges, I am disappointed that I didn’t win the contest. And that colors the first read-through of the judges’ comments. When I go back and read it again, a few months later, I pick up a few more details that make perfect sense. And the ghost fades away.
The agent who requested my story, then said it wasn’t funny enough even though I had an excellent grasp of Regency period stuff, well, she’s only able to sell a certain type of romance. I learned that quickly and took the steps to self publishing. That ghost is fading slowly.
The mentors had excellent suggestions. And at the time, I felt excitement at the changes to my story. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t make that big of a change comfortably. I filed away the new idea, and came up with changes for the original story that will solve the major objections. That ghost has settled right down.
My lost friends who support my writing can rest easy as I acquire new friends. None will ever replace those who are lost, but the ghosts smile as the new support system firms into just what I need. Ghosts don’t have to be scary, they can bring us valuable lessons.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.