Bad for Characters, Good for the Story

Sometimes I brainstorm with my husband, throwing ideas around, and often his response to a random idea is “Yes, but then (insert complicating factor that he knows he knows more about than I do.)”

He’s not a writer, so he sees this as a problem. I look at him and blink, and explain that that’s not a problem, that’s delicious new potential source of external conflict in the story. There are the times when I see a complication and realize right away that it’s going to side-track the story in a direction that I don’t want to go, but at the brainstorming level, when I haven’t started writing the story yet, or solidified the plot, it’s not a problem.

The times when it’s a problem are when I’ve written the story and have a plot hole that needs to be filled, and I’m trying to think of a way to fill it. Then, those are the times when I want something uncomplicated – a simple thing to throw in to pull things together.

At the developmental level though, hey, anything goes. Ideas toss around in my head, and eventually they settle into something coherent, but until something’s been put on paper, my mind is open to all ideas. I mean, sure, it wrecks my characters’ lives, but who cares about them? (By the way, I hope I never ever meet any of them in person, because most of them would kill me. Especially Michel, and he would enjoy it.)

Though, to be fair, he’s learning. At first, he would hear my half-formed ideas and say he didn’t like them, that it didn’t sound interesting at all. I would be frustrated at his reaction, knowing that he didn’t see the story in it that I saw. But after a while, he realized what half-formed ideas meant, and realized that there would be more to the story that what I could convey at that stage in the development. He’s told me he’s become fascinated with the process of the creation of a story, and thinks it’s neat to have seen it happen from the first ideas, all the way to final draft. He has faith in me, and because he’s always been honest with his opinions of my work, I know it’s real faith, not a pat on the head. My husband is awesome, and I am blessed. šŸ™‚


6 responses to “Bad for Characters, Good for the Story

  1. Sounds like! Nothing’s worse than a sugar-coated opinion when it comes to evaluating one’s work–well, besides an unnecessarily mean-spirited one, I suppose. šŸ˜€

    It’s been a while since I shared my story with anyone. It’s changed so much since my initial drafts that I just decided to wait until I’d solidified the dang thing before I let anyone else read it. (Got to be counterproductive at one point…not really having the “big picture” sorted out in my mind yet.) But sharing individual ideas, at least, can be helpful at that stage. Gives you an idea whether you’re writing something that anyone else would even be interested in, heh.

    • I totally get you there; I’ve got to the point where I can get the manuscript into fairly decent shape on my own – my first drafts are often complete wrecks, and need massive revisions for the plot to even make sense. There’s so much I can fix in a first draft on my own, that if I were to give a beta reader my first draft, it would be a waste of their time, because their comments would primarily be things I’m already planning on fixing without their help. What I need comments on are the things I can’t fix on my own, or things I’m not certain whether they’re a problem or not, and I’m not going to get that until I’ve got the manuscript into the best state I can get it on my own.

  2. Bouncing ideas off your spouse/partner is a great idea. The draw back comes, in my opinion, when they later read your story then feel an impulse to critique.

    • Personally, I’m ok with him critiquing my work later. I’ve been being critiqued a long time now, and have developed a fair bit of objectivity when it comes to critiquing, and I don’t react to it as personal you’re-a-bad-writer feedback. It’s often harder to take a critique from a loved one than it is from a stranger or critique group member, because then it’s the opinion of someone you care about. I’d go so far as to say if you have a fragile ego, don’t let your family read your work until it’s published, and don’t ask them to critique it at all, but for myself, I’m very good at compartmentalizing and not taking things personally, so some of his feedback on my more developed drafts has been great.

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