Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Hayley Townsend

Nonfiction Editorial Preferences – Hayley Townsend (Fall 2016)

I enjoy a story that introduces me to distinct characters and places and allows me to live there for a while with them. Unique structure, unexpected lyricism, and ultra-vivid details are always a way to pull me in but more importantly I want to know these people enough to remember them if I visit the town in their story. Fleshed out characters with distinctive voice seem to walk off the page and join me in life, popping up at random times to remind me of their experiences and their lessons.

Characters are the reason I read, as people are the reason I write. The character doesn’t have to be relatable or recognizable but does need a strong voice so I can hear them in between lines of dialogue and so they can keep living after the last word. Places similarly exist before and after the story and I would love to visit without leaving my house, show me the place, show me where you fell, show me the highest point of the mountain and the lowest you felt getting up to it.

I’m eternally attracted to new, modern formats that surprise me and if that style is met with a story that conveys some universal truth or lesson, well then I have something to read and share endlessly. Intriguing style is not everything though, often I am simply looking to escape my surroundings into your world, live your life, and maybe learn something while I’m there. Whether we take a hike through the Grand Canyon together, share memories of your late relative, or feel the anxiety of an argument with your landlord, I am willing to ride along if you’re driving with a convincing voice.


Hayley TownsendHayley is an almost ASU graduate of Creative Writing. She owes everything to the incredibly brave and inspiring artists that she had the pleasure of calling professors during her time in college and she plans to pay them back in monthly increments over her lifetime, so they will never be forgotten. She is an outgoing introvert who loves to discuss stories and writing with other like-minded weirdos then retreat back to her hole (home) to put pen to paper. Hayley is captivated by characters and keeps them in her memory as “friends” to reference now and then. At other times you can find her smothered by 2 cats and a dog consuming movies and books like the sustenance they are.

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4 thoughts on “Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Hayley Townsend

  • October 10, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    “The character doesn’t have to be relatable or recognizable but does need a strong voice so I can hear them in between lines of dialogue and so they can keep living after the last word.” I really like this sentence. It’s true, good characters have a life beyond what is just on the page, just as every person has a life that is far more complex than what is visible at a single moment in time.

  • October 11, 2016 at 11:02 am

    I actually prefer when the characters are more relatable versus having a necessarily strong voice…I guess, personally, I’m always looking to find a personal relation so that “they can keep living after the last word”. I find it hard for characters to remain in my memory unless they truly resonate with my own life. I definitely feel the same way about being attracted to new or modern formats that are surprising though, especially when the work expands beyond its art form into a much more experimental field. I think, if done right, the challenge of understanding a work in a new light becomes much more compelling.

  • October 13, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    I wonder here what the right balance of presence vs. absence is to make a character compelling? As much as I love characters that withhold nothing (lookin’ at you, Harry), often it’s hard not to love the characters that require additional investments. What is Heathcliff doin’ up there on the moors? What’s he emoting at or about? And where is the boundary between being interesting and totally exhausting? I don’t really know until I see it, I don’t think I could definitively point out a character or a narrative mixture and be like “There it is. That’s the right way.” So, with that in mind, I guess it varies!

  • October 17, 2016 at 10:14 am

    When I first moved into reading young adult fiction when I was young, I struggled with this desire for characters that were new and real and could be like a friend to me in my life. Most YA books I picked up in the library had very stereotypical characters, or no characters at all, but rather blank personas for the reader to fill the place of and relate to and so feel invested in the story that way. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more to discover until I moved to literary fiction like Crime and Punishment where the characters were all completely different from myself, and yet were so fleshed out by the writing that I truly fell in love with them. I read in order to experience and understand those new thoughts, personalities, stories, and situations that are different from my own. I don’t want to befriend a protagonist that exists to relate to me, I want to read about characters that exist independently of me, so that I may get to know them.


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