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Thanks Brad, I tried to load them and they just disappeared so I thought a description would have to do.
And thanks to everyone for the suggestions, still not sure of the direction but now have some ideas I can think on.
When I first joined a writing group I consistently was told the same thing by the people that critiqued my stories; that they didn’t like the main characters. One story, no biggie, second story same problem, third story there seems to be a pattern developing. So, I thought about it long and hard and tried to think of a way to please those critiquers and I realized something: I hated the characters that they thought were likable. I hated those characters in books, hated them in movies and hated them on TV. I was writing characters that I thought were likable and the reason I was writing them was because at the time there weren’t a lot of characters like that in SF and F.
If I’d taken their advice and wrote characters they thought were likable I would have hated my own stories, hated writing them, hated reading them after, and would almost certainly have stopped writing altogether. That doesn’t make their advice bad, by any means. If I wanted that audience (in this case the critiquers who had the problem were mid forties to mid fifties women), I would have been well advised to follow their suggestions. But I wanted a different audience and I noticed that the guys in the writing group seemed to like my main characters well enough that tweaking (as in leavening in more humor, more internal conflict, while retaining the core of my characters) would suffice. The process improved the characters, but I ignored their specific advice in that instance. In another instance those same critiquers pointed out that I had a tendency to assign male as the default gender to all characters (male protagonist, male antagonist, male sidekick, male saloon dancers), which I hadn’t even really noticed.
Basically both of their critiques were useful but in different ways, one that they were clearly right about and that I had to seriously work on (lack of female characters) and one which I believe they were wrong about (my main characters being unlikable), but those comments made me work harder to broaden those characters and make them more relatable while not essentially changing them.
For me it worked, but sometimes in the group I notice people who start chasing their tails (or tales) and trying to please their critiquers and it doesn’t really work as they then tend to produce pablum designed to placate (not please) everyone.
I guess my advice would be take honest criticism, filter it through what you want to achieve, and take into account the person who is giving you the critique. As an example I was given a story to critique that was intended for 13 year old girls, a target market I have not yet belonged to, and I pointed out all of the logic and character issues that I found in it, and I did it from an honest, helpful perspective. The other critiquer (also male) essentially said Ditto, but then the women at the table all said they really liked the story, the logic stuff didn’t twig them off and they loved the characters, and that perhaps the big burly blue collar dude was not the right critiquer for the story. Which was a fair point, I was not the market, and ‘fixing’ the story to make it more palatable for me and the other critiquer would likely harm the story if she changed the main character for us. However, the logic issues would be easy to fix and I believe the story would have been substantially improved by making those changes. By knowing her critiquers and talking with us face to face we could both soften the blow and establish our personalities, as in what market do we represent and then she could decide what changes to make with that additional background information.
But a jerk just being jerk and making a jerk comment? I would like to just ignore them but for some reason they get under my skin. I don’t change stuff for them, or respond, but it does irritate me. Much more than it should and I don’t know why. Heck, I did a blog post where I basically said everybody is pretty decent, jocks are mostly okay dudes, everybody is mostly nice, and even though I went through crap growing up because I was a geek, I realized that a lot of the reaction I got was a direct result of my reactions (did I start it? No. But did I deal with it in a way that would end it? No.) but that now I’m just a happy proud geek with lots of jock friends and everybody is cool. And the comment I got was along the lines of; “yeah, but you’re not a real geek, you’re a fake geek.” And that just floored me. I could have responded, I could have tossed my reading material (at the time I was reading a physics book) in his face, but what would that argument have proved? That I had a few days to start and carry on a flame war over nonsense? Whooptee. So I walked away from it without responding, but I have to say even though I know it was an ignorant (as in they don’t know me, not that the commenter was stupid) comment it still made me upset.
I don’t know why but for some reason I could absorb a critique that blasts my characters as unlikable and find a way to make it helpful, and yet a throwaway uninformed comment on my blog got my dander right up.
That might just be me.