I am currently revising a love story that I submitted to our Writer's Group some months back that I planned to be only a short historical fiction period piece with deep anguish, loneliness, and yet rich in Irish roots: Ken Kerr. It served also as a medicinal path to recovery from a severe case CRIS: Critical Reviewer-Invoked Shakedown. More on that with a later post! The following pre-revised introduction will give you a hint of the narrator voice, genre, and a flavor of style that I tried to create:
The sea lapped over the boots when an hour before it had sprayed just shy of the foothold. The swells will reach the knees in two hours’ time – no; perhaps four hours – and the tide will blanket the body and welcome the flesh to its tenacious realm. Thankfully, the chill of its wintery dominion will kill the breath long before its tide will seize the body. God be willing. A sad night by the sea for his friend, the Lord Kerr, and forlorn was this stay by the sea swathed in a persistent fog. Each hour killed off the senses, one by one, hour by hour, rendering flesh to stone. Lord Tyler’s gut tightened – he might become ill. But what did it matter? There was no escaping this wretched night. There was no one who could cast away by spell this wretched night. There would be no cleansing of the hands of this matter. No… No unraveling of this knotted muddle wrought by this man…this foolish man…this young man, Lord Kerr. His jealous heart.
Ken Kerr takes place in the late 18th Century in Northern Ireland and is set around a modest Castle/Manor - or Ken - of a family Kerr. The manor is fictional, but not so much the events that led to the Kerr family's loss of standing and prominence in Northern Ireland. Not to rehash old scores, but in my story, the remaining family Kerr and nearby villagers of County Antrim blame their loss of fortune, both in crop and jewel, on the English invaders throughout the last century. And when a young Englishman comes to administer over his father's recent purchase of parcels near Ken Kerr - and befriends Lord Hugh Kerr and his sister, Lady Ceara, of Ken Kerr - a love triangle of sorts forms from the chaos of new possibilities, current realities, and old scores. The story is written from Lord Tyler's experience in a close-third POV.
So, what were the critical issues? First of all, I need to note that some Group members gave little to no feedback; two even hated the piece and informed me of such -- verbally. Wow! But of the majority who did review the story, they helped me discover that the style of writing is unique -even "beautiful" and Poe-esque (not my intention, but I am honored) -- yet labored with dense emotion and detail and overly repetitious. Repetitious in that I purposely had my main character, Lord Tyler, come and go from consciousness as he is chained against the rocks of a hollowed cavern by the sea: the very real English Hollow. A suggested fix for this was to keep such detailing of his predicament in front of the story and to "evoke" such detail and setting following the initial descriptions. What I have here is "rich, condensed soup", as one member nicely summarized. Also, the Group was interested to know more about the situations surrounding Lord Tyler's predicament, noting that the secondary characters' Hugh and Ceara - and their one household cook and maid Mary Blevins; their stories were just as interesting as Lord Tyler's! The Group suggested I bring out my supporting characters and let them work their own stories, thus increasing the conflict and the action.
Where I am now? I am trying to add some water to my condensed soup! I am also re-writing with evoking in mind. I am also contemplating creating Ken Kerr into a collection of four stories, each story told from each character's POV. This will be tricky for me having never written is such a format. It is almost like thinking in 4-D! Indeed, I'm not even sure that I want to keep with the same narrating style. Hmm... Still, I have started a new short story with Mary Blevins. She, by the way, represents the Irish 'old score' arch. I need to be very careful how I write her, for she might evoke from her pages a solid fist and a square punch on my nose if I don't stay true to her version of history!
Condensed soup… Yep!
4-D? If anyone can craft a story in 4 dimensions, I'm quite certain that it's you. About hearing the reviews, (I know I told you this) a writing workshop teacher told my class that you should listen to everything, take it all in, and then use the 10% that helps you.ReplyDelete
Huh. Any thoughts?
Hi Heather. Yes, I remember you telling me this. I see the logic in not wanting to slow down the writing process by getting bogged down in critical reviews. As writers, we are rarely ever satisfied with our "finished" work as it is! We are always finding something that needs changing, always doubting our work. Certainly, some reviews are worth gold by their expert suggestions. And I am always red-faced, though humbled just the same, when multiple reviews point out the same errors or indicate a shared mass confusion. Very helpful! Still, how helpful is it to be told 'I hated it because it's not my favorite genre'? Not very helpful. Those comments go on the 90% pile, I guess. Anyone got a match? Ha!ReplyDelete
mmmmm...soup.Actually, come to think of it, I don't like soup. I do however love "Ken Kerr".ReplyDelete
also not my genre, and it took me a couple of read throughs to absorb the reality of two characters. your description definitely brought me into the moment, and left me wondering what has happened.ReplyDelete
is mary blevins a character from frankenstine? she sounds so familiar to me. annie
Mary Blevins is my own messy character whom, unfortunately, can never achieve beyond my messiness. Ha! Sadly, I have never read Frankenstein. Actually, no; it's not sad. It's embarrassing!ReplyDelete