As most writers know, rejection is a very large–and very important–part of what we do. For me, it’s actually (and I know this is going to sound totally insane) one of my favorite parts. Not because I find it pleasant, (“how do I find thou lacking, let me count the ways….”) but because I’m one of those people who starts to feel bouts of paranoia in the absence of constructive criticism. I find I can’t believe that no one is wandering around out there in the world, talking smack about me or my writing in some forum or another. It’s messed up, and I do realize that. But that deep-seated neurosis is why, when I receive a truly jarring bit of critique, some sick little part of me does a little dance of joy.
Take the other day, for example. I received a very nice bit of feedback in the form of a rejection for a piece I had written. The person doing the rejecting was very complimentary about my writing style and ideas, but they didn’t think my main character was relatable enough.
My first response was something along the lines of:
And WHOA, I was lucky enough to get personalized feedback, and some thoughtful compliments to boot. Not bad for an industry that has a rep for being extremely cloak and dagger about its motivations at times, right?
And WHILE WE’RE AT IT, as far as criticisms went, things could’ve been a LOT worse. (i.e. ‘your writing is terrible,’ or ‘your story idea makes no sense and therefore sucks,’ or ‘kill yourself.’)
But THEN, I started to think…what if that little bit of critique turns out to be the one thing standing in the way of my career? And what if I’m not putting enough dire emphasis on it? What if it’s not subjective, and what if everyone who ever reads my story feels the EXACT SAME way???
At that point, I did what any journalism nerd would do. I looked it up.
And that was when I realized….OH NO.
I’ve never been on the same page as the rest of the world, probably ever. Relatable? I’m not that person. If I wrote the story of my life, from start to finish, with all the little awkward details…very few people would actually GET it. I’m strange. I always have been. My sense of humor takes some getting used to. I use a lot of superannuated words and superfluous adjectives. In high school, I dressed like a 30-year-old correspondant for CNN:
(This is my HS Yearbook Picture. I’m dead serious.)
And finally, the KICKER: up until that very moment, I had honestly, genuinely believed that my MC was relatable as hell. Because she reminded me of me. So now, I’m having a little bit of a paradigm shift. I’m starting to wonder, what makes a character relatable to EVERYONE, and not just a few choice (strange) people? I realize that literature is extremely subjective, and yet I find myself inspired to explore this topic.
So you tell me.
1. How are you inspired by rejection?
2. What do you think “relatable” means? And what makes a character feel relatable to you?
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