Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Okay, I've thought about the rejection letter and I am going to update my blog. Should I quote a piece of what Ms. Agent wrote me? Yeah, I should.
"Thanks so much for sending me NEW HOPE. I really enjoyed the story; it's well-plotted and entertaining. Unfortunately, I don't think the book grabs the emotions as much as it should. The characters feel emotionally distant. This is a common flaw with early manuscripts and I'm sure with continued work you'll master the technique. I'd be happy to take another look at your work at some point. I wish you the best as you continue down the road to publication!"
This is an amazing rejection letter. Now I really want this agent. Her sweet respect and encouragement make me just want her to sign me! I've listened to other author's opinions about what she meant, and I think I have an understanding. And guess what? She's SO right. I went back and read my first chapter. It's gripping and pulls you in, but you don't know what Eva is feeling. I show the story and in some ways I explain who she is as a result of her circumstances (being Jewish in Nazi occupied Germany), but I don't explain who SHE is as a person -outside of her circumstances and current life situation. What is her favorite color? Her favorite food? What does she do for fun? To relax? To vent?
As a doula, when I would interview a pregnant mommy so that I could know how to best help her during labor, I asked her pages and pages of personal questions. Where do you hold tension? What do you do to release the tension? Do you have areas on your body that you can't stand being touched? Do you like your head, feet, back rubbed? Which one would you prefer? And on and on. Does it matter that the mom may watch TV when she wants to relax? Not really. Not while she's in labor it doesn't because she wont be watching TV, but it tells me a little about her and how she unwinds so that I know that she prefers to work through her discomfort by being distracted rather than focusing on it. The answers the mommy gives me sheds light onto other areas of her life because as humans, our likes and dislikes are connected to how we perceive things and in turn to our reactions.
Yet, I didn't ask Eva (my main character) what her favorite color was!
Here's what I did to rectify my mistake. I joined A.C.F.W. and found a few character sheets with tons of questions to ask of my character. Right now, I'm working on filling them out and already I am seeing more layers to Eva, which is exciting. I added bits and pieces of her to the first chapter, but I'm sure I'll add more. I can't wait to really make her a person in my story. I had a friend read my manuscript a while ago and she said she loved it because she really felt like she was watching Eva's life unfold through a window. At the time I thought that was huge, but now I see I don't want my readers to watch it through a window. I want them to watch it through HER eyes. Through a deep connection with Eva. I hope I am able to make that happen.
Here's The Question: Have you done a character questionnaire for your main character? How do you add depth to your characters? If you're a reader, what in the story makes you feel connected to the characters?