Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Critique of a Critique

As writers we strive to do the best work possible. What we produce seems like our "children" since we've labored for months before we see the results.  When our work is praised, we're thrilled. When it gets only lukewarm comments, we're disappointed. Regardless, and speaking only for myself now, I always welcome feedback. Constructive criticism is part of that package, and is welcomed, as long as it's constructive. But what if the criticism happens to be one person's personal opinion of how characters are presented, even though this person said she enjoyed the book.

A lady from Montreal read my second novel, NO GOOD DEED. She had read the first book in the series and said she liked it. However, she took issue in NO GOOD DEED, that my protagonist Linda, now engaged to her college love, David, did not live with him. Anyone who has read either book knows that David's life is a bit unsettled now, and that he travels quite a bit. When he finally was able to stabilize his life, he found a small apartment. My reader couldn't believe that he just would't move in with Linda. To her, the norm is unmarried couples living together, even though I explained that wasn't the value system of Linda and her fiance. The reader also took issue with Linda's relationship with her mother, who comes to visit Linda for two weeks. Their relationship has always been strained, and Linda's mother, a bit naive and old-fashioned, manages to get Linda in trouble through comments she makes to a journalist, at a time when Linda is handling a sensitive and highly publicized criminal case. According to my reader, women today, no matter how old, are very "with it", on facebook, computer savvy, etc. etc. so Linda's mother should have been portrayed in a more modern way, the way the "real world" is. Since she wanted to re-write my book, it makes me wonder how she ended up enjoying it.

I thanked her for her opinion and reminded her that the beauty of fiction is that it's fiction. There are a variety of value systems in the world and I chose to write about one that I think is still common, while recognizing that many others live as she describes.

If any of you have had similar experiences, how have you handled it?  Did it change your writing style, and if so, in what way?  Looking forward to your comments.

2 comments:

  1. I'm at a place where I'm still asking for feedback on my book, but I like the way you handled it. It seems to me that this reader has some issues in reality that she wasn't able to let go when enering a world of fiction. If she says she liked it anyway, you'll just have to take her word for it.

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  2. My thoughts exactly. Keep asking for feedback. I do. It's always interesting to see how others view our work. Good luck with yours.

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