Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Four: Older Characters And Ignoring Beta Readers

Kathy, my editor, said she didn't think she'd ever seen older characters like Walt and Nora in a children's book. I wanted to create characters with powerful personalities who had interests with which they were totally engaged. At the same time, I wanted to be clear that these were not young people. Nora's hair has faded and her face is lined. Walt is balding, has a bad eye, and is losing muscle tone.

Michael has to see both those aspects of Walt and Nora, that they are aging but that that doesn't change their commitment to and interest in the world. That is the point of the following excerpt.

    Spandex girlie things on an old lady, Michael thought. Oh, jeez.
    He supposed that for a woman of her advanced years Nora looked pretty good in her skimpy workout wear. Her upper arms, Michael couldn't help noticing, were in much better shape than his own, and there was nothing hanging over the top of the little panty/shorts/whatever she was wearing. That was as much as he could take in before his vision began to blur.
    I'm being struck blind, he thought hysterically. Thank God.
    "… and lifting weights maintains bone density," Nora concluded as she switched to bicep curls. "If you can maintain bone density, you can eliminate a lot of health problems that require prescription drugs. If you can stay off prescription drugs, you can avoid supporting the pharmaceutical industry, which is making a fortune off our medications. We did an article on that in The Earth's Wife, oh, just last year. Honestly, who really wants to support the pharmaceutical industry?"
    Michael—who was quite certain that if he made it into some third-tier college, his mother's investments in pharmaceutical stock would be paying his tuition—smiled and nodded without committing himself to anything.
I had three teenage boys read Saving the Planet & Stuff before publication. At least two of them insisted this scene had to go. One of them was very insistent. He was kind of horrified, to be honest.

Do other writers ignore their beta readers the way I ignored mine?

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