When last we blogged about Writer Insecurities, we lamented over the ups and downs of the writing life. In the meantime I’ve watched Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurants on ye old Netflix, which turns out to be one of the best things I could have done this early in my professional writing career. Also, it turns out, one of the more uncomfortable.
Let me set the scene: Being in Round 1 of editorial revisions (pre-contract) for Keepers #2, both Editor Awesome and the Stunt Monkey have pointed out my essentially flat hero, especially when paired with my more colorful heroine. As I respect and adore both parties in this equation, I was forced to have to face a rather unfortunate home truth–while my heroes tend to be layered and flawed, my romantic interests aren’t quite as nuanced as they should be. In other words, I’m not giving my readers a chance to truly know and care about them. This isn’t gender specific–I recently experienced the same problems with Big Dang Projeckt.
So I had to turn around and face the issue head-on. (I’m Irish–“fight” is my default setting, kinda like the Hulk.) This is what I do. As artists and craft-monkeys, this is what we all have to do. Why? I wondered. Why do I have such an issue with conflict when it comes to romance?
There could be a couple of things. First, there was a decided lack of drama in my own whirlwind romance with the Tech Monkey. We’re in lockstep probably 90-95% of the time and neither of us has any patience with unneccessary shenanigans. Life is too short to waste time not communicating with your life partner, we feel. The closest we came to kids was Ninja Katz, and that suits us fine. Second, too often (I’ve found) romantical complications in books, TV, and movies equates to aforementioned shenanigans and, unfortunately, ANGST.
Angst has its place, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes it gets so silly that it’s exhausting. I know I hate it when a hero panders to a romantic interest so unlikeable I want to smack both parties, especially when hero is otherwise competent and there’s a better romantic interest on the horizon (it was this very scenario that inspired Big Dang Projeckt). So I’m trying to keep away from melodrama, probably by going to the other extreme. It’s difficult enough to fully develop a loving relationship between two people within a novella setting (on the cusp of the apocalypse, no less). But if my readers are going to fall in love with my characters, they have to be able to get to know them first.
Which brings me to Gordon Ramsay. In this show, he pits two restaurants of the same ethnic cuisine against each other as the “Best Restaurant” of that cuisine in the UK. In the first episode (Italian), the chefs were a team of brothers whose management side is run by their parents. The lads were incredibly bold and experiemental and ridiculously talented, but Mom, as Front of House, defended her boys against customers at every turn and only gave them the “good” feedback, loathe to hurt their feelings. Gordon eventually helped them to see that they’ll never get better without the bad and occasionally ugly–if plates are coming back with the same feedback (heh), it’s probably true, and needs to be fixed. Gordon, for example, ONLY wants to hear the bad, because that’s how he learns, and improves.
Creative types have to be incredibly brave. Not only do we have to put ourselves on the spot with every word written, every word edited, and every manuscript submitted, but we have to face criticsm as professionals. It’s tempting to only want to hear the good, but we’re not going to improve and develop without the rest as well. The trick is in knowing–and respecting the craft of writing enough-to accept true feedback for what it is and implement a plan to fix it.
So I’m reworking my hero’s profile for Keepers #2, and have already (I dearly hope) fixed the issue with Big Dang Projeckt. But now that I’ve accept the issue as something that needs addressing, if I do my homework in future I can forgo the problem altogether, and be the better writer for it.