Cafe Witness

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Constructive Criticism?

My mom is writing a book. It might be a novel, or a novella, or a short story -- she's not sure. Neither am I. But she's done with the first draft, and she gave it to me to read -- with one request: be honest.

So I read it. Or, to be more precise, I read the first 43 pages. And then I stopped.

I called her and I gave her the news I'm sure she didn't want to hear: I think she needs a rewrite.

I think the characters are more "types" than individuals. I think the plot feels contrived, rather than organic. I think the way the narrator imparts information on the audience is confusing -- sometimes too much, sometimes too little, and sometimes completely unnecessary, given the thrust of the plot.

In summary, I think she has a bunch of raw elements that COULD become a compelling story, but they haven't coalesced yet. I think she's a few rewrites away.

In reviewing her, I started reviewing my own work, especially on Something to Be Desired. Ironically, we're in the story development stage for Season Five, which is the perfect time to apply this same level of scrutiny to my own work.

So what have I realized?

I've realized I have dozens of questions that I, as the writer and creator, can't answer. I also see structure and character holes that are screaming for attention. And there's a debilitating lack of plot that can only be due to my own lack of understanding of the characters (and their goals).

It's disheartening, in some ways, to realize I'm so far from where I'd like to be in the creation of the story. On the other hand, it's gratifying to know that I'm identifying the problem areas and taking positive steps to improve them, getting ever-closer to where I want to be. It helps me realize that a few minor setbacks aren't the end of the world -- they're actually a sign that I'm on the right track toward something I can really be proud of.

I hope my mom realizes that.

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