Lesson Twenty from a Manuscript Red Line: Don’t make things so easy

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

In the Gold Mine Manuscript, there is a point where the MC is thrust into the magical world.  He has been there for a few days, and suddenly he is faced with an animal that can speak to him through their minds.

In concept, this is fine.  However, the publisher red-lined that the MC was “too accepting” of this.  The MC just jumped in and said “okay, no problem” – well, he didn’t say it that way, but he jumped right on board.

The publisher said that it would be okay for the characters who were born into this world to be fine with this, but the MC should not accept so easily.  A few paragraphs later, the MC also tells his friend  that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and that he’s harmless… they red-lined that too.

Think of it this way… if you ran into a guy in the street, and just started talking to him for a few minutes, would you be willing to risk your life, and your best friend’s life in trusting this person, or would you be a little wary?  Now make this person a really large mythical animal.  Getting nervous yet?

Be careful that you don’t put your own knowledge into your character’s heads before that knowledge is learned.  You as the author know there is nothing to fear, but to make it realistic, your character’s “trust” needs to be earned to a degree.  Let relationships develop so they seem more natural and believable.  Don’t take the easy way out to move your story ahead more quickly.

Think over your novel.  Have you done anything like this?

Jennifer Eaton

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9 responses to “Lesson Twenty from a Manuscript Red Line: Don’t make things so easy

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. Good advice! Internal consistency is very important for a work of science fiction or fantasy. By keeping your characters grounded in relatable human emotions, you can make the most outlandish scenarios believable. That’s why I have little patience for people who sneer at science fiction and fantasy writers. Creating a world from scratch and making it feel textured — lived-in — is an impressive achievement.

  3. I’m guilty of this too, especially in first drafts.

    Unless your MC is a child (or very child-like in his/her naivety) you have to imagine how a normal person would react to scifi/fantasy happenings.

    It also affects the motivations/traits of your characters, if you’re not careful. I had a character who I described as hating guns tazering people at one point. /facepalm.

    Consistency is key! Thanks for the reminder (and great post).

  4. I do this, too. The movie plays in my head (not unlike one of my favorite chick flicks or Christmas movies). I know how things turn out and fail to realize the reader hasn’t seen this movie before.

    The thing that helped me MOST were lessons learned in Margie Lawson’s classes on Empowering Character Emotions and Body Language/Dialog cues. She not only teaches how to write “fresh.” She also teaches that there will always be a visceral (uncontrolled) reaction to an unanticipated event before cognizant reaction happens.

    Now, when something unanticipated happens to my character, I think first of their visceral reaction. How would THIS POV react and how can I write it fresh? Thinking about those two things helps immensely.

    Thanks for yet ANOTHER great post, Jennifer!

  5. I’m thinking back to ET, when Elliot met him. I mean, ET couldn’t talk.. all he had was that fingertip that turned red when he wanted to heal a boo boo. How long did it take for those two to form a relationship?

    This is a great, informative post. Thank you so much for sharing…

  6. It’s easy to overlook things like this. Especially when u already have the 80,000-word MS written in ur head.

    I try to pretend to be my character. Feel the emotion they’d be feeling. Trying to imagine what I’d do if I were them right there, right then.