A Question or Two for the Writing Crew

I’m not a poet.  That title was awful, and I apologize for subjecting you all to it.  Moving on.

Fiction permits us to explore what could be and should be,
to examine possibilities that don’t yet exist, and to envision a
world better than the one that currently exists, and then figure
out ways to take ourselves there.  ~ Holly Lisle

I had a few questions, and I suppose I’m just looking for your perspective on things.

How close are you to your characters?  How do you react to killing off a persona that you’ve fallen in love with?

How difficult has it been for you to allow others to read your work?  Can you read it out loud to a writing group?

Do you take constructive criticism well?  Do you take not-so-constructive criticism well?

I’ll include my answers in my next post, since I don’t want to skew the answers.  =P  Thanks to everyone who does this for me!  I love you, guys!

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12 Comments

Filed under Writer's Group, Writing

12 responses to “A Question or Two for the Writing Crew

  1. 1.My characters are like my acquaintances at work. I know them all very well but we don’t hang out. The trick though is to have them still be able to surprise me from time to time so i don’t get bored with my writing. If i know my characters too well, the story seems to get dull.

    2. Killing off people is part of the feild though i tend to cry like a baby. just wait until either Derek or Cecil has to die… you’ll see the water works come on then.

    3.Recently it’s been easier for others to read my work. i’m kind of letting go of a lot of aspects of myself i’m not pleased with and so this is one of them.

    4. …YES. My work makes people laugh but at the same time i seem to be able to pull them into the scene pretty easily. I love watching reactions though I’m always nervous.

    5.Constructive criticisms i take very well. Whether or not i include them or simply ponder over them is another thing entirely.

    6.Not so constructive criticisms have their place as well but I tend to be of the mindset that bad advice is a dime a dozen. If it sounds interesting i may listen if not, then they said it and maybe they feel better for doing so. *shrugs*

    • Thanks, Jess! <3 I have to add you to my blogroll. I can't believe you're not on there already. What the hell kind of friend am I?

      As far as number two goes, have you made that decision yet, or are you still agonizing over it? Lol

      And number four, you read too fast! XD So do I, it's okay.

  2. Good questions!!!

    1. My characters are part of me. Killing one off that I am fond of, hurts. A lot. In “Darkness Cornered,” I cried and moped for three days. I put off writing that scene. I felt sick. It was not pleasant, but I knew it had to be done (kind of like that scab you just snagged, and you know it has to be peeled away, but you know it’s going to hurt…). On the other hand, sometimes I feel a morbid sort of glee as the blood is flying… :P

    2. My husband is my beta reader, and I always feel a thrill of nervous, anxious energy as I hand over a manuscript I’ve been working on. Always. But letting other people read your work, if you are even remotely serious about becoming a professional, is a necessary evil. As for reading aloud, I’ve done it a couple of times… The thing is, when you read a passage aloud, all the grammatical faults are magnified. When I do a reading, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking “Gaaahhh! Why didn’t I catch that before??” but it remains a fun experience (I like public speaking), especially when your listeners are diggin’ it.

    3. In the beginning, I did not take criticism AT. ALL. :P Didn’t matter if it was constructive or not, I couldn’t stand it. But peer review is part of an English Lit education, so I had to force myself to swallow it, lol. I’m much better now. I always try to consider constructive criticism — your readers’ opinions are valid, and often give a good idea of how the work will be received in the wider world. You owe it to them to consider their views (doesn’t mean you have to take it, though). When you talk about non-constructive criticism, are you meaning flame wars? If so, I ignore them (or try my best to not get upset). If a peer reviewer or beta reader can’t take the time to formulate a coherent stance with examples from the text to back up their claims, forget it. If they can’t tell me why they “hated it,” how am I supposed to make it better? Honestly!

    • 1) I’ve done the crying and moping thing. It’s very unpleasant, but necessary. And I also know the joys of being morbidly excited while torturing or killing a character. I’m a therapist’s field day, I swear. XD

      2) That’s the part that helps me about reading out loud, because then it’s easily fixed. How hard is it for you not to stop and be like “That sounded retarded” and then reword it? I’m an awful reader.

      3) Yeah, I meant flame wars. Lol. Glad you’re accepting crit better now, though. And listening to people tell you your work sucks without giving a valid reason is a little infuriating, but ignoring them probably is for the best.

      Thanks for answering, Heather! <3

  3. 1.) My characters and I are tight. They’re like sisters and brothers. Some of them like me better than other ones do. If they have to die, they have to die. For me, their stories are in the past. If they die in the story, well, they were dead when they started telling me the story.

    2. I’ve had creative writing classes that required oral-reading since I’ve been in school, so I have no problems reading aloud. I’d actually rather read aloud than let people read silently. That’s like… waiting for the electric chair. Nope. It’s aloud by me, or in your own place, in your own time.

    3. I’ve learned to take constructive criticism well. Sometimes, I find myself defending my choices, and I think all authors do that. I’m trying to learn to do it only when it’s important to the character/story, not just to me. I.E., Sally says Character A and Character B should fall in love, but she hasn’t read far enough to know that they’re cousins. Ew.

    Non-constructive criticism I pretend to take well. Inwardly, I grumble a little about the non-specificity.

  4. 1. I spend most of my time with my characters than real people sometimes, so yeah, I’m VERY close to them. Especially my main character, who is 11 and I consider my daughter. (Is that totally weird? Omg, you’re totally like freaking out right now.lol)

    There is a character that I’m not sure will or die just yet, but luckily I don’t have to decide until the second book. Yes I will be pretty sad if this character does actually pass. I’d rather not do it, but if the story calls for it, I must. It’s going to be controversial I’m sure.

    2. It’s very hard. I have to trust them and feel like they know how to give good criticism. I’m a delicate creature. I have read work out loud to a writing group. I’m comfortable with it, but again I knew I was surrounded by supportive writers whom I trusted and knew how to give criticism.

    3. I can’t stand Bad Critics (i’m not sure if you read my post about them) but I can’t stand them because yes they do get under my skin and if I don’t get some support and pick myself up again from that fall, it can be damaging. So that’s why I sort of insulate myself form those people who don’t know how to, or are Bad Critics.

    As far as constructive criticism, I’m actually pretty good at taking it. I’ve improved my current draft from a lot of constructive criticism I got from people. I’m glad I’ve taken their advice.

  5. “How close are you to your characters? How do you react to killing off a persona that you’ve fallen in love with?”
    I love my characters. I love the way I get closer to them than I even mean to. I even like my mean characters, my obnoxious ones, just because they’ve opened themselves up to me, if that makes sense. I’ve never killed one off yet (although I’m sure that will happen) so I don’t know about that…

    “How difficult has it been for you to allow others to read your work? Can you read it out loud to a writing group?”

    Er. Well. Other than my blog, nobody reads my other work, the work I’m seriously working on. And I’ve never had the chance to be in a writing group. I’d love to be in one, though, and I’ll be letting people read what I’m working on when I’m done revising it – I really want input on how it is, even though it’s scary as hell to give it over like that.

    “Do you take constructive criticism well? Do you take not-so-constructive criticism well?”

    In the blogging world it seems people don’t often give criticism, or not blatant or constructive enough for me to be able to get something out of it. I think I’ve agreed with all the criticisms I’ve gotten so far, and I’ve yet to receive a really nasty remark on something. I’m sure that’ll come as well, though…

  6. 1) I’m in love with oen of my principle characters, and the others are like my best friends and children. I’d probably come close to literally dying without them. And killing them? While sometimes it has to be done (and I’ve done it a couple times) depending on how much I love that character, I have to write it with tissues handy.

    2) Sharing stuff with others?! gahharhrhghthah! No, no you can’t make me!! This has taken me quite a bit of time to get over. WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT!?!? Best not to show it to them at all. I do realize this is counterproductive to getting published but since I’m so close to my characters and put so much work into creating them and their world, I want everyoen to love them as much as I do, and to risk showing it to someone who won’t would be devestating. But now I can read to a writing group – I had to for a class – but it wasn’t part of my novels, just short stories whose charaters I was not as attatched to as my novels.

    3) Constructive criticism. Hmm. Well, I can take it. I might brood for a little while and bitch if I REALLY don’t like what you say, but for the most part it’s like a mother doing what’s best for her child. She might not want the girl to date that boy because she can see how much he cares about her, but she doens’t stand in their way. Ultimately it will be best for her daughter. So I’ll take it gladly. I know it’ll be best for my story.

  7. Erin M

    1. While I’m working on a story, I’m really close to the characters. Inevitable, I think. I haven’t very often brought myself to kill off a character. A few secondary characters, but then, I’m not as close to them. It depends on the tone of the story whether I feel (or even want to feel) a loss at those characters. Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes it’s not.

    2. It is hard for me to let other people read my work, mostly because I’m afraid they’ll hate it, and then they’ll hate me! It’s really rewarding when other people give positive feedback, and it’s really useful when people critique a piece. I don’t mind reading my writing aloud if I’m mostly satisfied with it but just have a few things I want help with. If I know it’s a disaster . . . I’d rather keep it to myself until I find some way to make it remotely presentable!

    3. I take constructive criticism all right, especially if I feel there’s something wrong but can’t quite put my finger on it (or don’t know how to solve the problem). Unless the “constructive” crit is totally off the wall . . . Like Ollin and Heather said, there has to be a certain amount of trust or familiarity between writer and critiquer so that the criticism is useful. It’s more not-so-constructive criticism (e.g., just negative comments without any suggestions for improvements) that hurts. A lot!

    Yay questions! Thanks for asking, Kit! (And if my answers don’t really make sense, sorry about that. I should probably be asleep right now, oops!) I’m looking forward to reading your answers when you post them!

  8. Mckenzie

    1. Major close to my characters! Even close to my “bad guys”. I remember when I killed over one of my uber (super sexy) bad guys, and I wanted to cry. Really, I did.

    2. It is major difficult for me to let others read my work, especially those that know me well. It terrifies me, actually, which is why I am trying to blog “out loud” now, to make sure that I get over this fear.

    3. I love when others give me helpful opinions. I love being able to take them or not take them. When it comes to bashing, though? I honestly don’t do well.

    I hope that’s helpful. Love you, Kit!

  9. jesseowalls

    ‘How close are you to your characters? How do you react to killing off a persona that you’ve fallen in love with?’
    – I’m very close to my characters, I mean very close. Each of them is a part of me and it is difficult to let them go sometimes (whether it be killing them off or simply finishing a manuscript and knowing I probably won’t be going back to write for them again). Killing off characters, however, can be very difficult for me, and I sometimes even find myself going into depressions when I know one of my characters is going to die and am usually in tears the entire time I write the scene. ‘Sanctuary of Darkness’ was a very difficult book for me to write at points because it was, in many ways, a tragedy.

    ‘How difficult has it been for you to allow others to read your work? Can you read it out loud to a writing group?’
    -I’ve just started a writer’s group, so I guess I will be seeing first hand if I am capable of this or not. Honestly, I am very secretive with my work until I feel it is perfected, I have only a few beta-readers who get to read it before it is in its ‘perfect’ state. Reading it aloud, however, I don’t think would be too difficult for me, after all, most of my volumes started out as musicals to be performed on a stage. They were meant to be heard.

    ‘Do you take constructive criticism well? Do you take not-so-constructive criticism well?’
    – I do like constructive criticism, anything that can help me perfect my works is fine by me; although, if the criticism strays from my vision, I pay it little heed. Not-so-constructive criticism actually irritates me. If there is no basis or reason for a person’s views on your work being ‘less than perfect’ they should just keep their opinion to themselves. I don’t think everyone is going to like my works, but having people criticize it without giving me a means to fix whatever their problem is with it really gets under my skin. Not-so-constructive criticism does help me to work harder, however, becuase it makes me feel I have something to prove.

  10. Interesting to read all of these posts. By the way, I just found your blog, and find it to be a gem.

    1) Thats a tough question. I wish I could answer “Oh yes, I totally know my characters down to their last bowel movement.” However, the truth is so much more bizarre. I am constantly working on new projects, and going back to old ones. At first when I was younger, I thought this was a bad thing, but now that I’ve started submitting for diff lit mags; its actually quite productive. When I run upon writers block, I move onto another story for a week or two, submit it, and move back to whatever my main project is at that point. However, this does give me a huge disconnect between plot points and character concepts, so while I’m writing, I meticulously note and comment in a small writing journal (for my big projects) and refer to it when I come back.

    2) I hate reading my work. I’m always my own worse critic. If I read it, half the time I become disgusted, feel embarrassed, and throw it away. I actually threw away 3 manuscripts before I realized it wasn’t the writing, it was me.

    3) A good editor is a godsend. If you refuse to alter your work to meet industry standards or the basis of the market, then you had better have a damn good reason. A good editor is nothing more than a very technical, professional critic. Those who take it upon themselves to critique your work in a semi-professional/listened manner without being compensated should be listened to even more.

    Opinions however, are far different from critiques. Opinions can come from anyone, and everyone has one, and most never regard more than their own. Critics and professionals will mix in opinions as well, but they will also guess(read use industry data/surveys) to guess at the opinions of others. And typically, most Critics will also judge for artistic merit as well, based upon past works which are considered ‘artistic’.

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