Monday, September 24, 2012

Discovering What Deights--Reader Feedback

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Photo by AcrylicArtist
Sometimes it takes other people to point out something special.

My daughter recently had a friend over, and I was making the girls some snacks.  Our kitchen adjoins an eating area with a bay window that overlooks our backyard.

We have six bird feeders that we keep filled.  One, a hummingbird feeder, attaches to the bay window and provides endless entertainment for our cats.  The hummingbirds are fun to watch--feisty, fast, voracious.  The cats forget the screens are in and try to catch them, leaping at the screens with paws outstretched.  We see the birds from early April through October before they fly off to Mexico for the winter.

Much as they entertain us, after a while, they do fade to the background...just like the rest of the backyard. Basically, they become just an attractive wallpaper. 

They weren't wallpaper for my daughter's friend.

I was shaking popcorn into bowls when the little girl gasped.  "Mrs. Craig! Mrs. Craig!" she ran over to me, wide-eyed with excitement. She grabbed my arm.  "Look!"

I figured there must be a large snake outside, so I didn't even glance in the direction of the feeder.  "No, look!" she said, pointing to the hummingbirds.

Through her eyes, I saw the wonder of the amazing little creatures again. 

Of course I told her how glad I was she thought they were special.  I explained what they were and gave a little information about hummingbirds.  She avidly watched them for a long while.

Sometimes we lose perspective with our stories, too.  The plot and the characters become wallpaper to us.  We know we need an extra set of eyes to find the problems with our book--the plot holes, the echoes of repeated words, the loose ends we forget to tie up.

But it's just as important to have that extra set of eyes to find what's right with our story--what's special.  A turn of phrase, a genuine character, a well-drawn villain. The hours of editing can make us lose perspective on the good parts, too.  We need to know what works so that we can provide more of it.

What are the hummingbirds in your story?