Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Snark or Not To Snark, That is the Question

I will write again.  Really.
It’s not like I’m depressed and not writing, it’s more like I’m regrouping.  Yeah, that’s it!
You see, I have this MS. It’s completed and I’ve done some editing, but I knew it needed a lot more.  That part I was aware of.  But I’ve had lots of great feedback on it from my readers/critique-ers.  In fact (it’s a YA) one of the younger readers who doesn’t get swept away with books too often, couldn’t put it down and finished in two days.  Wow, I thought, I have something here.
So with that feeling in mind I sent it off to another reader, my queen of beta-ing reader.  YA isn’t her norm for personal reading, but that doesn’t really matter with her.  She knows her stuff and she’s able to put aside her personal preferences and judge it based on story strength and genre.  She’s great and I trust her judgment, a lot.
So when her review came back on the first three chapters, my prior happy bubble, burst.  Maybe I should say, BURST. 
My main character is snarky, whining, and unlikeable?
Yes, there were other issues, a lot of which I expected since I really needed to do another edit to trim the fat.  There were also some issues that are easy enough to alter that will make the flow better.  But, Snarky, Whining, and Unlikeable?  Holy Cow, what do I do with that?
Since then I’ve been busy, plus I’ve been trying not to think about it, while trying to resolve what I can possible do at the same time.  Thinking about something without thinking about it can be harder than I expected.  So now I’m here, ready to mentally hash this out.
Yes, my character is snarky, but it’s all inside her head.  She has the outward, verbal, her and the inward one that’s free to think what it wants.  She also reads minds, in a unique way, so she sees a lot of the hypocrisy in people, kinda like the hypocrisy in her, but she figures that out later.  At first she’s let her thoughts have a pretty free reign, but as she realizes that her thoughts aren’t exactly private, she has to start being responsible for them.  She has to grow up, and quickly, but that’s easier said than done.
Apparently my young readers connect to this snarky-inner thoughts-girl.  Thinking one thing, acting out another, still developing your own opinions in a lot of ways.  My older readers never mentioned anything negative about her, so I assumed all was good.  (Yes, I’ve put out a second request for them to tell me their thoughts on her, so I can hash it out a bit more.)
I guess I connect with her too.  When I was young I thought a lot and spoke a little, I still do I guess, unless writing counts as speaking, then I’ve become a chatterbox I suppose.  I don’t think I’m mean to people, but maybe in my thoughts I give myself a little room to speculate and poke fun.  That’s not nice, but I think a lot of us do it to a degree.  I think young people do it to a greater degree.  It’s how they decide their own opinions about people, taking the surface into account, taking speculation into account, adding in perceptions and then formulating your own idea.
So now I’m at a difficult point.  How snarky is too snarky?  I don’t want her to turn people off, and yet maybe I have to turn some people off in order to connect with others.  Do I tone her down?  Will I lose the interest of those who connect with her if she is toned down?  Do I grow her up more in the beginning, and in doing so lose the part of her that drew me to her?  How do I know when her voice is right for her and when I’ve harmed her voice by changing it?
To be honest, I still don’t know the answers.
I know there are a lot of other editing issues I could tackle.  I know I should do that first and decide on her voice and the degree of her snark after I spend more time with her.  Before I can do that I need to finish my current WIP, which was halted due to time constraints and too much thinking and trying not to think.
It’s time to get back to it.  I know it is.  Nothing will happen if I don’t pick up the laptop and get busy.  It’s up to me, so I better beat the funk and do my job.

My question for you is this:
How do you reconcile the varying opinions of your readers and critique partners without losing the original vision and voice which made you want to write the story?  When the responses don’t agree, where do you find the balance?

Thanks for traveling with me for this little while on my writing journey.


Anonymous said...

My only thought is that you have to be true to yourself. If you like her how she is..don't change it.

My personal view is that I love snarky...LOVE IT. I am currently reading A Brush Of Darkness by Allsion Pang and the main character is hilariously snarky. But there is a line where snarky becomes annoying and not funny. It's a fine line and I'm sure it changes with each individual person.

If a book starts out with too much snarkiness (Ha new word) it turns me off to the MC. It's finding that balance of snark/funny that is hard and is up to the author to tackle.

I also now feel horrible. FYI. lol

Julie Geistfeld said...

Agggg, I told you not to read it!

That's probably right about the time you decided to read it.

I don't want to turn off my bestest beta ever... Aggg my brain is melting...

Besides then she won't want to read the rest of it, because she hates her already. Of course she's also tired of the filler words and what not...

I'm doomed.

By the way, did you just say that I'm not funny... I think you might have...

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

I'm reading this post and thinking I have been where you are right now MANY times and you will revisit this place many more.LOL. It's the process. No bigs. Promise. Hey, I had a 5 lady crit group tell me they were crushing on the hero in my pararom - won a free 30 pg crit from an editor and she called me a perv. There ya go. What to do right? For me. I want to be published. I want this to move from hobbby to career, so I took it to betas who were published in and readers of the genre and I took their advice. I want to write what someone wants to rep and sell. So, maybe approach the rewrite from a "what's gonna bet this baby onto shelves" attitude. You can do it. You already love your MC. Help readers love her too and the snark will be fun and not offensive. Now. Enough of my babbling. get back to work woman!

Julie Geistfeld said...

Suddenly I feel like I was just in that 'remain calm' scene from Airplane...
'You will fix it, you will write...' As I'm violently shaken by Julie...

I'll write I promise... I'll write!

Julie Geistfeld said...

I tweeted you, but must say it here too...
You are my messenger of truth.
If you didn't tell me these things 40 agents would tell me them, and a whole lot worse things.
You save me from that pain so maybe someday I can have editors and publishers put me through pain! I'll never get there without being forced to answer the questions I'm asking myself now.
It sounds bad and painful and depressing, but it is actually good and necessary and cleansing. It has to be done to every MS or they'll never stand a chance.
I need you, not just to love my writing, but to be brutally honest about it!
Thank you for making me question these things. It's just like exercising is for your body... you don't want to do it but you always feel better and improved after it's done.

Agggg... don't cry!

kmullican said...

First of all, follow your gut. We all have characters in shows/books and whatnot that we love to hate. I have teens and trust me, if she's a snarky whiny little bitch - you might have hit the nail on the head.

I have two teenage girls I love with all my heart - but they can be bitches...their hormones are dictating their good sense. It's a fact...demonstrated by the drama that takes place on their FB pages.

The important thing is that your character grows. I follow your blog and I'm certain you're questioning yourself. I've done it loads of times myself.

Clean it up - make her less brash, but only if you want to, and you think it aids your story.

Hope that helps - Good luck!

Julie Geistfeld said...

kmullican -

Thanks so much for coming by and commenting. It helps me hash out what I need to do with this character to hear some different opinions and ideas.

Best of luck with your writing (and those teenagers ;)