16420 SE McGillivray, #103-103
Vancouver, WA 98683
To the editor:
I received a very nice mention from one of my clients, Joan Szechtman, about my editing in the Acknowledgements section of her latest novel, released March 2012:
"And last, but certainly not least is for all the brilliant editorial help, starting with my editor, Janice Hussein. In addition, to Janet Elaine Smith and Ed Monahan spotting those errors that inevitably creep in through the editing process."
Her (second) book, LOYALTY BINDS ME, received a 4 point rating (4 of 4.5 points) by RT Magazine, and is recommended by Midwest Book Reviews.
Thank you, Joan!
Here's the link to her blog, Random Thoughts of an Accidental Author, and reviews of the novel:
Craft & Technique
THE UNSYMPATHETIC PROTAGONIST
[From page 46, the first page of the article]
Nearly every writer has heard about this character. From other writers, from editors, from agents. We know that editors and agents will reject a manuscript with an unsympathetic protagonist. They won't want to read the novel; they believe, rightly so, that readers won't like the protagonist, won't want to spend 400 pages in close association with that character.
So who is this mysterious character that invades our prose? Who is this masked entity, this unsympathetic protagonist? What is meant by this term and how can we, as writers, avoid this pitfall and create characters that are, instead, sympathetic? The answer is: By unmasking these characters, by peeling away the layers, by making them real.
First, let's unmask what is meant by "unsympathetic protagonist." Let's peel away the layers. In a novel or movie, we like and identify with the protagonist in some way--in their search for justice, for love, for escape, for growth--including their desire and efforts to reach their goals, their dreams, despite their imperfections and the odds against them. We root for them when obstacles stand in their way. Conversely, the unsympathetic protagonist is not someone we like or someone we can identify with--we can't sympathize with this character, with their motivations, goals and dreams. They have qualities we don't like or admire, and they don't have enough positive qualities that would balance out what we don't like. Further, they may also have done something we don't like or that we find reprehensible--their actions are disquieting. We can't connect with the character, and we can't empathize with them or their pursuit of goals and dreams, so we can't root for them.
Thus, if we don't like them or care about the character and we don't like or care about their goals, that means we don't care about the plot, we don't care about the novel. There is nothing to keep us in the story, nothing to keep us turning those pages.
There are basically three kinds of characters who may be defined as unsympathetic: (1) the characters who we simply don't like or can't identify with, but who are not really "terrible" people; (2) the characters whose traits might seem to define them as villains or almost as villains but who escape this definition by the way they are portrayed and who actually become the protagonists of the novel; and finally (3) the actual villains. For our purposes, we will cover the first two of these.
On the spectrum of moral and likable traits, this unsympathetic protagonist lies somewhere...
___________end of first page._________
The article goes on to define unsympathetic & sympathetic, addresses three things that the author must do to create good protagonists, highlights 9 techniques to make your characters more sympathetic, and then offers an example of all the techniques applied.
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From pages 9 & 10:
"What exactly are the Story, Character, Romantic, and Subplot arcs? The Story Arc is the essential or main plot, the "line of development" of the story, the external conflict which poses the Central question that becomes the focus of the hero, through which all the conflict is played -- until the goal is reached at the end, and that Central question is answered. By contrast, the Character arcs are the process of change that a character undergoes over the course of a story, so that by story end, the characters have grown by struggling against the conflict and are thus prepared and able to meet and overcome the "forces of antagonism." Similar to the Story arc, the Romantic arc is a "line of development" in the novel by which the hero and heroine meet, face obstacles to their relationship, and finally come together. This arc can be the main story arc, as in romance novels, or it can be a subplot arc, as in Fatal Burn, by Lisa Jackson. And finally, the Subplot arcs are the secondary plots, story lines that are less important in both scope and length. But in the novel, all these arcs are interrelated, woven together.
Let's start with Story arc, as it is probably the dramatic arc that everyone knows the best. This is the external conflict, involving the protagonist's main goal, the obstacle that must be overcome, and the consequences that must be faced from decisions the protagonist must make to reach that goal.
The story arc shows a progression of conflict. A novel begins by establishing the protagonist's Ordinary world, and then moves the action ahead with the Inciting Incident, the escalating conflict -- 1st turning point, the midpoint or 2nd turning point, and the last or 3rd turning point -- the black moment, and then concludes with the climax, resolution, and perhaps an epilogue. So basically, the setup, complications and turning points, and then the resolution of the conflict."
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16420 SE McGillivray, #103-103
Vancouver, WA 98683