Or, trusting your readers
Trust is a tricky thing. Learning to trust praise is even harder. I still assume most people are ‘just being polite’ when they react positively to just about anything I do, writing-related or not. Because I’m closer to the thing they’re admiring, I see the imperfections and difficulties along with its beauty. I’ve learned to say, ‘good enough,’ for the sake of my sanity, but I started life as a perfectionist, and that mindset pops up at weird times.
It doesn’t help that we live in a social climate that only tolerates ‘approved’ imperfections and will tear unapproved imperfections to shreds. And it’s all well and good to say, ‘just ignore them,’ but that’s a skill in itself, as is taking useful criticism.
The current WIP is a very ‘feminine’ story, in the sense that the focus is on the emotions. And boy, howdy, are there a lot of them. Turns out, being murdered leaves a few psychological scars; the main character spends most of the book trying to figure out what normal looks like and reminding herself that, yes, consequences do exist; just because they’re not as severe as you know, dying, doesn’t mean they’re ignorably insignificant. Lots of ups and downs, and switching from big, intense emotions like, ‘this person is a threat; kill it,’ to more self contained ones like, ‘why is this random classmate looking at me?’
There’s a strong temptation to spell out every little emotion, exacerbated by the fact that the character is fairly cerebral and consciously thinks about her feelings and reactions, by nature and because she’s trying to conceal them from the other characters. She’s also an oddball, so not all of her reactions make sense from a normal person’s perspective. From a writerly perspective, I don’t want to confuse the readers when they come to a reaction that follows naturally from the MC’s personality and experiences, but is weird when seen in an emotional vacuum.
But too much navel-gazing will bog down even the most exciting story. So I have to pick a few things worth describing, whether they’re physical or emotional items, and trust the reader to fill in the gaps.
Not an easy task. Aside from judging which items are important enough to describe, it feels like giving up- ‘I’m never going to get this right, so I might as well half-ass it and hope the average reader is smart enough to understand what I’m talking about.’ But I’m tired of doing rewrites. Time to try something new.