Editors' comments resemble instructions from a boss. The suggestions are meaningful to them, but maybe not to you. I took a chapter book for critique several years ago and was told to "heighten the stakes, put in more tension and anxiety." I could hardly believe it -- for eight year olds? I enquired just how I should accomplish that in a kids book. Parental discord was suggested, dumbfounding this amateur. Eventually I figured out how to spread fear and loathing among three children and two adults.
When my editor for 1777, Val Muller, asked for more emotion, my scene involved one child and one unconscious adult. I could only express the child's anxiety to leave the scene, because that would have been my own 12 year old reaction!
When I went to Writers' Project Runway two weeks ago, I wasn't sure what take-aways I would find.
What I learned counted as the full answer to the question above. The lessons on layering emotion let me feel that I'd hit the jackpot!
Bravo Pennwriters for bringing Annette Dashofy and Hillary Hauck to us for a day and
thanks to Bobbi Carducci, for everything!
My last addition to Spot Writers told of a Trowbridge victim of the LaFourche Crossing battle in the Civil War. The attending surgeon was another Trowbridge, originally from Danbury, but practicing medicine in Stamford CT at the time of enlistment in the 23rd Ct. Volunteers.
If they did not know each other before, this could not have been the most pleasant meeting. Dr. William Trowbridge was left the only doctor on the field to care for almost two hundred wounded Confederates. How did it happen that the Union troops went off and left him with the opposing forces for six weeks? At that time their period of enlistment was up and they came back to fetch him and such Union wounded as had been taken. The Confederates appear content to have him to continue practicing as their doctor.
Today's Spot Writers offering is my favorite of the ones Val has given us.
I thought up this topic and now have to do my best by Dr. William Trowbridge, the results to appear in about two weeks.
I had stopped fast fiction and gone back to slow fiction and 1777. Driven by guilt, I have been getting up at 3 AM to refine it even more. I'm following after my editor's suggestions of last summer (before the big move to Hamilton.)
Soon I will be furloughed from work and plan to visit Clark Hamilton's last battle, at Cedar Creek in Winchester, VA. I have never really done anything more than look at it while turning into my friend Darrell's driveway. A little more research needed here!
I spend so much time on my recent flash fiction addiction because the Hamilton family characters in my book have lived with me for five years and will live with me for the rest of my life.
Minor characters only see the glow from the flash fiction - there and gone, just as they were. I have always felt a guilt that those people were as deserving as any family member and yet heard, "No full-length novel for you!"
My last FF piece was about a Trowbridge who lived against all odds. This week's offering on the next page is about a Hamilton whose life was taken from him. We would never know how it happened if someone hadn't told his parents an ugly truth. Was the horror of wasting this wonderful young man in such a way worse than having him fall on the field of battle?
How could the truth hurt more than the deceptive phrases we dream up to glorify war?
Flash Fiction is supposed to encourage us to write fast and well. Still spending too much time on it!
Look forward to my next post, again considering the Hamilton family of Danbury CT.
A few years ago, I found a half dozen letters written on school lined paper (Remember Indian tablets?), Yes, that paper - and it looked brand new.
When I read one letter there in the Connecticut State library, I wanted to cry.
Look forward to another Hamilton resident as he is memorialized by his father in my next Spot Writers flash fiction.
When you live in the past, as I do, many of the interesting events happened in war. My new Spot Writers Page will feature short glimpses of my family history, but a different family and a different war.
1777 involved my Hamilton family, who seem to have wised up by the Civil War and remained as far away as they could get.
The Trowbridges went in for that event whole hog.
In 1777, the only Trowbridge mentioned (John) is away at war while his tavern forms a mancave for rebels. Many Trowbridges to come would live in Danbury and were always ready to support their colony or state, or whatever skirmish came along ...
All you have to do is know a little bit of what happened ....
Then you do a little research....
Then welcome to 1863!
What Happened? Where Did I go?
I went to Montana. I meant to return and then we would move somewhere that was not Virginia (unless it was Richmond, which seemed like a good idea). I desired a move to somewhere "not the fastest-growing prices, uh, county in the world."
Then a mega bicycle accident to my partner.
All of a sudden we were not moving, not buying the house we were living in and not living in my own house because I had rented it to a Fauquier County teacher.
Then the all-consuming search began. At the same time, my equestrian help business dragged me along by the hair (especially until I made the rule of only two different barns per day).
We had only looked at one place, a town house the size of my best purse. The thing about townhouses is the HOA - better-known as "the gift that keeps on taking." (In LoudounWorld there are other fees, similar to the famous "fee fee" of commercial fame.) Only the HOA fee shows in the real estate ad. Those other monthly fees show up later.
Then I found the rehab townhouse in the rabbit warren.
Now how on earth could a person who wrote a book about the Hamilton family NOT move to Hamilton VA?
Everything in my reading-and-audio-book-listening life was fine until I learned that adverbs had become tools of the devil. While I religiously avoid using adverbs now, I listen to many audiobooks during the week. Many are supposed to be fine literature. But, like the finned autos of the 1950s, these stellar works com garishly outfitted with adverbs.
I do not know why I allowed myself to listen to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, other than it was flowing words while I pulled weeds. But every adverb hit like a concrete block. My not-so-favorite turned out to be "ruminatively."
So it's decided: I'm on my very last editor. But some things do go a little against the grain.
The thought exists out there that too much description of emotion prevents the reader from identifying with the character. The reader's personality might react differently to the circumstances presented by the plot occurrences. If something scary happens, one person might be terrified and another only fascinated to see what happens next.
Is it good or bad to emphasize the fear reaction during dangerous situations? Once someone told me that his wife was very good in an emergency room setting because she just acted and never considered consequences. I wanted a hero like that.
I have also had people tell me that children do not empathize too much when adults are caught in bad situations, unless there is visible pain or damage (i.e. moral or political dilemmas). I don't remember doing so. Yet I received much advice to the contrary.
Some persons may be too involved in their own problems and emotions to want to intertwine psyches with their children. I have received advice from several editors to make my book's parents more understandable and lovable. But my intent was not to have parents like that because of their own internal emotional wars.
My main character tries get out from under their dark cloud, which accidentally results in new opportunities for the parents to regain self-respect and family ties.
So what should an author feel when editors advise contrary to main premises in plot and character?
We'll see where it all ends up....