Sunday, August 2, 2015

Character crisis

I haven't posted anything about the next book in the Stafford Brothers series since April 30th when I did the cover reveal, mainly because I've done some reworking of the early chapters after my beta readers and my critique partners expressed some concerns about the main character, Ramona Stafford.

As an author, I don't bend to the whims of the reading public, but I do listen to those with whom I've partnered to help me create a story that makes sense and is a pleasurable read. As a reader, I've come across some books where I didn't particularly like the hero or heroine, but as I continued reading my opinion changed. I've also read books where one of the main characters irked me so badly I put the book down and never picked it up again. I don't want the latter to happen with those who buy I'M LOSING YOU, so I spent extra time tweaking Mona's personality and changing the way I've written some of the beginning chapters.

Part of the issue with this story is that I write mostly romance, but since two of the brothers in the series were already married when Book One released, their stories are women's fiction and not romance. During this process, I discovered that it is much harder for me to write about married people and their issues, perhaps because they hit too close to home. 

Ramona is the beautiful, pampered wife of Dr. Vic Stafford, who is the first black and the youngest man to be appointed as chief of surgery of the largest medical center in Atlanta. At Vic's insistence, she spent the early years of their twelve-year marriage as a homemaker. Once their sons entered school, Mona busied herself with representing Vic in the medical community by heading up two different groups to raise money for medical charities.

Her life is SO different from mine. She has a live-in housekeeper. When she's not seeing to the needs of her sons or conducting charity events, her time is her own to shop, keep up her physical appearance at the gym, spa or beauty salon. This is the life she has as a result of being married to a man who makes a half-million dollars a year. 

The problem was that a few of my beta readers felt she came across spoiled and ungrateful. That's the last thing I wanted. One of my readers resented Mona's life so much, she refused to continue reading! My whole purpose in writing this story was to show that even with all of the benefits of his salary, Mona and Vic have issues in their marriage that money can't fix.

During the rewrites of the first few chapters, I made a point of showing Mona's background. Her parents divorced, and she was raised by a "pageant mom" who committed her life to entering her beautiful daughter in competitions from the age of three. 

She believed if she taught Mona who to be attractive, poised and fashionable, she would have no problem finding the perfect husband. The only reason she sent her to college was to place her in a pool of possible eligible men, and her plan worked. The problem is that this kind of upbringing taught Mona that being pretty is the most important thing in the world.

I've worked hard to show that Mona is a good woman who loves her husband and sons, but when it seems as though she's losing the man she loves, she attempts to regain his attention in the wrong way. This book is the shortest one in the series, and it does have a happy ending.

Vic's issues revolve around his new job, and I'll talk about those in my next post.


I'm hoping for an early September release, if not sooner...



3 comments:

T said...

I'm looking forward to reading Mona and Vic's story. I had no doubts that Mona was a good person, but that her had influenced her ways, based on the little info provided about her mother in the sneak peek excerpts. When I read about a character like Mona, my heart tends to go out to the characters because you can see that they're screaming out for attention, but not screaming out loudly enough which sometimes causes them to do things that should be the last thing done to get said attention. I only wish I was privy to being a Beta for your writing Chicki. The year has flown by thus for, but I have a feeling the September will feel like a lifetime getting here. Thanks for sharing your dilemma.
T

writerron said...

Dear Chicki, I completely understand your state of mind as you form a character and present him/her to readers. Building a bible of charcters is very difficult. We must let the reader inside the character to understand their motivations (intellectual and/or emotional). Furhtermore, we must show the reactions of other charcaters to our primary charcters. We must see the mirror and the world view and portray that wrapped around avery compelling story. A story that the reader must uncover.

Once in a while my characters take charge and move differently from my initial plan. I balkj, I fight them but I listen too. Sometimes they are correct (I believe) and I allow them a freeer head to move. More oftn they must follow the game plan.

I too have readers who take the time and grteat effort from their busy lives and read my pages. Unfotunately, all too often, they offer ptaise without criticism. In readers groups I have found a wide range of skills and understanding about story. Sometimes the critiques are about changing a word-one word- in a 1500 word offering. I have dismissed these folks because I need comments about story and character development.

As much as I'm sure that you're readers are good and loyal, perhaps even well schooled in story telling, I suggest you don't run from our most basic mantra (well, not really a mantra) which is "...to thine own self be true." Just sayin' :) Ron Feldman aka writerron.

Chicki Brown said...

Thanks, T. I am looking for more beta readers, so if you're interested, e-mail me at chicki663@comcast.net so we can chat.

Ron, I appreciate your input. I take heed all reviews/comments, but I tweak the story based on the comments of my critique partners unless I strongly disagree with them. In this case, I believe they were right. I needed to make Mona a more sympathetic character so women can relate to her (even though she has money).