Feedback on Story or Best Way to Tell Story?
I’ve always considered the first draft of a novel as a time to get the story down on paper. The second draft is a time to consider the best way to tell that story.
So, when I’m looking at feedback from a reader, a critique of a draft, I’m considering this, too. Is the reader questioning the story, or are they referring to the best way to tell that story? My reaction depends on the answer to this.
Questions about the Story
Some feedback questions the basics of my story.
Not believable: Sometimes a reader simply doesn’t believe the premise of the story, it’s too far-fetched, or doesn’t ring true in some way. For example, I’m dealing with foster children in my story and the mechanics of placing children in foster care must be believable.
(Of course, the hardest part here is that readers’ experiences differ: those who are foster parents and good ones, tend to gloss over difficulties; social workers who work with the hardest populations and have thus consistently seen the worst, tend to gloss over the good experiences. Partly, this is a balancing act, but it must be addressed.)
Logic: Sometimes, the story logic is flawed. This may be deep enough of a flaw that it makes me reconsider major sections of the story; or it may be minor enough to fall into the category of how to tell the story. If it’s deep enough, it forces me to replot.
Questions about How to Tell this Story to Emotionally Affect the Reader
Here is where I listen the closest to a reader.
Openings. The opening either grabbed the reader or it didn’t.
Endings. The ending was either satisfying to this reader or not.
Characters. The reader either liked or sympathized with the character or not.
Events. Either moved or bored the reader.
In other words, I can’t argue with the reader here. It’s their own personal reaction. So, I listen carefully. But I also try to cast a fairly wide net of readers to get several opinions, because – as editors constantly remind us – there is a great variety of opinions out there.
But believe me, I’m very, very, very concerned about how to tell a story that deeply moves you. Your reaction is everything.