Convincing Character, A Must

It takes but one scene, one shaky description, to unravel a story and make the character unconvincing. And once the reader-story connection is broken, there may be no reconnecting.  The reader may understand more than the narrator, or he may not know what pulled him out of the story. But it doesn’t matter because it’s over.

I was reminded of the important reader-story connection today, when a magazine editor replied to a submission I sent long ago. He accepted one of my stories before, but not this time. The reason? Halfway through the story the character slips into a short ‘woe is me’ voice and that weakens the impact. Worse, it affects the character’s credibility.

The editor writes: “She needs to be convincing throughout.  If you can convince the reader that she’s a reliable witness, then the pathos of her situation should emerge naturally to the reader.  The more time she spends saying “woe is me” on the other hand, the less the reader is pulled in.”

 Another reminder that convincing character is a must, meaning the character should be herself, level-headed, strong, and trustworthy.  And all this needs to come across in a natural way to the reader, with no ‘there’s a writer in the room’ feel. Easy enough. 

So, back to work I go. Writing is revising and the outcomes are many — we have a better story or we decide to let go and move on.  I’m okay with either result and hope this new/old lesson remains cemented in my memory for future use.

Good luck with your writing and all you do.




Photo credit: GLAHM 46413: Girl reading (recto)Unfinished,




16 responses to “Convincing Character, A Must

  1. Your lucky he gave you the feedback. Good luck with your revision!

  2. Wow, you got noticed enough that they gave you specific feedback like that??? I’m totally jealous…but trying not to be, because I like you so much… ;-)
    Tina @ Life is Good

  3. It sounds great to get such specific feedback from an editor, that’s the kind of feedback you can actually do something with (rather than a general “no”). Continue to write and submit, good luck!

  4. Great post thanks Sylvia. So much to be ‘on guard’ about. And being objective about one’s own writing has to be the hardest. Great that you got back constructive feedback for editor.

  5. Wow! You got feedback! That’s amazing. Usually I just put a piece down and let it sit for a while before thinking about what I can do to make it better. Critique groups are so good at honing in on weak or losing-it characters, and I depend on mine. Great post, Sylvia. Makes me feel right at home!

  6. Love the way you shared the feedback so others can use it too :)

  7. Thank you for the great reminder Silvia. Although I write non-fiction [for now] and my characters are ‘real’ I still need to be reminded to ‘show’ who they are.
    And yes congratulations on receiving such good feedback. That can only meed positive things for your writing future:)

  8. So true. And you know, I have a tendency to check out with people who do the same thing for too long as well. (Others check out on me then too. LOL)

  9. a good reminder on consistency for sure…
    and really understanding our characters…
    a little astounded on getting quality feedback too
    that is a very good thing…

  10. Contsructive critique whether it is from an editor or critique group, is always helpful when we are open to hearing it. Good luck with your revision. :-)

  11. Constructive critique whether it is from an editor or critique group, is always helpful when we are open to hearing it. Good luck with your revision. :-)

I welcome your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s