I wrote an MG story based on a literary classic, which brings said classic into the contemporary world (no, no more Jane Austen, I promise). I wanted to stay true to the classic written by Robert Louis Stevenson (that's all the clue I'm going to give you). But when I presented it for a critique by an editor out of one of the large publishing houses, while she liked the concept, she said it 'enabled white male rage.' She made other points, most of which I thought valid and could easily incorporate into my manuscript. But how to address the social aspect of 'white male rage', i.e. a main character, yes, who's white because that's how the classic was written almost 200 years ago, who messes around with science which changes him and not for the better. The editor saw this as an excuse for his behavior- he can't help himself from being violent. Now I see she has a point; white male character goes on rampage but it's not his fault. However, while I have it that my character's a violent person, all through the story is woven that he must take responsibility for his actions. The parent explains it like this; it's like being left-handed in a right-handed world. Yes, my main character, a boy, is different than almost everyone, and his condition makes him struggle, but he, ultimately, has the control and responsibility of his condition. He has to adjust, not the world. (And changing the race would only get me labeled racist because I'm white, so don't even go there.)
I pondered her comments. I switched the gender of the main character to female, thus breaking away from the classic, but it was a new twist and that can be a good thing. But that change was problematic all through the story. Maybe it's my own prejudices, but a girl would react totally different in almost all the conflicts. I managed to address most of the issues, but it was a domino effect which made the twisty ending, which I loved, improbable and clunky.
It is no longer my story, but someone else's. And I didn't feel their love or connection to the story; it seemed more like a 'PC run amok' story.
Here's the rock: I don't like the new story, especially the weaker ending.
Here's the hard place: Based on the editor's comments, it seems everything has to go through a PC filter or it won't get pubbed.
Hollywood seems to be the only place where this story could thrive. But, if I can't get this story published, it will die a lonely death in my drawer.
And just like Wiley E. Coyote trying to catch the Roadrunner, here's the boulder that falls on top to completely squash me: it's part of a classics revitalization trilogy. While the connection to the next book wouldn't be too problematic, if I can't get editors past the first book, the other two are just cumbersome piles of paper to be recycled.
Friends and colleagues have weighed in and it comes down to this:
- Write your story.
- They probably wouldn't pub it as is, so make the changes.
- You can make this work.
It all comes down to writing a story I don't love, which generally doesn't work out well for writer, agent, or editor. Talk about impossible barriers. Or, keeping the basic storyline with the other suggestions the editor gave me. Finally, just chucking the whole story and starting the trilogy with the next book, featuring a female protagonist.
I'll have to mull this one over. It disheartens me because these stories are a bridge between the classics I love to a contemporary time and place. As an English major and a former substitute teacher, this kills me that my brainchild must be so bastardized that it can pass PC filters which leaves the story barely alive.
|Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels|
What to do, what to do...