I’m in a lot of Facebook writing groups. (I used to be in a group formed by a friend of mine and his wife, but lives have a pesky way of interfering with the established order of things.)
The groups I’ve joined (some run by self-published authors, some by authors who claim to have rubbed elbows “in the day” but are now just inclined to teach from an armchair…
…and some by fellow unpublisheds/those just starting out) all tend to have a common “ask anything here about character description/motivation/horoscope forecast and get a million comments to choose from” theme.
This is great except that it seems like most of the comments are about whether a villain should have black, blonde, or even shock-white hair. (It may be a shocker to some, but no matter how much effort an author puts into description, there’s still going to be variance on how much of it is picked up by the reader when they create their mental pictures. I spent three years after reading Outlander picturing Black Jack Randall as a blond man. He’s brown-haired/dark-eyed, and Tobias Menzies plays him to bone-chillingly spectacular perfection, but I swear to glob I thought he was blond. Or had a blond wig. And maybe a squint.)
I’ve also seen requests for names for characters more often than what people think of a character concept already written. Like the author can’t put the time in.
I try and remind myself when reading these kinds of posts, “Well, maybe this person just has trouble with names…” But then I ALSO think back: “Self, if you’re having trouble with naming things at such a basic level that you need to have a group of strangers crowd-source the building blocks of your story… you should probably go and sit in a public place long enough to reacquaint yourself with people. And their names.” Because you shouldn’t be asking so many basic questions every single time you sit down to write something. It gets to the point where I think these groups are more a crutch for the members than a way to motivate them to write. It’s easier to ask a million questions and have other people fill in the blanks for you than to do the hard work yourself.
My problems extend more toward finishing stories. I get easily distracted. Creation has never been such a problem for me. I can create names out of thin air, backstory info with intricacies that have made my friends’ eyes glaze over, and speech habits/ticks that make characters stand out with individual voice in dialogue. I have trouble with confidence in my story arcs, or retaining organization of said story arcs (the arcs for Legendary have bounced all over the goddamned place, to such extent that I’m now forcing myself through the death march of typing up every scribble I’ve ever put onto paper and sewing them together in a way that hopefully makes sense… to someone). But for me, a story doesn’t start until I see a character in action in the back of my mind, running-jumping-leaping-climbing-trees, etc.
But so when I see those sorts of posts in group, I think I’m maybe in the wrong groups after all. And then I get depressed, because writing is a solitary profession and nobody understands the inside of my brain like the people who aren’t really in there but are driving me freaking crazy…
Now, I do ask questions, but I want to know if my scenes make sense, or if a motivation would lead a character believably into doing the thing I need them to do.
Not, “Hi, I need to know what would be a great thing to call this girl who likes to wear her hair in ponytails and eat a lot of chocolate.”
I need to find a better, more consistent writing group.