Monday, March 23, 2009

written by Jane Doe [et al]

I finished another book the other day. Shocking, I know.

It was a pretty decent story, the heroine was well developed and though I had a few issues with some other ways the book was put together I was willing to stick with the story until the end. At the front of the book was a long, long list of Acknowledgments.

The reason I mention that the heroine was well developed is because I don't know if the author knew that she'd done a good job on the woman. I was moving right along with the story, it all felt perfectly authentic and then, bam! Every couple of chapters, the heroine would do or say something that simply didn't fit her.

She was billed to us as a particular type person - bit of a cold fish, loved her family, unlucky in love and very business oriented. The author built her character around these markers. Then, I'm pretty sure, someone in her writing group, or in the editing booth or even her kid, read her manuscript and said, "OMG, it would have been so funny and cool if your heroine did this instead!" And the author, full of that evil self-doubt that plagues the masses said, gratefully, "You're right! I'm going to add that in. Thank you SO MUCH."

The rationale behind these pebbles in my pudding was never explained. MarySue suddenly becomes a sarcastic wench for 3 lines, with a wicked glint in her eye and daring twist to her lips. Then, she's back to form. No explanation is given of where that came from or why. Or the balls-to-the-wall executive is suddenly stricken by a debilitating blush when she never even broke a sweat before. Then, the moment is over and she's back to winning and losing fortunes as if it never happened.

Listen up fellow authors, that self-doubt ain't doin' you any favours. And neither is your husband or critique partner or editor when they try to put their words in YOUR character's mouth. You know how I know it was written by committee? Because you're too good an author to be so inconsistent.

You are the one who dreamed up your hero and your heroine. No one else understands them as well as you do. No one else can mix their quirks into your character's heads, or pulls the strings to make them jump the same way you can. You're the one who knows their flaws, their weaknesses, what makes them giggle, that they LIKE being forced to do the Funky Chicken at family weddings by Aunt Edna.

We all know the people in our head make us a bit crazy. We all hate it when they don't talk to us, and we listen with rapt attention when someone else talks about our baby. The teacher can hand you back a book report with a big ol B+ stamped on the top and tell you your kid is doing well, but you're the only one who knows that if he had actually read the book he would have gotten an A.

No one can tell you what you already know about your own people. No One. You live with them. Trust your instincts. Defend them.

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