Author’s Note: This entry doesn’t make sense unless you’ve read my Jillian Cage short story that I posted the other day.
On Sunday, I got a piece of feedback on my Jillian Cage story that I knew was coming sooner or later. I new it was coming because it was something that I had been thinking about a lot ever since I came up with the character in the first place.
My commenter observed that she could be more vulnerable. Like I said, finding ways to make her more vulnerable has been on my mind for awhile. The comment came after my friend had read the latest chapter in the story in which there is a brief fight scene.
What happens is pretty straight forward. Jillian is looking to do some hand-to-hand combat training exercises or sparring. She is in the gym and starts to scout an opponent. She observes a particularly tall and muscle bound guy lifting weights and believes him to be an ideal target.
So she goes over to him and adopts a different personality. She appears timid and lacking for confidence. She asks him to spar but averts her eyes from him as she does so. He ends up agreeing, calls her girly in the process and basically falls into her trap.
They spar for only a few minutes before she is victorious. In the early stage she is playing with him by allowing him to believe that he is playing with her. He is superior to her in strength but she has him beat in experience and technique.
After the fight is over in less than 5 minutes she gives him a lecture. Not because she’s a proud woman or feels compelled to rub it in but because this man is ultimately on her team and she wants him to be a better fighter in case, as unlikely as it seems to her, they get partnered together on an assignment in the future. As she tells him, when one of us fails, we all fail.
I like the scene a lot. It could be improved and will when I get around to a second draft. My friend thought it made her seem too invulnerable. As I think about it more, I’m not sure I agree with her but it is valuable feedback because it makes me consider the question further.
As she is lecturing her beaten opponent we find out about one of her distinguishing features. She has a scar on her stomach she received when she was slashed by a knife wielding assailent. She explains that she was disarming one foe and was surprised by a second because she had not prepared for the possibility that she was dealing with only one enemy. The scar idea came to me early for the exact reason that I thought it would make her more vulnerable. I wanted something that would be perminent and serve to remind both character and reader that she makes mistakes. She may be able to recover from them and she may not make the same ones over and over again but she does make mistakes.
There are other ways I think that she is vulnerable. There are hints of a nasty tempor that I plan to develop as the story progresses. She is also not someone who is comfortable around other people. She keeps her distance and as a result doesn’t have a lot of friends. The situation with her family stresses her out and that is definitely something I plan to exploit down the road.
Right now, as the story has been written, she is going through a day at work. She isn’t facing an opponent that wants to do her harm and can push her buttons. That sort of thing will come eventually but essentially I have written 3 chapters so far. But the question of vulnerability is always one I want to have on my mind.
My character is a hard worker. She is intelligent, confident (at least when it comes to work, her personal life not so much), she gets things down and has been known to kick a little ass. But I want her to be relatable to people and for that to happen, flaws need to be there and on display for the reader.
but the lesson I have learned from that piece of feedback is this. It helps to be able to talk these things out. I was discussing that feedback with Melissa and it was by doing so that I realized where some of her vulnerabilities lie even if I have only hinted at them up to this point in the text. It was one of those things where I didn’t write a single word on Sunday and still feel like I managed to make some progress.
I put this offer out there to anyone reading this post. I will, from time to time, post exerpts of what I have written here on the blog. But, if you would like to receive more frequent drafts of the story, I have a list of people that I email updates to every so often. It is basically once a week or once every two weeks. If you would be interested in offering me more immediate feedback all you need to do is email me andI will add you to the list.