Modest Genius or Psychic: Hats Off to Hoff

Back in the heady days of 2010 and 2011 when I was busy creating “Vampire Syndrome”, one of the fellow members of my critique group was a young woman by the name of Michelle Hoff. She was in the process of creating her magnum comedy opus, “Banged By The Flash“.

Both of us finished our respective works in 2012, and released them to the world.

I went through a strange and intensive multi-year, multi-stage labyrinth of moving up to a small press, and even being signed to a television development deal, before finally ending back up at ground zero and concluding my “writing” life.

Michelle, by contrast, released her e-book on Amazon, and quit writing immediately afterward.

I didn’t understand her reasons for doing so at the time, but I do now. Not just that, I really admire her for doing this, as well.

I, like 99.9999999999999% of all authors out there, was trying to make a cultural impact. To change the world, or at least some of my readers, for the better.

Michelle, by contrast, wanted nothing more than to write her novel and be done with it. Most likely a “bucket list” proposition, which I would infer from her Amazon author page photo of her trip to Costa Rica a year later. I myself fulfilled a bucket list dream by driving my 1960 Plymouth station wagon on a 3,000+ mile road trip from Denver to northern Washington state (and back) in 2012. Which cost more than first-class airfare, but a first-class road trip life experience is far more precious and much less common than the “easy” way of flying on a commercial aircraft. Now, piloting a light aircraft yourself down to Costa Rica, that would be more analogous to my road trip.

There are two ways I can interpret Michelle’s writing a sole novel just to complete it. Either she is the humblest and wisest author on the face of the Earth, with no other goal but to create one book, “do it right” with the input of a professional critique group, and be done with it, with no further expectations of “how it will do” or “what more can I create?”

She can say, “I wrote a professional-quality novel, vetted by a professional critique group, and you can still buy it on Amazon.”
Which is far more than 99.9999999999999% of all the people saying they have a “great idea for a novel” will ever do.

That, or she was a psychic who could see how the publishing industry and authors’ statures would decline after 2012, and wrote her sole opus while the getting was still relatively good. 😈

Either way, now that I’m finally back to ground zero and normal life, I salute the woman who didn’t take seven years to get back to this, as I did.

Help! My main character is too smart!

What is an author to do when they receive a critique that their main character is too intelligent to be “believable”?

The “Fifty Shades” trilogy is perched in the upper reaches of the charts, and my main character is criticized as being too smart? That’s the best compliment I could ever get! 😆

Frankly, Jack’s voice does not give me the sense that I am listening to a person with Down Syndrome. Jack sounds too intelligent and too cognizant  to have the problem you gave him. You need to present Jack in a way that is believable to most of your readers.

What am I supposed to tell my co-worker of twelve years, who inspired me to create the Jack character?
[sarcasm font] “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re just too smart, I’m gonna have to make Jack dumber than a rock.” [/sarcasm font]

What the O.P. fails to realize is that people with Down Syndrome are individuals. The degree of cognition varies with each individual ( just as it does for “normal” people 😉 ). Jack, like my co-worker, has an IQ in the 90 range. Close to the statistical norm of 100.

A person in that IQ range does not have problems with “basic” word comprehension.
If you say, “Hi, how are you?”, they reply, “Fine, how are you?”
But things get interesting when another speaker uses a fifty-cent word.

Jack, from “Vampire Syndrome”, Chapter 22:
Zetania says, “Remember, our kind protects you Normals from the Pures. We are the rope tied between man and super-beast. A rope forever dangling from the precipice.”
I tap Zetania’s shoulder and ask, “What’s a precipice?”
“A cliff’s edge,” she whispers.
Precipice. Must be a French word. Venators like Zetania use all those foreign words to impress people.

Just like authors paraphrase Nietzsche to impress people. 🙄 😆

  • Jack’s viewpoint is wisdom embodied in a more basic level of perception.
  • Quick wit, cunning and a high IQ do not equal wisdom.
  • In our lifetimes, almost all of us will all know at least one “smart” person who makes bad choices.

The O.P. who made the observation about Jack also said:

I also think you have stuck your neck out by rejecting many of the traditional, and time-honored, myths about vampires.

The “Twilight” saga rejected or re-interpreted many items of classic folklore, and it did okay commercially. 😈
Whatever else one might think about the “sparkling skin” conceit, that idea was wholly original. Sparkling vampire skin is now to be forever associated with Twilight, for better or worse.

Even if one was writing a vampire novel purely for commercial gain, it would benefit you to dismiss or re-work at least one major piece of folklore, just to make your story stand out from a very crowded pack.