The Wordsmith’s met Wednesday evening. This is my writing group that meets once a month. I share a couple chapters of Cat Skinner with them a week before we meet. The other members do the same and we critique each other’s work. The group: Phebe, Renee, Judy and two new members, Sabrina and Sydney (mother/daughter), has provided me with invaluable feedback.
This week’s suggestions included moving chapters around to better prepare readers for the maturity of my father, Webb, who at the age of 12 in 1923 had a sexual encounter with a teenage girl slightly older than he was. While the scene was written in a humorous way, concerns were expressed by the group about the girl taking advantage of Webb. That’s certainly giving me pause to think about doing some rewriting. As I understand it from the little (very little) my father wrote about it, it was quite innocent.
There were also suggestions that Dorothy, Webb’s wife, be introduced as a more fully developed character earlier in the story.
I’m coupling group feedback with information from James Scott Bell’s book, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication (Second Edition). This has me writing out what I believe was Webb’s objective in life from the time he was first sent away from home to the end of my novel when he was 28 years old. Understanding his objective (what did he want) will help me develop the plot line (what happens to Webb), the structure (where to place incidents along the plot line), and how best to end the story. I also have relatives who may be checking the actual chronology of events! In the end, I have to figure out:
- Did Webb gain his objective (happy ending)
- Lose his objective (unhappy ending)
- Gain his objective but lose something more valuable (classic tragedy)
- Sacrifice his objective for the greater good
- Is the ending ambiguous or bittersweet
Regardless of all this, I am gaining more insight into my father’s life than I ever thought possible. He spent a lifetime trying to prove he was worthy and ended up hurting a number of people along the way.