1. AxleMAshcraft
    Offline

    AxleMAshcraft Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    In my Head (USA)

    Damn Writers Workshops

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AxleMAshcraft, Feb 20, 2011.

    So I'm currently in the process of editing my short story through the revision by peer editors that are part of a local writers workshop. Does anyone remember my thread "No, My imaginary world, get out"? Anyway they told me I "Don't know my characters well enough". So...I was hoping someone would be able to clarify how I might go about changing that.
    And why have I always felt like that was one of my strong suits in the past?
    help...
     
  2. Lothgar
    Offline

    Lothgar Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    417
    Likes Received:
    37
    You don't know your own characters well enough? What the heck is that supposed to mean?

    Do they want you to sit down, over coffee, with your characters and chit chat?

    Perhaps what they meant to say was that you didn't provide enough material for the reader to get to know your characters? ...And I'm only guessing at that one.
     
  3. guamyankee
    Offline

    guamyankee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    Messages:
    474
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Tacoma, Washington
  4. guamyankee
    Offline

    guamyankee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    Messages:
    474
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Tacoma, Washington
    Oh, I thought the other post was going to be your short story. Maybe you should post it in short stories so the gang here can help you out.
     
  5. Unit7
    Offline

    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Messages:
    1,151
    Likes Received:
    59
    Did that with one of my villians once... lets just say my mom wasn't to happy about the big hole in the wall... and the neighbor's dog being all barbaqued. Good times, good times.

    Ok I'll be serious now.

    That does seem like a rather weird way of putting it. Its as if they are implying they know your characters better then you do.\

    Like Lothgar, thats what I think they mean. That maybe you need more details about the character and his or her personality.

    That or maybe your character's actions were not consistant throughout the piece. or something.


    You may want to go to that person and have them explain what they meant.
     
  6. muscle979
    Offline

    muscle979 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Maryland
    They probably saw your characters' actions as inconsistent with the characters' beliefs and values. I don't know why else someone would say that to you.
     
  7. AxleMAshcraft
    Offline

    AxleMAshcraft Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    In my Head (USA)
    THANKS GUYS!!
    I totally thought (since I am very untrained in the whole writing lingo thing--no literally, I had to Google what "MC" stood for) that it was just a common phrase or something that I was just missing out on.
    So it's not just me.
    Good.
    Alright.
    I just spent about three hours backstory(ing) my MC (ha, I got this) figuring out time-lines, sub-story-lines that really aren't in the story at all and hopefully that will make me more...character aware (??).
    THANKS YOU GUYS!
     
  8. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,725
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I think muscle979 has it right. A reader might say the author doesn't know his own characters if the characters act inconsistently, or at least appear to. I guess some readers figure that if they don't understand a character, then it's all the author's fault.
    :)
     
  9. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    I can't really say what you mean. Maybe they felt like your characters were inconsistent or too vague? (Which would be ironic given the nature of their criticism)
     
  10. Raki
    Offline

    Raki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    6
    I didn't read your other post, but I have a few comments about your workshop response. I'm currently a part of a workshop where someone has a story where you could probably say the author doesn't know their characters well enough. I won't say that, because it's not constructive. Like your response to someone saying that, you have no idea what it means or what to do to fix it. It almost seems like an insult.

    If I were you, I would make sure your workshoppers explained themselves. Not only is the comment insulting, but it is also vague. It's almost like someone saying "you don't know how to describe things" or "your description sucks." These type of comments are not constructive in the slightest, and they do not show you how you may fix the problem (if there is one). If you are faced with folks who spill these types of comments in a workshop you need to press them for questions, especially if their comments are insulting. Ask them what they mean? Why they think this? What specific examples can they give you? How they think you could improve it?

    If they are unable to give you responses to questions like these, you can probably ignore their comments altogether. If they can answer these questions but you don't like their explanations, take it for what it is. It's a perspective from a reader. It doesn't mean they're right or wrong, or that you're right or wrong. If all readers agree, you probably should think about revising a few things, but if one reader thinks it is absolutely terrible and nine disagree with him, you probably don't need to do anything.

    Workshops are just a way to share your writing with others in an attempt to improve your writing. Some people don't understand the concept of constructive feedback, and they will just say they didn't or did like something and not seek a reason why or look for what worked and what didn't. Make sure you ask questions. If you don't understand what they mean by their comments, ask them why! This is the point to workshops--improve yourself as a writer. Press questions on parts of your story you're not certain about, and press questions on comments you do not understand.
     
  11. AxleMAshcraft
    Offline

    AxleMAshcraft Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    In my Head (USA)
    @"Show" I LOVE YOU PICTURE! Dr. Reid is my favorite criminal minds character EVER!

    Anyway on a more serious note:
    @Raki, I totally agree, if your going to say something about my writing at least make it make sense (ya know?) but there is a slight problem. This draft of the workshop was anonymous, AWESOME so now I really can't go back and ask "hey what the hell did you mean here...?"

    So I've worked for a while creating a back story but still, if they don't think that my characters are "alive enough" I'm second guessing my entire plot line....if a reader just DOESN'T GET IT then should I even write this?

    SELF DOUBT! It's horrible!! I'm honestly should I even be part of this workshop? It seems that everyone else's short story is so deep, has so much insight and teaches everyone everything that's just like a revelation. And my short story....well, I tried to make it's "theme" that no matter how hard you try sometimes people won't ever forgive you/Often times things never work out in the end....But that seems so unworthy I guess.

    MAJOR MELTDOWNS ASIDE: what might I do to make my characters better?
     
  12. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,984
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    I'm wondering if your focus on theme is part of the problem. In the other recent thread about theme, I expressed the opinion that one's first focus in a story should be plot and character. Theme, IMO, is something that should be discovered, and perhaps refined in late drafts, rather than planned from the beginning. Without good plot and characters, theme is a waste of time. Without theme, a good plot and characters still have some value.

    If you ever find yourself thinking that character X should take some specific action in order to serve the theme, rather than taking that action because that's what that person would do, then your theme is already leading you away from a realistic character.

    I'd abandon theme, and being insightful, and being profound, and focus entirely on writing a good yarn, one that's fun and engaging. Or tragic and engaging, or whatever you're in the mood to write. Telling a good story is the first thing to learn, IMO; all the lofty stuff can wait.

    ChickenFreak
     
  13. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    this is a perfect example of one reason i don't ever recommend joining workshops!
     
  14. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Axle, I can relate to struggling with character development as plots come more naturally to me. If you'd like, you should post on my character development clinic thread in Word Games and people there can help you out in depth. With that aside, think about these things:

    1. What makes your MC feel:
    A. Happy/Content
    B. Happy/Excited
    C. Angry
    D. Indignant
    E. Scared/jumpy
    F. Scared/threatened
    G. Worried
    H. Annoyed

    etc...come up with good things for all of those...then use them to come up with good obstacles, motives etc.

    Hope I helped!
     
  15. Raki
    Offline

    Raki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    6
    Honestly, if the feedback you got was just "you don't know your characters" and submitted by an anonymous person you cannot ask to explain further, I'd personally ignore their comment.

    That's what I mean. Did the anonymous commenter mean your characters aren't "alive enough" or that he didn't think they were believable or what? You can interpret the statement "you don't know your characters" a number of ways, and guessing as to what he meant may only end up having you change something that was working and missing what he actually meant.

    A lot of the times that's the way it seems. The other guy's story is better than yours, but usually the various stories compiled in a workshop are like comparing apples to oranges. They're both fruit (pieces of writing), but they both have different tastes (styles, tones, plots, etc.). Because someone likes one doesn't mean he'll like the other, and because he may not like the other, doesn't mean it's bad. And that's true outside the workshop, as well. There's a ton of material out there I cannot read because I simply don't like it, but the fact that it's out there must mean someone likes it.

    And self doubt gets to the best of writers, so it's nothing to shy away from. I personally have to really talk myself into posting something up for others to look at and critique just because I always feel I can make it better. But sometimes that's what you have to do to improve yourself and your writing. But also take others' comments about your writing with a grain of salt. If they don't like it, look at their reason why and then try to find that "why" within the story. If you don't see it, or if you think fixing it will change the story to something you don't want it to be, just move on to the next comment.

    Without seeing the contexts, I can't really comment on what you might do to make your characters better. If you wanted to PM me a copy of the story (or post it in the review room), I could take a look at it and offer suggestions. I promise to be a bit more detailed than your anonymous poster, but I may not be as fast (it may take me a week or more to look it over) due to my own writing, work, etc. Just let me know.
     
  16. Deleth
    Offline

    Deleth Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Idaho
    THIS!!!

    What the work shoppers are telling you is essentially that your "story doesn't Flow", whatever the flying freak that means.

    IF - capitalized for a reason - you feel like you don't know your characters well enough, the technique that works for me to get to know them better is to flesh-out the back story the character has before your story takes place. The theory being that if you better understand your character's background, you will better understand and know your character.

    Hope that helps!
     
  17. Mxxpower
    Offline

    Mxxpower Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2010
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    I agree with this approach, except I use the reverse.

    What does your MC Need?
    What do they want more than anything?
    What do they Fear losing?
    etc..

    It is an old writing tool that has been around for a long time, I think it came from psycological evaluations actually to determine the type of person you are. (introvert extrovert, etc) Any of those internet quizs like this would probably work to develope a character if you answered the questions through their eyes.

    The shorter answers the better, and example of what a character needs more than anything could be love or security for instance, not: "Jimmy needs to find the gun burried under the barn by the river to avenge his sisters murder."
     
  18. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    I have been a member of a couple of writing groups.
    They have their pros and cons.
    A positive for me was it made me write more and gave me ideas for stories.
    On the down side: they had their share of sheep, insomuch as if some one said something constructive or otherwise, the sheep would baa, baa in agreement even if they did not know what they were talking about. Then there was the jealous member (both groups I joined had one - only one) that would criticize and try to undermine the better writers and they would (when they could get away with it) ridicule the lesser writers.

    But in both groups you were not compelled to read out or share your writing if you did not want to.

    As for them saying you do not know your characters - how do you feel about this yourself - do you agree with them or not. Your own opinion is valuable and the most important.
    Listen by all means listen and then make your own mind up.
    Mallory and Mxxpower's posts both have good points on character development.
     

Share This Page