My question: Should a first-person character tell us they sighed?
Sighing is an audible and visual reaction. But maybe a first-person character would only observe this in others. Would a first-person character just express the frustration in dialogue (internal and audible) and in physical actions?
I’d love feedback on this from fiction writers and those who read fiction.
Have you ever been shocked and disappointed by a big-name author’s book and thought, I wish I could have critiqued that for them first?
If seasoned authors still need trusted critique partners to say, “this is boring”, I certainly do.
And I’m happy to say I have.
While working on my fourth book in the Dangerous Loyalties series, I asked for a first chapter critique from someone not familiar with my previous work. I received a great reality check on the arrogant thought, I’ve nailed it.
What went wrong?
I didn’t mention my POV character’s name until the second page.
I started with the character traveling and reflecting too long on backstory.
Because of the reflection, my character’s emotions became erratic.
My reader couldn’t distinguish the character’s goal.
Yes, I knew better. So why did I choose to ignore sound story structure advice from the beginning?
Because I love my darlings. Thankfully, the critique exposed the truth, “They’re evil and must die.”
Rather than stay bummed out and whine, “I’ll never write again” I reassessed the mess and develop an alternative plan. I embraced the opportunity to make corrections on my blueprint before continuing with faulty construction. I also repented from judging the famous author’s boring best seller.
3 Reasons Authors Need Tough Critiques
Reader reviews will be brutal if you cause buyer’s remorse.
Writers need their weaknesses revealed in order to improve.
You’re not as great as you think you are.
Even after working with critique partners, beta readers, and editors, odds are, critical reviews will come, and fans will turn. Don’t let this truth be an excuse to quit or become cocky.
Stand up straight, pull the dagger from your heart, continue receiving help, and get back to creating.
I’ve followed author, editor, and writing coach, C.S. Lakin for years. I’ve matured as a writer from her critiques, classes, and books. She loves helping writers at all levels.
When I emailed her on a personal matter, she responded with sweet understanding, then shocked the heck out of me. “Why don’t you write me a blog post sometime…the #1 way to get new fans and traction on your books is to guest blog on top sights…”
So, I did.
But first, I dealt with these 5 challenges:
1. Fear–What do I know?
2. Imposter Syndrome–People will know I’m lame.
3. Write–Okay, I’ll try.
4. Revise–See, I can’t do it, but I’ll try again.
5. Release–Yay me, I did it. Followed by #1 and #2.
Have you guest blogged? What were your challenges and results?
My post category is Novel Structure. The title: 5 Steps to Write Thrilling Historical Fiction for Teens.
In a 1964 interview, Harper Lee said, “Writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write.”
A writer discovers characters by inspiration or by accident. Their stories are so incredible or inspirational they must be shared. The blessing of imagination allows characters to share their personal histories with the writer who becomes the ghostwriter.
As a writer of historical fiction, my research requires discovering descriptions, timelines, and eye-witness accounts of real-life men, women, and children. Thankfully, names, ages, maps, photos, non-fiction books, and documents are a click away. Occasionally, I visit my local library.
However, most of this awesome information won’t be used in my character’s story. Some of the facts will give way to the fictional plot with history used as needed for believability. The fun is in blending the two, much like an abstract painting. I love adding flesh to the bones.
How do seasoned writers keep track of all the information gleaned?
Here are a few I’ve learned through the years. Share your methods in the comments below.
10 tips for researching, organizing, culling, and utilizing your character’s story
Research begins by discovering who your characters are, what they will do, and where the story is set.
Create a project folder on your computer. Add subfolders such as characters, settings, backstory, maps, calendars, resources used, and deleted scenes.
Search online for needed technical, historical, or world building resources.
Copy and paste needed information into a document with the website link and source credit for a later reference or to use in a blog post.
Save documents in the appropriate subfolders in your project folder.
Print documents if preferred but slide them into plastic sleeves. Keep them in large, white three-ring binders which have the clear plastic on the front and end that allows you to slide in a custom label. Add tabs between subjects as needed for quick reference.
Use character development worksheets which include physical descriptions, personality types/disorders, fears, passions, greatest desire, and morals or lack of.
Find or create worksheets to help brainstorm what is going to happen. What will force your characters out of their usual routines? Who or what is threatening to kill, steal, or destroy their greatest desire? What is at risk? Will they win?
Write your story using only what you need from your research to create sensory and emotional scenes.
Blend in bits and pieces of the main character’s past as needed but keep the story moving. Readers want to sympathize with your main character and experience thecurrent action of the story.
The excitement of having books published these days wanes as a certain entity no longer allows family and friends to post reviews. For authors who publish with small press or self-publish, family and friends are the first readers. They desire to post honest reviews.
Unfortunately, unethical authors have ruined this venue for everyone. I understand the actions taken by this company. However, without reviews, our books are not promoted. Without promotions, our books are not found by readers who are searching for books like ours.
Indy authors must pay for ads, give books away, and be constantly seeking benevolent readers to give honest reviews. Hiring marketers or a publicist isn’t an option for starving authors who would rather write.
What to Do?
Encourage family and friends to promote books on their social media outlets, and websites.
Read Indy author’s books and post honest reviews on all venues, social media, and websites. (see my Recommended Reads page)
Share, share, share.
The point is to get authors’ names and books into the search engines where readers discover them. These readers will purchase books from the seller and leave reviews on the site–as long as they don’t become “friends” on social media.
There is a niche for readers who like quick reads and for writers who love creating shorter than normal stories. A blog called,The Drabble, offers the challenge of writing fiction, non-fiction, or poetry of 100 words or less.
Give it a try.
My story was inspired by a co-worker in Branson Mo. who was a cave diver. One day he explained the dangers of going so deep into a dark cavern. “People have died because they didn’t plan for extra canisters of air to make it out.”
Horrified, I asked him why he’d risk his life like that. He smiled and said he couldn’t imagine a better way to die. “Just close your eyes and go to sleep. Very peaceful.”
The thought of cave diving still scares me. In my short, I wanted readers to experience both the fear and peace. Let me know how I did.
Authors are plagued with self-doubt and worry over silly things.
Harper Lee, for one, threw her whole manuscript for To Kill a Mockingbird out her NYC window while editing. Fortunately, her publisher made her retrieve and finish the book. See, Fling Manuscript From the Window.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, Rose, stated in a diary entry the she doubted her mother’s manuscript would “come to anything.” [Smith Hill, Pamela. Introduction. “Will it Come to Anything?”: The Story of Pioneer Girl] However, in an interesting twist, Rose later used her mother’s rejected Pioneer Girl to craft new novels for herself. By 1932 she and her mother had published novels base on Laura’s original adult manuscript. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name and books are still world-famous.
Authors want praise for hard work, readers to love their words. They want to make a difference in the world. But even after a book is published, garnered accolades, and the author praised, doubt returns. Why? Simple rejection by one person.
Even if multiple people have purchased, reviewed, or praised the authors work, it’s that one person who reads the back cover and walks away, or promises a review and doesn’t, who triggers an author’s fatalistic imagination.
My dear authors, hang on to your sanity! Stay focused on your goal and start a file of all the praise, awards, and encouragement you’ve received. Self-doubt is destructive liar.