In Which I Reveal My Weirdness (With an Actual Point about Revision!)

Growing up, my dad was an ophthalmologist. (That is not the weird part.) The nights before he had early morning surgery, he used to set up this old Kodak slide projector and load it up with pictures from similar cases. As a little girl, I loved to sit next to him and look at all the pictures of smooshed and sliced-up eyeball parts. (That would be the weird part.) I was probably the only fourth-grader who knew the difference between a sclera and a cornea.

I once asked Dad if he would ever operate on my eye, and he said, no, he would never perform surgery on someone he loved. Things could go wrong in the operating room, and he wouldn't be able to maintain his objectivity.

And then when I was in high school, my little sister's eyelid went all wonky. Here's the kicker...we lived in a fairly small town, and there were, maybe ten ophthalmologists in the area at that time. There was this one procedure (and I'm going to just make up an ophthalmologyish word here because I don't remember its actual name) retinoblascaropscopy...crap. Now it's bugging me. I'm going to to go call my dad and get the real name.

Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction. (But he agreed that "retinoblascaropscopy" sounds very ophthalmologyish, emphasis on the -ish.)

Anyway, of those ten ophthalmologists, guess who specialized in Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction? Yes, my observant readers. My father. It was just one of those things that so rarely came along that the other docs didn't want to bother with it, but Dad enjoyed doing them, so they all referred their cases to him. He was, by far, the most qualified person to perform the operation.

So he made the decision to do it. But here's the important part. He knew that his objectivity would be compromised, so he had another eye surgeon there the entire time, scrubbed-in and ready to make observations as he worked and take the scalpel from him at a moment's notice if needed.

I am currently in the throes of revision. My crit partner/awesome friend extraordinaire Mandy made the brilliant observation that it's like I'm performing manuscript surgery, from excising commas to total scene reconstruction when necessary. I love these characters. Sometimes, a little too much. I am so thankful that I have an agent in my corner with a hefty dose of objectivity, who knows what works and what doesn't, what sells and what doesn't.

In one recent e-mail, after I'd come to the realization that I was protecting my main character from feeling a particularly hard emotion, Victoria wrote me back and pointed out that I needed to stop sheltering her. I had to become a "goddess of destruction" in order for my character to feel real and whole. It was so true. And something that I knew deep down. Yet I'd lost objectivity.

So...who are the back-up surgeons in your writing? I have so many that I'm so thankful for!


  1. Hi Karen! I agree that it's hard not to rush in and save our characters sometimes. I blogged about something similar today- that often a hero must be a little bit impetuous and get themselves into situations that a normal person would avoid:) Thanks for the reminder!

  2. OH NO!! What are you going to do to Bree??? Oh, see, I'd be a terrible back-up surgeon in this case. But you are so have to have those people to remind you of your job.