28 May 2010

A Thousand Thoughts

In his book, A Million Miles in 1000 Years, Donald Miller talks about his struggle to edit his memoir, which was too boring to make a good movie. The writers had to change several elements, throw in a bunch of conflict, and look for ways to spice up the plot.

Miller started to do the same with his life. That's why he set out to create change and sought adventure. It was cool, because he paralled it with his writing career--something we all can relate to. Like adding conflict. How many times have we heard that? Conflict is good. It's interesting. It's dynamic, as opposed to static.

He added risk. Again, something we need. The characters need to want something enough that they'll do anything to achieve it. It raises the stakes, and when correctly written, commits the reader until the end.

Last week, I had to laugh when I got my contest results back. I was given a lot of suggestions, which is what I wanted. I didn't enter because I wanted to win; I entered to see where I stood.

So, I started laughing, when with all these thoughts about conflict and risk swirling through my head, I read comments about how I needed to add even more conflict. The best was the absolutely correct observation that my MC is too introspective and reactive (versus proactive). At that point I almost fell off the couch, because it's something I've been told by people about myself.

I didn't mean to make her like me. And really, I didn't. MC is very different. But in this way, we favor each other.

Now I'm at a standstill, trying to figure out how to be less introspective and reactive. Maybe not for myself, but for my MC. How can I get her out of her head? Seriously--any help you have would be greatly appreciated. Because while I realize it can interest a few people and still be a good story (I had one judge give me a great score and high praise, proving the fact of subjectivity to me...my three scores differed widely), the suggestion feels right. Only I don't know how to do it.

I'm still in the process of wading through the suggestions and praying about what to do. It's confusing to have 3 different perspectives. They each gave me something to consider, sometimes in opposition to what another judge said. It's all made me wonder:

What kind of story have I written?

Have you ever wondered that?

Looks like I have a lot of thinking to do. Oops, there goes the introspection again.

See y'all Monday!


  1. I know how you feel. One of my heroine's is that way too. I ended up giving her an external goal, something she visibly is working toward. Then she needs to make some of the choices that affect the plot.
    So instead of something happening to her, have her make a choice that causes that something to happen.
    It's hard to know without reading the story, but I hope you figure out the best way to do it. :-) Your attitude is great, btw!

  2. Weighing and measuring and digesting feedback is SO tough! Especially when we don't know exactly who is giving it. I take to heart everything my agent says and most things my critique partners say, because I know they are excellent writers and they know their stuff. But sometimes, you just get feedback that isn't very useful. Sometimes you get feedback that is harmful. Like I changed some things in my manuscript last year. Gave it to RAchelle at the conference during my pitch. And she told me to change the things I'd change (back to how they were before). It can all be so confusing. I've had judges tell me to get rid of my prologue and come to find out by my agent and editors that my prologue is one of my ms's biggest strengths. So you just never know.

    Sounds like your gut is telling you to change. I think there's great worth in going with your gut! :)

    Wish I could tell you HOW to go about changing things, but I'm not sure!

  3. I pray you are able to figure it out, that God will give you a specific story line that will add the conflict necessary. I have a tendency to be too nice at times too...... maybe throw a couple of watermelons on some rocks and let them splat to evoke some emotion????? (I know it's crazy, but a great visual right?)

  4. You and I should get together for coffee and introspect together, silently of course...what a sight that would be! :D

    Happy Weekend!
    ~ Wendy

  5. Maybe more scenes where your protagonist is working toward the goal of the novel--and THEN possibly a problem occurs? Just reverse the order of operations. Instead of the goal being in the background, have the protagonist make strides toward it, then have issues come up for her to work through (the unsupportive spouse, the financial obstacle, the health problem, etc.)

  6. That is really interesting!
    I don't think we ever intentionally make our characters like ourselves, but I think it's inevitable that a little bit of us is in every character we create.

  7. I have a tendency to throw a bit of me in all my characters. Therefore, I have some VERY reactive characters. But, I also throw in a lot of what I'd like to be, hence the proactive characters. It's hard, I know, to write out of your own head, but it's so worth it. I love looking back at a character and go, "Woah! I should have totally done that!"

    Happy weekend!

  8. Adding conflict and changing to a proactive character is never a bad decision. I'm still learning to make my mc more proactive. Good luck figuring it all out!

  9. I don't have any great wisdom to add to the conversation here, but really appreciate the chance to learn from it. I'm off to order the book. :-)

  10. It's so easy to get tangled up with this introspection thing since writing can be such solitary life. And us writers, we're thinkers anyway. I pray you find the balance and perspective you need. Have a great weekend!

  11. Hi Kristen -

    I've read the contest feedback and highlighted the areas needing work. It boils down to deep POV, motivation, and setting.

    Today, I did a search for articles on deep POV. I wasn't sure what it was, never mind how to fix it. Defining, studying, and practicing will give me the tools to make the necessary corrections. :)


  12. I loved Katie's response above. I had a tough time weighing my judges' comments as well, so I wrote one a thank you telling her how much I appreciated her suggestions. She emailed me, revealing who she was and told me I could contact her any time if I wanted to dicuss any of the comments she wrote me.

  13. It's important to remember judges' perspectives are subjective. If one says it, think about it, if two says it, it might have merit, if three say it, you should probably listen.

  14. As much as we love getting feedback, sometimes it can be SO confusing! Good luck figuring it all out. We've all been there if it makes you feel any better!

  15. this is a great post Kristen. The only thought that comes to me is what we write will appeal to different people and to some not at all. My writer friend always says write what you know...and it will flow out of you...hmmmm. I'm still trying to figure this out myself..

  16. I've been having this same problem with my MC lately. She's too passive. Readers just don't accept passive heroines much these days.

    I'd just having her take control of something big in her life. It doesn't necessarily have to be something that the other characters see; it can even be a state of mind. But she needs to take a stand on something and act.

    But YOU being introspective isn't a bad thing. It's definitely helpful for a writer! Good luck on finding out what to do with your MS. It's definitely hard to know what to change after you read a judge's critique.