As a writer, rejection is both painful and helpful. It stings when our babies are not loved. The cuts can be deep and require copious amounts of ice cream and sulking for a few days to overcome. However, constructive feedback can change a story, make it better than previously imagined.
A few weeks back I was fortunate to receive a rare kind of feedback from an agent: a rejection coupled with a few lines letting me know where my story fell short, namely my opening needed a hook. I’m not going to lie, it stung. My heart dropped and I was about to begin a wallowing period when my muse jumped up, whacked me in the head, and yelled, “look closer.”
So I did. I looked closer at the constructive feedback, and as I read my muse whispered in my ear, “make Cam Deaf.”
Me: Whoa, we weren’t going to make a main character have a hearing loss, not yet. It’s something we’ll only be able to do a few times and we already have that story idea for a Hard of Hearing female.
Muse: But Cam should be Deaf. Think about it.
I thought about it. And even as I was still hesitant to make the leap, all the little details of the story shifted. Plot points became stronger. The character’s whole existence solidified in ways I couldn’t have predicted.
I did what any self-conscious writer does. I reached to my writer friends. Diversity is huge in the writing world right now and most were thrilled at the prospect of a Deaf male hero in a romance. A few others were leery, suggesting I make my female have a hearing loss instead.
Muse: No, no. She’s hearing. Cam is Deaf!
Or have him be Hard of Hearing, not Deaf.
Muse: Are you nuts? No! He’s Deaf!
I was starting to agree with my muse. I went back into my story, just to test the waters, and changed up my opening. I’ve since learned my opening was cliché: two characters meet across a bar, their eyes lock, magic! In making Cam Deaf my opening is still set at a bar, but now my female is staring at him, after already figuring out he couldn’t hear.
I shared my first page with my writer friends. The universal comment: Yes! It works! So I continued. This wasn’t a small change. This affected nearly every scene. Communication needed to be altered. Every time Cam heard something I had to remove it. Visual cues needed to be put in. And the amount of times my characters were speaking to one another without facing each other… (facepalm)
But… I’m in love. And I’m convinced; he was always supposed to be Deaf, not just his grandmother. The story is richer with the change, and I’m excited to put hearing loss front and center.
Now I wait for my readers to get back to me on the full revision. My fingers are crossed it works.
Since I already have my original first page hiding out on my blog, perhaps I’ll share my new first page:
I need to get laid, Nica thought as she stared into her amber cocktail. Deceitful little drink, really. It looked harmless, tasted fruity, and was packed full of potent alcohol. Potent enough that she lost her common sense halfway through the first glass.
She was now on her third, scanning the room for a man to prey on.
She sighed and pulled herself up from her gloom. The bar was packed for a Tuesday night. Waves of chatter encompassed her, creating a low hum in her ears. Across the narrow room, a young couple flirted close together, clanking glasses. He whispered in his date’s ear. She blushed then nodded. Must have been something dirty. The guy looked around the bar before asking the man next to him a question.
The second man turned, a sense of sorrow rolling off him. Hair the hue of rich caramel stuck out in different directions. He shook his head and pointed to his ear, before turning back to his drink.
One side of Nica’s mouth quirked and she bit her lip. Her fingers itched to smooth down his messy hair.
His broad shoulders stiffened and he turned. She tried to pull her gaze away before he caught her staring, except she didn’t move. Not an inch. Total disconnect from cranial activity to body movement. Damn fruity drinks. A pair of brown eyes locked with hers. Crap. She knew better than to be rude and stare. Quick, sign something, she willed her hands, anything.