…else dictate your story will just leave you bitter in the end.
A few years ago – roughly ten or so – I was a part of a group of four women who shared their writing together. We would sometimes collaborate, but mostly it was about sharing things we were writing. Ninety-five percent of everything we wrote was what would be termed “fan-fiction”. If you’re not familiar with the term it is fiction based on an established story. Some people write fan fiction for television shows, some people do it with books. Ours was largely based on a video game.
I was using the world and the established characters as peripherals and I made my own two characters to go into the story. The girls I was sharing this with said “You write such likable, relatable characters,” which is getting re-affirmed in my new writing group. (Thanks new writing group!)
But, our “leader” in that group ten years ago had a tendency to be overbearing and if she didn’t approve, you were badgered until you changed it. So, my characters weren’t allowed to have sex before marriage. What was the reasoning? I might “encourage someone to sin.” Looking back on it, that was probably the point where I should’ve given them all the quirked eyebrow and left the group. (That’s about as close as I ever get to saying “F*%$ you!” unless I’m really, really angry. Whole ballrooms of people have stopped working to stare when I swear. I just don’t do it – mostly because when I do, I want people to listen. And they do.) Anyway, back to my point, I’ve been carrying this around with me for ten years … but I also remember the name of the kid who used to beat me up in preschool, and the 6th grader who terrorized me on the bus – I can still *see* both of them, so… forgive and forget is a learned skill.
I really have two points to make here. The first is the value of a good, supportive writing group. The second is about sticking up for yourself and your story the way you’ve written it. The book I’m working on now is a lot of fun for me, and I think it will be for the reader as well. There are certain things I’ve had pointed out to me by my writing group and my first beta reader, some of those things I have changed – there was a conversation Effone was having with one of her chiefs and more than one person said, “Would she really have this conversation? In this place? Where others could hear?” and after some grumbling I had to say that yes, they were right. So, I completely rewrote the scene. Actually, this is my critique week – so we’ll see how the new version is received.
But, there are also some things that have been pointed out on which I’ve dug in my heels. Clothing for one. No, they don’t all run around naked! (Would that make you buy my book?) However, when I get a note that makes me dig in, I realize there may be an opportunity for better explanation. But, here’s the thing about my new group – they don’t tell me I must change anything and certainly not because I’m going to incite others to sin. (Those who know me will know I am not religious at all, or at least I do not have an appreciation for the organized version.)
There is a point at which you have to realize that you know your story and where you want it to go. You have to be willing to stand up for your characters. Don’t do what I did and let someone else dictate your story to you (There’s a bigger message there, too – don’t let others dictate your story. But, that’s another post for another time.)