07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Makeover – Literary Style

By Robin Weaver

All of us watch those shows (even if we don’t always ‘fess up).  You know the ones I mean.  A frumpy stay-at-home mom and a Goth-looking college student walk onto the set. An overly bubbly announcer introduces some wonderful product and an amazing makeup artist. Then, voila.  A curling  iron and a bottle of hair gel later, Frumpy and Dumpy are now the hot momma who could play Mrs. Robinson and the fraternity girl most likely to get an STD.

I am, of course, talking about the infamous makeover. I can’t tamp down my skepticism enough to believe Frumpy and Dumpy really looked that bad prior to the makeover.  Surely the show’s producers intentionally frizzed their hair for those hideous “before” images.  Maybe they even put gray paste on the To-Be-Made-Overs’ faces.  And I’m certain some production assistant scours thrift stores in search of the worst clothing possible.  When the assistant finds her prize, she stomps on the shapeless dress or baggy jeans with combat boots prior to dressing the poor “volunteers.” When presented in cocktail dresses for the REVEAL, like any woman who goes from Goodwill to couture, the makeover models look one heck of a lot better.

Seriously, short of surgery or drastic liposuction, how much can you really do in a short period of time to improve your looks?

Fiction, fortunately is different. Forget hair products. You, the great and powerful Oz-thor, have magic at your disposal. With a few strokes of your literary pen, you can take a bad manuscript (assuming there’s a decent plot or you have a good voice) and make the tale into a fascinating story.
Have a heroine you don’t like?  Kill her off on page one and promote the amazing sidekick to leading lady status. Are you main characters boring? Just add equal parts of tension and quirkiness and Ozzie and Harriet morph into Morticia and Gomez Addams.

You can even reshape your basic plot into a totally different story. Believe it or not, you can do this with minimal rewrite.

I originally wrote Forbidden Magic, my first novel, about vampire-type characters living in a world without warm-blooded creatures.  My vamps existed on a mineral mimicking the properties of human blood. Naturally, the mineral was becoming depleted (aka external tension). Unfortunately, no one wanted yet another vamp story.

I instigated a makeover.  First, I made my characters Dökkálfar and álfar—ancient elves.  Since my hero and heroine were no longer vampire, they no longer needed blood. Thus I needed another rare substance necessary to my characters’ survival. To keep my external conflict from disintegrating, I decided the sun on my fictional world wouldn’t have the spectrum of Earth’s solar unit.  Naturally, I made this spectrum necessary to elfin survival.  So what could emulate sunlight? What else? Crystals. And all the quartz had been mined.

I kept the same plot. My characters’ goals, motivation, and conflict didn’t change. Yet my novel had a completely different look. And since the story didn't fit my normal writing style--romantic suspense and mystery, I gave my author name a makeover, too.  With an alias--Genia Avers.

If your novel isn’t getting the attention it deserves, if your manuscript is dated, or if you just need more oomph, you too can perform the literary makeover—no license required. Remember, a good story (regardless of genre) needs great characters, with great conflict, and a goal worth achieving. The rest is just…well, hair product and cocktail dresses.

How about you?  Performed any literary makeovers on your manuscripts?

The Gingerbread Skirmish (A Holiday in Merryvale Story) by [Weaver, Robin]

Available at Amazon.com.

Available at Amazon.com.


Sarah Raplee said...

Great post! I have not done any literary makeovers, but I have a manuscript that could use one. Thank you for the inspiration!

Judith Ashley said...

Can't say I've watched that many 'human make-over' shows but I love the remodeling shows on HGTV! And, I've remodeled most parts of my house. Love your ideas on "Literary Make-Overs". Will keep that idea filed away!

Ann Chaney said...

Great Post, Robin! As for me and makeovers of any kind I love to watch the process. I love any kind of renovation/makeover show. I am entranced watching the old become new again or almost new again. Great ideas for story makeovers too.

Linda Lovely said...

I'm with Judith. Don't bother with the human makeover shows as I can't stand makeup (and am allergic to most). But I do watch remodeling shows now and again. And I know you're absolutely right about literary makeovers. Editing and rewriting are often where the magic happens. Thanks for reminding us that a drab first draft can be a finished knock-out.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, Robin! I changed the hero in my current WIP from the Army lieutenant to his driver, and it brought the whole story to life.

Vonda Lee said...

Good read....

Diana McCollum said...

My favorite makeover show is "Flea Market Flip". I love the way the contestants refurbish their finds and give many obsolete items new life. I have a manuscript I haven't touched in many years. I could probably do a literary makeover on it!! Something to think about. Great post!!!

Maggie Lynch said...

Your description of potential makeover for humans made me laugh. I have been the recipient of a makeover a couple of times. I have to admit, it can be pretty amazing--the right makeup, the right clothing, the right walk. The question in the end, for me, has always been twofold: 1) Is this the me I want to present to the world; and 2) Am I willing to put in the work to achieve this me every day. Invariably, the answer is NO to both of those. I'm a love-me-as-I-am kind of gal because it's me and it's easy. :)

Regarding the literary make-over, you have an interesting point. I've never done one to the extent you describe in your manuscript. I would more likely start a new book, instead. However, there have definitely been times when I realized that my secondary character was taking over the book and I needed to do a rewrite in order to make it HER book instead of who I thought was the protagonist. It was painful even to do that much. It hasn't happened again. :)

Well-written post. Thank you!