Monday, November 02, 2009

Relevancy

“I’m not reading any more young adult paranormals,” announced my mother recently.

“Why?” I was aghast, I write paranormals and YA.

She gave a sniff of disdain, “because in the last book I read, it was obvious that the writer doesn’t have children.”

Curious, I asked “really? Give me more specifics.”

She proceeded to tell me about a book she’d read, where the heroine was in her very early teens having the freedom to go out late at night (My mother didn’t allow me, did yours?). Then came the worst thing in her opinion, the characters “had no reaction when they killed others.”

I pondered on what she said, and found it made sense.

As writers, we create worlds, light and dark, which we have to make relevant to the reader. We also have to justify the actions of all of our characters in this world. For example, if the heroine from the story my mother read had a severely dysfunctional family life, than most readers would have accepted the late night wanderings. As for killing, if there had been a reason that those who killed had no reaction, whether it was compartmentalization, revenge, sociopathic tendencies, etc, than the reader could understand (maybe not accept, but they’d go with it).

Imagine if you will, writing about a police officer. Perhaps he comes upon a deadly motor vehicle accident, what do you think he would do? Is this is first one? Or twentieth? Do you think he’d joke around, act nonchalant? Would you? If he does, how would you, as a writer, justify his behavior? This applies to every character and situation. I know when I give my manuscripts to my critique partners; I request that they tell me where the story stops them or where it doesn’t make sense. My greatest fear is to lose the reader, or to turn them away because they don’t believe my reality that I have created.

What do you think? Have you found a story where you could not identify nor believe what was going on? Did it ruin the story for you?

As for me, I am going to continue to write my genres, but now, I wonder, will my mother read it?

19 comments:

Houston A.W. Knight said...

M.V.,

Your mom is right! A very insightful comment and one that makes me ask -- how did that book get published?

Awesome blog today!
Hawk

Christine said...

I agree. It drives me batty when the teens have so much freedom in fiction. But then, it is fiction. I remember reading a series years ago where the kids went on all kinds of adventures. Loved it. The parents were no where to be found. My Library and Information Science classes taught that the writers focus on where the children are mentally. Certain ages and stages prefer different approaches. Any rate, the 8-12 stage will believe it can climb mountains etc. without the help of parents (remember home alone?) because they really don't believe they need parents.

Keep writing your stories. Can't wait to see them published!!

M.V.Freeman said...

Hawk, how wonderful to see you!

And thank you!

I agree, I wondered too, but I think,this business is fickle, and I am beginning to realize there is no rhyme or reason.....

Which fits me perfectly. :-P

Have a glorious day!

M.V.Freeman said...

Christine,
You make an excellent point, it is important to know where the target group is mentally when you are writing. But, it makes me think for my next story...hmmm wouldn't it put in more conflict with parents that are in the way? (Don't wa all as a writer look for conflict?)LOL...lets face it Home Alone was an amusing movie (and of course they just couldn't leave it alone..how many are there now? four?)

And I am slogging along with my stories..one page that was accidently deleted....still not trying to focus on that little debacle!

How is your writing??
Have a great day!!!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Nice post! I've read several books where the characters didn't behave in ways that made sense, or the reasons for what they did weren't clear. I'll usually finish the book, but it makes me angry as a reader, and I probably won't read that author again.

I think Disney leaves out realistic emotion a lot in their stories. The adventure never begins until the parent(s) dies or is out of the way somehow. And, the kids just go on their big adventure with hardly a sniffle! But as a kid, I wasn't thinking about the emotional component so much, just about the adventure.

In my own writing I tend to get very unemotional about the events affecting my characters and have to go back and fill it in after the fact.

Great topic!

Angel said...

A published author once told me that characters can do anything if the motivations for the actions are shown thoroughly and clear. Give them a good reason and they can do it. Have them do it for no reason, and we are left wondering Why?.

Danniele

Jeanie said...

I agree with Angel. The reader can accept your character's 'flaws' and inconsistent behavior as long as the reasons behind their actions are explained. As for the policeman's reaction at the scene of a wreck, it does depend on whether it's their first or their thirtieth. Policemen, firemen and paramedics often use gallows humor as a defense mechanism against the horrors they see. Otherwise, they'd go bats pretty quickly. In my job, (criminal appeals) I and my co-workers discuss in graphic detail things that would curl most folks' hair. I have developed a pretty thick skin after 20 plus years in the trenches. Had to for my own sanity, although cases that involve children still make me want to bash my head against a wall.

The point is, explain your character's motivation/life-experience when you have them do or say something not so nice, and the reader will forgive many sins. I know I do as a reader!

M.V.Freeman said...

Hi Gwen!
It is frustrating to read those stories where the actions of the characters don't make sense. I am wondering if perhaps it is a classic case of not listening to your characters? Or just not being clear....what do you think?

I like the fact that you recognize that you have to go back and layer in those elements you are missing. I am having issues like that myself.

Boy, writing is hard...but I geuss that's why I am writing (I like to live in frustration LOL)

M.V.Freeman said...

Hi Danniele! :-)

I totally agree---You have to show them the correct motivation. But, when do you think you should show it? I tend to like it when writers show it bit by bit, so you gradually understand. I also think it depends on the story.

I just have to remember to put in the motivation, and not just keep it to myself. :-P

M.V.Freeman said...

Hi Jeanie!
I so agree, that gallows humor is necessary to survive at times. Especially with Police, firemen, and EMT's. I could not imagine working in criminal appeals, like you do. I bet you really get a hard look at human nature. I work in the medical field, and dark humor is the only way to cope at times. People just constantly amaze me! Do you agree, that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and that sometimes the motivations you see that propel behaviour would not be believed? (btw, one of these days I would LOVE to talk to you about your work )

Louisa Cornell said...

Great blog! My CP and I call it "pulling me out of the story." If you create a believable world, not matter how bizarre if everything is consistent and makes sense then I am fine with it. Pull me in and keep me in that world and I will be a fan for life. The same can be said of characters. Put me in that person's head and give me real motives for what they say and do, no matter how far off the norm, and I will want to know more about that character.

The thing that can be hard about writing Regency historicals is that behavior was very constrained and characters have to be a product of that moral period. Now you can make the character a rebel or and oddball, but you have to make those characteristics believable and reasonable.

And I happen to agree with your Mom that there are so many people writing YA and yet targeting it toward adults that the teenaged POV often gets lost in the translation.

Sherry Werth said...

Nice post MV. I agree with the others. There has to be a basis for the way characters behave to keep me interested. I want to get into their heads and know why they are doing the things they do. I guess the only exception would be a story about zombies. :-D

M.V.Freeman said...

Hi Louisa,
I love to read regency, but to write it makes me break out into a cold sweat! I am quite fascinated that you like to write it. I think historicals are a hard genre to write. What drew you to it?

But you are right, it doesn't matter how bizarre, or dark, the world--motivation and good reasons keep me reading.

And you hit it right on the head of what my mom was saying..the lost in translation is very true!

M.V.Freeman said...

LOL Sherry!
Zombies have a motivation--they want to eat you, so the motivation is already known as soon as you see the word.

I really want to read that Zombie book with Pride and Prejudice, it sounds so cool. :-P

Anonymous said...

M.V. would goad me into commenting (with a sniff of distain). Fantasy is different depending of the the age and mind set of the reader/listener. I am a hard sell when it comes to certain fantasy. I never found a mindset for myself when it came to Tolkein. "The Hobbit" for me was a fairy tale gone awry and I only made it about half way through the book. I tend to think that the writer has to convince me that at some level in my mind that what is happening and the reactions of the characters is believeable. If you are going to build an alternate world I have to be convinced to leave my known world behind and accept the rules of the alternate world. If I am a character moving from a normal world to an alternate world there are a lot of reactions and emotions that would not make an automatic change.
Mom

M.V.Freeman said...

Mom! Thanks!
Well, I see where I get it now. I also have to be convinced, and sometimes if I like the characters the world doesn't matter so much. Still, I am picky.

Hmm. Makes me wonder how many revisions I will have to do on my current MS....

Hugs!
I hope you come visit again soon!--here at the blog and at my house.
M.V.

Jeanie said...

M.V., anytime, anyplace you want to talk about work or writing shoot me an e-mail! Would love to swap stories with you.

Jeanie

M.V.Freeman said...

oooo! Thanks Jeanie!
It may be awhile, but I am very fascinated about what you do. If you have patience...I'll be writing when you least expect it. :)

M.V.

M.V.Freeman said...
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