by Kim Van Sickler
The time feels right to get my human trafficking book out into the marketplace.
After a year of, “Great story, but too edgy for us,” I’m ready to self-publish. I’ve polished the manuscript and have a convincing cheerleader in Dr. Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, a human trafficking educator at The Ohio State University. She encourages me by insisting that my book captures the essence of human trafficking better than any fictional account she’s ever read. She wants to make it required reading for her massive open online course on human trafficking.
So now what?
I contacted CreateSpace, the self-pub arm of Amazon for an editorial evaluation. The evaluation took about two weeks and covers issues like plot, structure, and pacing. Overall I’m left with plenty of encouraging comments like this one under the subhead: Writing Style:
The overall style and tone works for the manuscript, given the plot and genre. The syntax, diction, and word choice are appropriate. The author has a gift for incorporating the other four senses (sound, taste, touch, and feel) besides sight into her prose. This works especially well for the sex and rape scenes. For instance, on page 103, it states: “Me on top doing all the work while he lies there like an engorged tick. A tick that oozes fast food and coffee from his large pores.” The author’s voice remains consistent, since she retains a young adult, female voice quality throughout the entire book.
However, there are areas where change is urged. And now I’m faced with deciding whether I am going to venture down those roads or not. The edit recommends I change the name of the book because it “sounds too vague and almost happy-sounding”. Instead, I should reference the darker, more disturbing nature of the story in my title. Even though I consciously chose an innocuous title. One that conjures unremarkable images of an outing with girlfriends, a common place for teenagers to escape Mom and Dad, flirt, and shop. An unremarkable place with pitfalls that every teenager should be aware of.
So do I want to change the title to something darker? I’ll have to ponder that.
The suggestion for change I will really struggle with is the one to nix the three points of view and proceed with my lesbian trafficking victim as the main character. This isn’t the first time I’ve been told that feisty Megan is my strongest character. The evaluator wants the other two victims to become Megan’s back-ups. The reason? “Their backgrounds and experiences are not different enough to warrant separate characters”, even though she felt that, “[A]ll the characters give variety and yet do not confuse the reader”. Again, a trio of victims versus one victim was a conscious decision of mine. The repetitive nature of the indignities they suffer underscores the trafficking nature of the crimes against them. They are cattle. They are a small part of a growing business enterprise: the sale of human flesh for sexual gratification.
Writing from the POVs of the three victims is supposed to amplify the growing magnitude of the problem. I’m fairly sure it’s something I don’t want to change, even if the evaluator thinks writing solely from Megan’s perspective will make the story “more compelling”.
But the suggestion to amp up some of my setting descriptions, to make them more “evocative and concise”, including the “suburban upper-middle class setting from which the girls are kidnapped”, rings true with me. Settings have always been something I need to go back and flesh out. I will definitely read through the manuscript again and do this.
Have you ever felt strongly against incorporating an agent’s/editor’s suggested changes to your story? What have you done about it?