Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I'm not gonna lie. It makes me really happy when a literary agent tells me, "I really love your writing and like this manuscript a lot." Ditto for "I think you've created some really great characters here," and "the writing is very strong," and "I think this had great potential." All of which means I'm getting close, right?
But then there's "I felt there wasn't enough of a focus on plot," and "I didn't get the sense we were building toward a larger story," and "I wanted the novel to have more of a teen focus." And these are all fair comments, dammit. And here's what that all means: I need to add another strong, important teen character whose story contributes to the overall arc.
And here's the problem. I'm the kind of person who finds it much easier to remain closed to new ideas and new people than to open myself up to them. And adding a significant new character requires a huge amount of opening myself up. I've been thinking about this a lot in the days since I received this agent's email, and here's the analogy I've come up with. Creating a whole new important, but secondary, character is not equivalent in scale to having, or adopting, a child of your own. (That would be much more like creating a protagonist.) But I would say it's equivalent to the decision to take a foreign exchange student into your home for six months or a year. It requires an intense but relatively short-term commitment to getting to know and understand a complete stranger well enough to be able to evaluate and accommodate his or her needs, quirks, goals, abilities and flaws. And it requires the flexibility to expect the unexpected from them, because no matter how well you think you've come to know them, it's virtually guaranteed that they're going to say and do things that you could never have anticipated.
So that's what I've been doing these last few days: preparing myself emotionally to open up to someone new, someone who's going to occupy my metaphorical house for weeks or months and then move on, but leave something of herself behind forever. It's not about creation, at least not to me; it's much more about discovery. That missing character exists in some realm, and my job is to go out and find her.
It's a daunting task.
It's a task I'm capable of performing.
Wish me luck!