WIP: Lori Morphs Again, or the Value of a Critique Group

Well, if you’ve been following my blog for a number of months, you know the various problems I’ve had with the character Lori, formerly known as Sue Ellen, right after she was known as Joanna. 🙂
(An aside here: John says “never let them see you sweat” when it comes to protecting one’s professional image. I tend to be too open in my life, but I prefer that to being too closed, so I may share more of my writing trials and tribulations than another writer might. I know that many of  you visit to learn about the process of writing, and that process comes with plenty of situations that make a writer sweat. I’m assuming you’d prefer I write about the reality of writing rather than about all the glamourous trappings of the writing life. . . but if I’m wrong, please tell me and I’ll struggle to think of something glamourous that’s happened to me in my twenty years as a writer!)
Something has not felt right to me about Lori/Sue Ellen/Joanna. I had the other point-of-view characters down perfectly: Andy is a guileless little charmer, Maggie is believably conflicted, Marcus is both human and noble. But I kept forgetting Lori’s name (well, duh. . . ) and she hadn’t come to life the way the others had.
Tuesday night I met with my critique group. If you’re writing, I highly recommend getting together regularly with a group of (good) writers. I’d given them a Lori chapter to see how the character came across. Everyone felt something was missing. They couldn’t quite identify what that something was, but I can. Throughout the chapter, I told rather than showed what Lori felt. That’s often a problem for me in an early draft, but I’d gotten past it with the other characters. I realized I didn’t know Lori well enough yet, even after months of writing about her. So I spent today getting to know her better. Part of that required yet another new name: Sara. I did some of the getting-to-know-your-character exercises I teach in my workshops. I found a picture of a woman who looks like her and taped it on my whiteboard. Then Sara hung out with me as I worked, as I went to a doc’s appointment, as I grocery shopped. I really began to feel her fierceness as Andy’s overprotective mother. I’d known all along what she was like, but I hadn’t yet felt her heart. Today I did. Tomorrow, I’ll rewrite that chapter.


  1. Ann on April 5, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    I am so glad that you have “met” Sara!!! I can’t wait to meet her.

  2. Margo on April 6, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Diane, I love the fact that you are a ‘real’ person and tell it like it is with your life. I much prefer the feelings of truth from the heart with a person rather than ‘glamour’. It makes me feel like I really know you as a person so plz continue to share your ups and downs as you do…because that is what real life is all about. And by the way, Sara sounds very, very right.

  3. Glen on April 6, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Diane – please do not hold back! Like I say about the work we do: “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it!”. Thanks for sharing the good , the bad, and the ugly!

  4. Diane Chamberlain on April 6, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Thanks for the support, you guys!
    Glen, tell us what kind of writing you do. Fiction? Non-fiction? And I’ll be on the Island the early part of next week, staying in Surf City, doing research. Can’t wait!

  5. Glen on April 6, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Diane – sorry if I was misleading. I am NOT a writer. I am a computer consultant and have only written technical journals, manuals, RFP’s, and training materials. Sheree is the writer. I’m the geek behind the scenes! She is currently in CA by invitation of the U.S. Marine Corps to produce a series of articles on their Iraqi training camp. She is definitively the talent behind our content on Topsail-Island.Info. I’m sure she would love to have met you when you are here.
    Personally, I just thoroughly enjoy reading how you do your work and the processes you undertake. What a great learning experience I’m getting from you. As a programmer, I’m fascinated with the logistics of how you put it together, including the re-writes and name changes. Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts! On that note, I hope I’m not clogging your blog 🙂

  6. Diane Chamberlain on April 6, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    Glen, Sheree is so lucky to have her own geek! And you certainly ARE a writer even if it’s techie stuff. Anyone interested in more info on Topsail Island, the setting for my WIP, visit the Sheree/Glen Topsail site at http://www.topsail-island.info

  7. Brenda on April 14, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    I am so glad you don’t hold back. We are learning what it is like…believe me I am hating my short stories more and more (for class) and don’t plan to do any more. I prefer my newspaper column…working on my novel…etc… I enjoy reading about how you are working on this novel..it makes it real.
    How is your conference coming in MAY? I won’t get to come this year but am putting it on my list for next time…
    I have a trip in May (over Memorial) to a Triathalon with my son and daughter (my son does them)…in Ohio…July-we go to Lake Placid for his Ironman…I won’t make the one in Panama City in the fall…but good news-looks like he is going to move to warmer weather…we can but hope-even though it will be far way again…
    Enjoy your work…I admire you
    P.S. My group (grad class) love my character, Plain Janie…I just don’t like doing short stories.

  8. Brenda on April 14, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    I would love to read about research done by more authors-esp. Tess Gerritsen…her books…give me chills and I am hooked anyway.

  9. Diane Chamberlain on April 22, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    Tess is so good. I’m sure you know she’s an MD–really gives a dose of reality to her books!

  10. brenda on April 26, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    I emailed Tess because of a comment she made about the VT shooter being Asian…she answered me back-she is great…I told her that most of us are used to others prejudice…believe me…when I have lived somewhere else–the thoughts some people have about those who grew up in WV–so I can understand how she feels (You can read this on her BLOG)
    She is a terrific author and seems to be a really great person

  11. Diane Chamberlain on April 26, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    I did read Tess’s blog post on the VT shooter being Asian and it opened my eyes a bit. I’m pleased and not at all surprised that she wrote back to you– that’s the kind of person she is. I love her writing, but can’t help but think how we need the sort of compassionate physician she must have been!

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