Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Insecure Writers Support Group

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My name is Donna and I've been sober . . . .

Oops. Wrong group.

This is my first time participating with this group, though I've been reading other members' posts for years now. I've got two issues that are working on me right now.
Source: PowerPoint

1.    The first deals with some feedback from one CP on my current project. She raised an
issue that no one else (so far) has mentioned, but one I need to be concerned about.

It's that balancing point when a character has survived a traumatic, life-changing experience and is going through the depressed stage. It's before the character pulls himself up by his bootstraps.

How does one show the anguish and self-pity that can be incredibly poignant and powerful--and not have the character come across as a whiny, self-absorbed baby? Especially when that trigger point is going to be different for different people? I'm going to have to stew on this.

2.     My other stress comes TOMORROW with A Change of Plan's cover reveal! Squeee!


Stress! But ... I'm also going to show off my new book trailer--with music written by my youngest son and his band. So even if you hate the trailer, enjoy the music.

Have you ever written a character in the "depths of despair"? If so, how did you keep it from being maudlin?


  1. I'm constantly showing my characters in anguish - the difference is, mine don't always pull themselves out of it. It might be as easy as a tweek in an existing section, or a small extra paragraph. Good luck with it, and welcome to the IWSG :-)

    Annalisa Crawford, One of April's IWSG Co-Hosts

  2. Heck yeah! A huge part of my book deals with the MC's despair following the death of his wife. I used the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance. If you show how your character moves through each stage, it feels real, balanced, and no one stage over done.

  3. I agree it's difficult not to make the whole thing take a nosedive into misery and have your MC sounding whiney! Great advice from Annalisa and Nancy. As well, I'd say give him an occasional moment where he comes up to the surface and has a moment of 'normality', even if it makes him feel bad for not feeling bad...Remind us of his true character.

  4. That's a tough one. You need to show it, without having it turn into a blah-inducing wallow. Or maybe it could be a wallow, but it can't turn off the readers.

  5. Misery loves company, but it can be hard to find the right balance.

  6. My MC is going through the same thing, but almost a year after the fact. She still struggles with depression and grief, especially with the 1 year anniversary coming up, but she's overcome a lot of it with the help of her two best friends. Her mother on the other hand...she's still a mess! Good luck! It's not easy.

  7. Did the critique partner offer any ideas?
    Ready for your cover reveal! And I'm sure we'll like the trailer.

  8. Awesome you joined IWSG. Nancy's advice seems good on not making your character whiny. Perhaps if the internal thoughts showing the depth of despair is sprinkled in with action might work.

    Can't wait to see your cover!

  9. Yeah, welcome to the coolest kids in town (at least on a Wednesday:)

    Congrats on the cover reveal ahead of time - I see the future and know it's going to be amazing -especially with your son's band doing the music for the trailer - nice :)

  10. Sure the music will be grand here in your land and the rest too. It can be tricky to get the misery balance down at ones zoo.

  11. I've received that comment before too. Guess I don't have the answer for you. But I AM excited for your cover reveal. Yay!

  12. I don't really have an answer. I guess the thing to do is pose the question to your betas, then rely on the majority-rules rule with the feedback. You're never going to please everyone.

    Best of luck with the cover reveal. How exciting!

  13. It's hard to show an emotion through words well, good luck! I'll be sure to come back tomorrow to see the trailer (:

  14. Showing suffering without wallowing is a real challenge. I'm still working on it myself and really like the suggestion about showing the five stages of grief. ;)
    Something I try to do is have my characters realize they are being a little too self-absorbed and look at the big picture more. That gets them out of their own heads and out of that cycle of just "woe is me" thoughts. :)
    I'm excited for your cover reveal and book trailer tomorrow!

  15. oooh! A cover reveal tomorrow. You must be suuuper excited! it's going t be fun, I'm sure!

  16. "Depths of despair?" Sounds like a toughie. I'm pretty bad at showing character emotions, even simple ones, so I wish you the best of luck. I do have a character who suffered a traumatic experience ten years ago and I'm struggling to show his occasional pain without sounding melodramatic. I'll have to check out your book to see how you solve the problem.

  17. I'm battling the off putting character too. I think part of it is showing the vulnerability. They're not just whining because they're wimps.

  18. Hi Donna. Great to see you here at IWSG! I'm working on the same problem you mention. I'm trying to show my protagonist grieving and yet struggling to get through it one day at a time. He's proactive in trying to solve his wife's murder, so that's helping to show him as an appealing character.

    When you're ready, get some trusted feedback. A good critique partner will help you to smooth out the rough spots and make your hero less whimpy and more assertive, yet still able to mourn.

  19. Gah! That's coming up in my novel soon. My character takes a terrible self-destructive dive before she pulls it together and overcomes. Yeah, I don't want her to come off as whiney either. Maybe if we just try writing it as honestly as I can through action instead of too much self-reflection and belly-gazing? I don't know, I haven't written that part yet, but now I'll be hyper aware of it when I do!!

    And looking forward to the cover and video. :)

  20. Are you kidding me? Your son wrote and performed that music. It is terrific. See everyone, if you sign up to be a part of a cover reveal, you get an advance screening.

    Good luck on the emotion conundrum.
    let me know if you figure it out.

  21. It's very hard to tread the line between whiny and un-emotional. If the character recovers too quickly, readers may see them as unrealistic; if there's too much introspection, readers may get bored. But that's why we have CPs!
    Congrats on the upcoming cover and trailer reveal! :-)

  22. I have done this and it's not easy. That's one advantage of dual pov. You can show the character in a different light when you use dual or multiple point of view.

    Good luck, Donna!!!

  23. You stop anguish becoming whining partly by showing the depth of emotion behind it, but mostly by ensuring that the reader understands why they're in that emotional place. If they truly understand the importance of what has brought them to that point, then the reader is more apt to think 'yes, it would do that to me too'. And if it wouldn't, then perhaps they are whining.

  24. Hi, Donna,

    Hope your cover reveal goes well.

    For me, I try not to let my characters wallow too long in whatever emotional turmoil they're going through. When it begins to drag on me as writer, I think the reader will feel the same.

    J.L. Campbell writes Jamaican Kid Lit

  25. One way to show depths of despair (especially repeatedly) is to use an objective correlative. If you're not sure what that is, I did a little post about it here:

    And most important of all, limit the character's crying to only one or two times in the whole book. Good luck. I'm sure your story is wonderful.

  26. Sometimes a character IS just whiny and annoying. I have a lot of that in my books, I'm told, but I figure it's true to life because who ISN'T like that once in awhile when things are going so bad? The things we put our characters through is appalling. I figure if I expect them to behave amazingly well under all that crap, I'm probably being pretty unrealistic. :)

  27. I'm sure you'll figure it out. I stew over my CP's comments. Also, I'll always have at least one who'll point something out that the others haven't.

  28. That is tough. You could play with the surroundings. When you get that depressed you leave the dishes unwashed, floor unvacuumed. Clothes may or may not get washed. If it's a house, "clean" clothes may be something picked up off the floor and thrown in the dryer with a dryer sheet to freshen it up. running out of food in the fridge because they don't have the energy or mental strength to deal with the questions sure to come from people they know in town.

    If the person is normally clean and organized, those 'tells' could help establish her mood just as well as showing her balled up in a corner crying. If the MC's at rock bottom, having them drive to the store, or wherever, their thoughts could turn to how easy it would be to drive the car into a building, or another vehicle, car starts drifting and they swerve at the last minute because they're truly not ready to end it all and that would start bringing them out of the depths. Hope this helps!



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