Post-Umber (or, “Hooray for NaNoWriMo”)

November 6, 2012 § 3 Comments

Thank you to those dear persons who have read my installments of Umber–you can’t imagine how encouraging it’s been to see all the times you’ve hit the “like” button, or left a comment.  I really, really appreciate it.

I’m happy to have completed this first part of my “Umber” experiment.  I was surprised by the characters that developed as I kept writing.  I wrote the last installment the day before Halloween, just in time for NaNoWriMo, which I’d decided to use as “NaNoReviseMo” to make changes (major and minor) to my story.  I understand why writers don’t usually post their writing in installments before they’ve finished the story–after a certain point, the story’s trajectory gets harder and harder and, finally, impossible to change.  But it was a great exercise in self-discipline, and I ended up with enough stuff (33,000+ words) to serve as a starting place for something.  I recently reread Ray Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned,” which was something like 50 years in the making, and was based on a number of stories he had written about the same family.  I found that inspiring, though I doubt I have fifty years left to tinker around with the Umber people.

So anyway, not being part of any writers’ group, I printed out some information about story critiques, which I’m finding very helpful.

1) I found this question thought-provoking (from a Writer’s Digest article, “3 Writing Critique Questions You Must Ask Your Prospective Critique Partners”, by Courtney Carpenter):

What characters did you feel the most strongly about?

The character I feel most strongly about is Vera, and she is the one I am least satisfied with (more about that in a minute).

I was prepared to really dislike Leroy.  He was supposed to be a scoundrel, but, in fact, I was surprised to find that, even though he was a jerk, I liked him a lot.

I loved Oleander; she seemed the most real to me.

I really liked Miss Brigid, although her scary story could have been scarier.  Also liked Ervin.  Kate seemed like a nice person, a good sister.  July Benbow and her kids were despicable (which I thought was good), but maybe too 2-dimensional.  Vera’s father and her grandparents–okay.

I wanted to know more about Father Hoolihan, and why he and Vera were attracted to one another.  I think there’s much room for improvement there–I’m afraid their mutual attraction just wasn’t that believable.  He seemed sort of wishy-washy, and I’m not sure if Vera would have liked him all that much, unless there was more to him than that.  I think he must’ve been intellectually fascinating or something, but that doesn’t come across.  Maybe I should have made him a Jesuit, a visiting priest, maybe.

Alice was absolutely my favorite character.

I liked Marla, would have liked to have known a bit  more about her.

Sebastian and the other saints–really needed more work.  I know what I was seeing in my mind’s eye, but I don’t know if any of that came across in my writing.

2) Which leads me to a thought about Vera and the plot:

Vera just did not want to fit into the story the way I had outlined it.  She ended up being buffeted around by circumstances, then sort of rescued by an outside force.  I was not satisfied with this, and neither was she, which is why she threw a dishtowel at Saint Sebastian and told him she wasn’t going to go along with his plan.  This complicated things quite a bit, and now I am trying to sort them out.  Which is why I’m glad it’s NaNoWhatever month.

Any thoughts/criticism you have would be most welcome.  I really want to ask, “Which parts were/were not interesting?” “Were the characters believable?” and “Was the ending–you know–lame?” and anything else that you might think of.  This would help a lot, since I can’t really be objective at all.

And, by the way, this all started as an attempt to create a story that would serve as the basis of an artist’s book, with many visual elements.  That’s still my plan, but the story has to be revised first.

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§ 3 Responses to Post-Umber (or, “Hooray for NaNoWriMo”)

  • heraldis says:

    I loved the whole developing story; Oleander and Silvertip was very sad; although possibly predictable. I’d have liked to know more about why he died :/
    I found the end a little confusing and sudden; which is something I’ve come across before in books with a twist.
    Really enjoyed it though; I came back every day hoping for he next bit 🙂

    • Thank you for the input, heraldis! It really helps to know what people think. I like the story enough to want to fix/revise/rework it in a major sort of way, and with a different ending–by the time I got near the end, I felt like Vera seemed too much like a victim.

  • surprise3 says:

    The influence of Catholicism on Vera’s life was true to the times her story is set in (forgive poor grammar pls); Vera was a victim… of the times, and her circumstances…it’s Oleander who has the spit and spunk…but these folks can all be fleshed out a bit more as time goes on…they’re too dear to let go.
    Have some thoughts on St. sebastian that I’ll share later…now to bed.
    Paula

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