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Friday, May 8, 2009

What I actually said was...

One thing I really hate is when a person reviews or otherwise gives you feedback about your book that doesn't even match up with what happened in your story. Now, just to be clear, I don't have any problem taking criticism. In fact, I like to know what I'm doing wrong so that I can improve. I can also recognize when someone is having a bad day or just being shitty. I can look past alot of things, but what I can't excuse is when someone begins to dissect a story and it is painfully obvious that they didn't really read it.

For example, I once heard from someone who had reviewed one of my books and in her e-mail to me, she said something about how she didn't think readers would buy the fact that a teenage Rona Shively told her father about what she mistakenly perceived as her mother's infidelity and that, as a result, he sent her packing. Well, the truth is, I don't buy it either. I don't buy it because that's not what I wrote. What I actually wrote was that Rona, being a teenage girl, was very upset by seeing her mother with another man and she told her father what she had seen. Rona asked her father if she could move to Nevada to get away from her mother. Her father had been so heartbroken by the news about her mother that he had helped Rona get away from the situation by sending her to spend some time with a friend of the family. I think, for anyone who knows a dysfunctional family, this type of scenario doesn't seem all that far-fetched. Rona Shively is clearly the product of a family that has issues. Little by little, I've explained this throughout the series and I think it's pretty easy to follow.

This person also said, "What PI would not have a laptop, and need to take one from the pool guy?" Well, in answer to that, I can only say, "Why ask me? That's not really in my book." What is in my book is that one of Rona's clients paid her with a laptop because they didn't have any money. The client had hired Rona to find out if his wife was cheating on him. Rona found that his wife was cheating on him with the pool guy. She didn't take a laptop from a pool guy. Close, but not really. And it isn't necessarily unheard of that a P.I. would not have a laptop. I've said that she isn't necessarily the best detective in the world or even within a twenty-five mile radius of where she lives. She's what I affectionately refer to as the P.I. who's better than nothing. She's not going to fit into anyone's idea of what a P.I. should be, so, if she prefers to use the computer at the library to do her research, that's her prerogative.

I point these things out just to illustrate some of the nit-picking that writers run into when they open themselves up to reviews. Yes, we all want to know how we have done. Yes, we would like to think we've done well. No, we're not happy when someone points out the flaws in our work, but we deal with it. We fix it. We write it better the next time around. Well, that is, unless the criticism is based on something you didn't actually write. Then we tend to wonder whether or not the person reviewing us is actually paying attention.

Surely, this incident is karmic payback for all of the papers I wrote in high school based on my understanding of classic novels I never actually read. Oops...I may have said too much there. In any case, I always tried to at least have the main points of the story clear before offering up any kind of analysis. It's only fair that we at least be accurate in our criticisms if not tactful. If you can't get through the reading, then say so. Don't just make things up. I may forget things on a regular basis, but I remember most of what I write. I think.

Until next time...



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2 comments:

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Anybody can criticize anything for any reason. And although I agree with you, some criticism is helpful, most is not. Your character telling her father about what she saw, and his reaction to it was very plausible. But then, what isn't? As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. Things happen everyday that seem so far-fetched in families.

I have taken the same piece of fiction to writers conferences where one person in one forum says the piece is paced "too slow", and then later on in the day in another forum a person claims the pacing is "too fast", what do you do with than kind of disparate information?

In the end, the author makes the call. Glad I found your blog through Twitter.

Rebecca Benston, Author, Speaker, Advocate said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! Happy you found the blog, too!

A Little Bit of Mystery: Short Mysteries to Confuse and Amuse

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