1. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Agent's Opinion On My Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by DimeADozenKid, Sep 18, 2009.

    Hi! I've got a question, and I'm not exactly sure if anyone is able to answer without having read my novel, but I figured I'd ask it anyway. :)

    I finished my first novel - a contemporary romance - in March, and after many rounds of editing, began querying agents. Two asked for partial MS. One rejected me with a simple "Pass, but thank you". The other just emailed me today, also rejecting me, but with a polite description of what he felt was weak in the first 3 chapters that he read.

    He said that while the premise is interesting, there is a lack of connection between the heroine and the reader, and that the writing distances the character and reader. My story is told in third person, and the main character is a nineteen-year-old girl who runs away from home to escape her neglectful parents.

    Again, I know it's hard to give advice when you haven't read the actual text, but I was wondering if anyone had any answers on how to make a character connect more with the reader.

    I thought about rewriting in first person, but there are many scenes (maybe 1/4 of the book) that do not include the MC, and would consequently be lost.

    Even though it's third person, I do have her thoughts in first person, sprinkled throughout the chapters. I thought this would have helped the writer relate, but I guess this is about more than just relating.

    Any advice is appreciated! :)
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, if you're talking "connection" then you're talking emotion and relatability. Have you shaped the character's personality (as shown via her words, thoughts, and actions) such that a reader will feel her emotions, will feel that they can relate to what she's experiencing, and can sympathize with her?
     
  3. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    It doesn’t matter if it is in first person or third. it could be a problem if the reader is not able to sympathize with her. Or perhaps she doesn’t share her thoughts.
     
  4. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Thanks for the replies.

    I've tried to shape my character into one that readers would sympathize with. She certainly has personality, but isn't over-the-top in any area. She's a little naive, definitely a dreamer, emotional but not over-emotional...

    I wonder if her outlook on her family situation prevents readers from sympathizing. At the start of the book, she's already on a train with her bags packed. She's had it with her family; she's really more angry than sad. I'm wondering if a sad, empty, longing feeling is easier for readers to relate to in a neglected-child story than anger. Assuming majority of readers haven't been neglected themselves, they'd probably imagine feeling more hurt than angry.

    Just something I thought of.

    I'll continue to take any advice into consideration and apply it to my novel. I'm really open to improving this however I can.
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you tried to get some feedback from friends on your manuscript and told them about the agent's opinion? They'd be in a better position to give advice because they'd have the manuscript and could see exactly how you've written the character.
     
  6. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Marina, that will definitely be my next step.

    I just got the email from the agent a little over an hour ago, and plan to share it with family/friends who have read my book once everyone comes back from their respective work places. It's awfully lonely being temporarily unemployed... :p
     
  7. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    “she's really more angry than sad”

    Just remember that anger always comes from other emotions.
     
  8. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Good point. Thank you.
     
  9. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a good point.

    Also, the "sad, empty, longing feeling" is so over-done in books and can get maudlin; I'm glad you didn't go that route.
     
  10. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I know from experience that agents, and the editors they employ, especially like to see what's going on inside the mc's head. I don't mean going overboard, but sufficient to allow the reader connect and be able to share the character's life journey. Character reactions aren't enough unless their experience can be witnessed from within. It might help to view your work from this perspective.
     
  11. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Thanks, Cheeno. I will definitely keep that in mind as I reread and edit.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's impossible for anyone to tell what could be a problem there, without reading some of the book itself... why don't you post the opening page, at least, so we can get an idea of the writing quality?...

    how you wrote it could be the problem, rather than what you wrote about...
     
  13. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    In addition to any other advice you may receive (and, in fact, in spite of any other advice) there is no reason to change the perspective from third to first, or otherwise.
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you had skipped the "ordinary world" introduction of your character, then I understand your agent fully. As readers we have to feel what is wrong in the characters current world before we would invest ourselves in their future. Just being told by someone that their life is bad is no where near the same as seeing and feeling it ourselves.

    But you'll probably have to be very creative on this part and not just make it a whole chapter of misery, as that would put readers off. Perhaps your MC has something she cares for in her home, something other than herself, that allows the reader a hope to care for too. Once this whatever-it-is is lost, her ordinary world cracks down and she has no other choice but leaving it.

    A wholly other thing, and please forgive my honesty here... I read your sample pages, and despite how I tried to side with the MC I couldn't really. Her pleas for compassion from the reader (through the passengers) just seems contrived, and she sounds exactly like what she denies to be: a self-centered, spoiled teenager with angst. Why does she force her story onto the other passengers? Why should they care? For all she (we) knows, they might have real problems. You see what I mean? She appears self-centered. There's no reflection in her voice or conflict in her heart. She speaks plainly of her troubles. If she had real problems, she would probably not be able to speak of them directly, perhaps even denying them to herself... The workings of the mind is mysterious and it will often do all it can to repress what could damage it.

    I hope that you agree.
     
  15. ciavyn
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    ciavyn Senior Member

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    I'm with HorusEye. She's not interesting. You are telling us she is interesting, but she sounds kind of goofy - who keeps talking to a guy who's asleep? Why wasn't she more embarrassed? Most teenagers are very easily humiliated - and they either react by clamming up, or lashing out. Instead, she brushes it off.

    Keep in mind - I only read the first page! but start it with a situation of action - doesn't have to be major, but something to "show" us her damage instead of having her drone on about it. And you mentioned earlier that she wasn't unique - she doesn't have anything that really stands out. She needs to. We all have something that sets us apart, no matter how typical our lives are. So pick one characteristic (for example, one of my protags is quick to react - always cussing, getting in people's faces, and in general, a bit of a hothead - but that same characteristic is what makes her a great character in a tough situation, because she thinks fast. And she's still likable, no matter how tough she acts.) and make that one thing something the reader would remember. Otherwise, she's forgettable, and the reader won't stick with her throughout the adventure.

    Don't worry - you will get it right. Get some fresh eyes to take a look at it, and give you feedback. And make that main character so deep, so engaging, that your reader will not be able to put it down.

    Good luck!
     
  16. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Thank you all for your insight! This helps a lot as I begin to rewrite. I appreciate your time. :)
     
  17. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two other things (and I hope you don't feel like we're piling on).

    First, your character is 19 years old, but you've written her personality to be silly and immature, more befitting a young teenager. A 19-year-old is a freshman or sophomore in college. They're far more sophisticated than how you've drawn her.

    And second, opening a story with her talking about spitting- and kicking-distance is off-putting and does not allow a female reader to relate to her.
     
  18. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Okay, thanks for letting me know.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sad to say, i have to agree with all of the above observations about those first pages... your writing skills are pretty good, but what you did with them isn't...

    first of all, you need to rethink who your target market is, age-wise...

    then, you need to rethink your character's character and what her goals are, vis a vis what most readers [and thus agents/publishers] will expect--and want...

    consoling hugs, m
     
  20. Jenna Whitefield
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    Jenna Whitefield New Member

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    Honestly, I have to disagree with marina. I'm female and I loved, absolutely loved the beginning. To me, it made her seem more like an actual person as everyone has some strange little quirk. But, the talking to random people on the train does feel a little off. And with her accepting dinner makes me think that Paxton's off to rape her.

    (Which, I sincerely hope he's not!)

    I did feel some distinctness about her, even if it wasn't as obvious as Harry Potter's facial scar, and it made her memorable in my mind.
     
  21. DimeADozenKid
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    Mammamaia, I will definitely take that into consideration. Thank you.

    Jenna Whitefield, thank you for your kind words. :) And don't worry, Paxton doesn't rape her. They actually end up falling in love.

    I've decided to do a few things:

    - Add an entirely new first chapter before the current first chapter, in which the MC's home life is displayed. This will show her motives, add validation to her story, and most of all - hopefully add some depth and distinctness to her character.

    - Alter the train scene, in a number of ways. Call me strange, but immaturity was in fact what I was going for with Kaylin... but it's really not a marketable quality and most people won't relate to her. So I'll be changing the way she acts/reacts to make her a more identifiable character, but hopefully without losing some of the traits that I see in her.

    It's hard to explain, but I think what I envision in my head (which is very detailed and illustrated) and what I write on paper don't quite match. I think I get caught up in all the little things in writing, such as grammar, and don't realize that I'm not portraying my characters the way I intended to. But of course, since I'm the writer, it's hard to distance myself enough to see this.

    Thanks for all your advice, it's a big help.
     
  22. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I was wondering where people read the first few pages because I don't see them in the thread.
     
  23. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Looks like it was removed due to the forum rules.
     
  24. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Ah, well Dime, if you wish you can send it to me in IM. I would like to check it out.
     
  25. DimeADozenKid
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    DimeADozenKid Member

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    Sorry, I didn't realize I was breaking any forum rules.

    EDIT: I see now. I must have overlooked that, sorry. I just felt that the text would have been way too long to copy/paste in here.
     

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