Thursday, July 18, 2013

Saying what you mean -- writing tip.

Here's a book by an author who always says what she means. 

Teddy Weiss is sick of it all: the jerks who constantly bully him because he is smarter than they are, being poor, and the frustration of being so close to changing lives with an incomplete invention because he is too poor to afford the materials he needs to finish it.

Question from the e-mail:  I'm getting criticism from a member of my writer's group saying that I have said things about my characters in my manuscript that just isn't there in what I wrote and that are not what I wanted to convey about them at all at all.  She thinks they are "ill bred, inconsiderate, and evil" people -- and those are just the good guys! No one else has a problem. Any idea why this would happen?

Answer: First never let ONE opinion worry you. It's when all the members of the group pitch in on the same subject that you know you have really gone astray.

There could be two things at work here. Your one reader might have a completely different frame of reference to that of your characters.  For instance, back in the day, a member of our beginner romance writers group was morally offended that anyone could have sex outside the confines of marriage. She was a member of a strict religious sect and firmly set against any kind of affair.  We finally suggested that she read some religious romances and look for a different group.

Or she might be picking up on subtext in either dialogue or narrative that you didn't intend to be there. In dialogue and narrative both there is always both text and subtext. First there is the text --  what is actually said, and the subtext is always what is implied by what is left unsaid. Often, subtext, which the reader picks up on, is as important as what is actually said. Look at the following example:

    “Oh, is that slide show at the library with the nature photographer tonight?” John grimaced. “I’ll go if you want, but I’m really tired. After all, I was out to the Bible Study at church last night and you stayed home and read your novel. This makes two nights in a row, for me. Of course, I don’t like to mess up your plans....” 

Of course he wants to mess up her plans! If he didn’t, he’d just say, “You go ahead, hon, I’m too tired tonight." What this really says is, “You couldn’t find time to go with me last night, so I’m NOT going to be nice about what you want me to do tonight. You are guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”

So check your manuscript for unintended subtext and if you find none, take a look at the reader's frame of reference.

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