Wednesday, December 20, 2006

State of the MSS

In an end-of-year regrouping effort, I went through all the personal feedback I've received on TMT from agents. Yes, folks, there is a pattern. Here are a few (not all) of the comments, in the order I received them:

"Katherine seemed too oblivious, and I just didn't want to read more about her." {OUCH}

"The key problem for me was Katherine, who, for the majority of the book, was too meek and passive to satisfy me."

"I didn't get to know the characters as deeply as I wanted to."

"I found myself increasingly impatient with Katherine and her naivete, and as a result I lost sympathy with her and her plight."


"Perhaps part of the problem is that I had a hard time warming up to Katherine. She certainly seems like a sympathetic character, and yet I felt distanced from her."


Ho-kay. First, I'm not including the compliments here, or other feedback. They almost all had really nice things to say about writing, pacing, and plot, so I'm very grateful for that. But you see the problem, right? Nobody likes poor Katherine. I do think I'm improving in terms of correcting the passive/naivete issue. Now she's apparently at least sympathetic, but I still have to address the distance problem if I want anybody to connect with her enough to buy the puppy.

On the recommendation of a fellow author friend, I've ordered "Creating Unforgettable Characters" from Amazon, which might have some new ways for me to think about Katherine...and my other characters in TMT and Book 2.

I'm not discouraged, not yet, as I still feel that I can improve the book, and that I'm close. (_I_ like Katherine, but I don't want to be the only one!) Plus I will continue to work on Book 2, which will be Even Better.

Medieval Word of the Day: tuck: To afflict by way of punishment; to punish, chastise; to ill-treat, torment.


sara said...


I feel your pain! I know many readers very quickly get impatient with less-than-perfect characters. Me, I get more impatient with too-perfect characters, or characters that are just so good at everything. But larger-than-life protagonists seem to be the norm rather than the exception in these days. Does no one else just like to read about _people_ (preferably in out-of-the-ordinary situations)? *wg*

And at any rate, I love watching characters grow, and if so, you need something for them to grow from.

/Sara E.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
I completely agree with Sara and wonder if I will meet with the same comments. Surely, agents realize not all mc's need to burst onto the page dripping of perfection. How can there be growth if the characters are so staunch from page one? Even though strong characters sell, I know there's an audience for evolving mc's.

Susan Adrian said...


Yeah, the too-perfect characters bug me too. I think Katherine WAS a bit too passive in the early bits before, but I got some good advice to strengthen her in small ways. That still allows for character growth, which is an important part of the book, but doesn't get readers as frustrated with her. I'm not sure if it's enough yet, though...

Susan Adrian said...


I definitely don't think they need to be perfect--but it does seem, at least right now, that they are looking for strong female characters from the get-go. I've tried to show Katherine's strength in other ways. We shall see!!

sara said...

I'm sure you'll find a good balance!

And you are right, "spunky" female characters definitely seem popular now--no matter how out of place their (often quite rude) behaviour would be in the culture the author has built around them(for of course, their MC is so very special, she is the exception to any rule).

/Sara E.