How to Write a Bestseller with Joy Fielding – Day 3

The day is done and I survived my critique.
But I’ll get to that.
Today’s lesson revolved around the all-important point-of-view (POV), technique, characterizations, and moving the narrative forward.  Some of the insights:
- Flashbacks have to have a purpose.  They should be interesting and shouldn’t be too long because they can stop a story.
- Always ask yourself, “how do I move the action?”
- Action, Action, Action
- Conflict, Conflict, Conflict
- Guard against passive characters – “said the woman who wrote a book about a woman in a coma [‘Still Life’]. ”   Direct quote, I swear.
- Characters have to be doing something, as opposed to things happening to them.  If they are merely a receptacle for the action around them that’s not that interesting.
- If nothing is changing in your narrative, nothing is happening in your narrative.
- In popular fiction, don’t write a downer, but don’t worry so much about a happy ending as much as a satisfying ending.
-Humor will make a character likable.  So can charm.    
- Use everything, every experience.
- Don’t censor yourself
- Don’t be afraid of drama.
- Your situation can be ridiculous if the characters are believable.  But there always has to be a payoff.
- In publishing, nobody knows what they’re doing (well that’s a relief.)
- Always play fair with your reader.
- If you’re going to introduce something, bring it back.

The Critiques
I’d be lying if I said my bowels weren’t churning more than a little today as I awaited critiques from my fellow classmates about my chapter.  But, I reminded myself to listen and not get defensive. 
I reworked my 25 words or less description to make it less vague, as was the complaint, and the second version was met with enthusiasm: 
1st version: A woman disappears and is later killed…except death isn’t always what it appears to be.
2nd version: A woman struggles to untangle the secrets of her sister’s life that may have lead to her death.
Overall, my fellow classmates were fairly complimentary to my pacing, dialogue and characterizations.  Everyone agreed I started strong, but didn’t end strong, which when I looked back at the end of the chapter, I got it.  The other complaints were things I pretty much expected, as they related to plot and things I’ve been trying to solve for the past few months. I kept my cool and didn’t get defensive (yay!!) but focused instead on answering questions that were asked.
Joy said that overall – “especially the first part” – was “well-done” (double yay!!) and had some minor edits and a few ideas about how I might work myself out of the plot holes I have. 
So, not too many body blows.  Of course I haven’t read the written comments yet, so I just might be crying into my wine later tonight.
We critiqued three additional pieces and they went pretty much as expected.  One student’s piece suffers from an identity crisis (is it romance? Horror? A cooking book?), another’s description was quite different from the submission and the third piece was pretty good, but had some POV issues to be worked through.
Tomorrow, we discuss the final four submissions. 
And I’m out of the hot seat.

Now…onto that wine…