I love my critique groups because I learn so much from each person about my own writing. But I also learn valuable lessons from their problems as well.
A dear friend in one of my groups wrote a beautiful novel – a story of family members that suffered great tragedy. The book was eloquently written and the character’s voices poignant, but there was something wrong with the novel. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. At first I defined it as lack of a character arc for the protagonist. Some of the group agreed with me and some didn’t, but still the character arc flat. No one learned any lessons and no one became wiser.
Yesterday as I read Dwight V. Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, it hit me. There was no conflict in the story – only tragedy in the end. Swain says that stories are made up of scenes which provide interest and move the story forward. In each scene there should be a goal, conflict and disaster (or impending disaster). The character has to have a goal in order to act; something needs to happen to make his situation worse; and disaster usually rears its ugly head the form of new information to hook the reader in.
Is this how your stories play out? What do you think about this story concept? I’d love to know your experience.
Sometimes I wonder if my scenes are compelling enough to keep the reader engaged. Character arc can’t happen unless my hero or heroine gains strength from fighting through conflict and disaster. Writing is wonderful. I learn something new every day.
Thanks in advance for your feedback. Christy
P.S. Sent out three more query letters, got two rejections. I’ll keep you posted.