Sometimes I wonder if I’m not making things harder for myself. I’m thinking this after reviewing some feedback for a contest I entered a while back. It was my chess playing hero’s story and he didn’t do all that well in the contest. Why? Because one judge HATED the story. Now, most of the other judges really liked it. They scored me really well. But this one, particular person just did not like it at all. In fact, the only thing that would have made this story better for them would be if I had never written it at all. Same with my other entry – which actually did really well but only just missed a final placing. One judge did NOT like Presents. They did NOT like alpha males. And they stated it in the feedback sheet and scored me accordingly.
So now I’m wondering if entering my writing into contests is really a good idea. I knew my chess hero wouldn’t get anywhere because he’s a very polarising hero. He’s damaged and hard and screwed up. He’s a love him or hate him kind of guy and sure enough one judge loved him and one judge hated him. Perhaps if I’d played it safe and softened him up, he would have done better in the contest. Perhaps that’s what I should be doing with all my stories.
This is why I’m wondering if I’m making it harder for myself. Because I don’t like safe, tried and true conflicts. I like difficult, dark conflicts. I like flawed characters. Because they’re interesting and when they overcome their difficulties, the emotional pay off is that much more intense. But it IS hard to pull off and some readers just don’t like reading that kind of stuff.
It’s a conundrum. My chess player was, I think, the first character I’ve written that truly came alive to me in my head. Who made me see that my characters in previous stories were amalgams of forced together traits and conflicts, like a badly put together mosaic. But he came together really organically, as a whole person, and just leapt off the page at me. I never had to question what he would do at a particular moment in the story because I always knew, because I knew HIM as a person. He has a special place in my heart for precisely that reason and when I write now, I remember how his character came together and if I’m not feeling that way about the characters I’m currently writing then I know I have to stop and think about them some more. I must admit though that when I wrote it, I did wonder if I should pull back on him. But then to do so would have been to make him someone he wasn’t and I couldn’t do that.
So I guess that’s my conundrum, do I play it safe with the tried and true and make it easy for myself? Or do I keep writing about the characters and conflicts that interest me and perhaps make that publication goal harder? What would you do?