This week involved coming to terms with my audience, my portrayal of characters, my overall vision and with myself, and how all of these different factors play a role in my book. I had to remind myself why I made certain choices and what they offer to the narrative and accept that people will disagree with my decisions. Humility and being open to critique is necessary for an author, but so is resolve in one’s vision. Change is necessary in editing, but it must never be arbitrary. That was what I learned this week.
It all started with the comment that my book was lacking male perspectives. Thinking about it, this is a valid statement. The main cast is made up entirely of females, and of the two prominent males, one is neglectful and abusive, and the other, though a more positive influence, was on the editing chopping block for a relatively negligible role. This comment got me thinking about my portrayal of males and how it might improve my book to include more masculine perspectives.
The comment brought me back to the main cast, one of which is based on a male. That reality caused me to consider gender swapping the character, and matching it more closely with my experiences. It would round out the male perspectives of the novel and open the book up to more readers, but it would also go against my authorial intent. I made the decision early on to change the gender of the male member of the main cast, for several reasons, narrative flow and relational openness not the least of which. I made that decision for a reason, and I was hesitant to change it, even though I valued the critique and understood its validity.
I brought my plight to different members of my community, including my writing mentor and individuals directly involved in the original situation. With them, I discussed how gender-swapping a main character would affect the story, and they asked me how it would benefit the story to do so. I would have to change several scenes and completely rework a character to make it work, but I couldn’t see how the change would implicitly improve the work. Thoughts of changing other main characters based on females were also dismissed, frankly, because I like their characters and I want to keep them the way they are.
By talking about the issue with trusted authors and friends, I realized how important it was to me to keep the characters the way I envisioned them. I chose to change the character early on for specific and necessary reasons, and it matters to me that I keep those reasons intact. The characters based on my team are special to me, but also different enough from their source material that I can treat them differently and do different things with them. Given my character’s setting and social situation, it makes sense for their friend group to be composed entirely of girls and I wanted to maintain this new dynamic and use it to explore the characters. This isn’t to say I dismissed the advice about men; I outsourced it.
The critique about the male presence in my book was valid, and I didn’t want to ignore it. I looked into the father figures in the book, and doing so, I realized something about Sam’s father, Mark. I learned that he was more important than I previously recognized. Present mainly to create juxtaposition between himself and Charlie’s father, his role is brief, though supportive, but he also acts as the instigator of a novel-wide project that frames Sam’s character and values. It isn’t an impactful scene, but it leads to one, giving Mark more influence than I initially gave him credit for. This act saves him from the editing chopping block, underlining him as a subtle yet necessary character and a mainstay in the book.
This week was about seeing my work in new ways and recognizing the way I want the book to be. Different perspectives will always be welcome, but in the end, the final product is my responsibility and my vision. It was strange to be reminded of that, especially since I’ve become so involved in reworking my original ideas into something almost entirely new. But the heart of the work is still the same, and that’s the important part.
Thank you all for your continued support and presence on my journey, and the ways you challenge me to be better.
Project Status: Rewriting significant portions of the book and condensing multiple chapters into smaller ones.