Editor Notes Sample # 2

Theme vs. Story...

When your theme and your story are at war with one another, story must always win. Too much focus on theme becomes preachy. Readers won't be impacted by your message unless they're first invested in your characters.

NOTE: These samples are only sections of a longer editorial evaluation, and most identifiers (such as character names) have been changed.
You explore the exterior problems of your characters, your story’s themes, and your compelling events beautifully once the story transitions to Brazil. However, I struggled with the lack of inner depth within your characters, and the shallowness of their arcing development throughout.
I truly felt like the novel became an entirely different book once we got to Brazil—almost as if it were inserted into a short story about XXX and her father. ...These two people are going through extreme grief that no one else in the story is able to understand it in exactly the same way. Because they are such different personalities, they will naturally suffer and deal with their grief differently, which will lead to a lot of personality conflicts, relationship challenges, and plot-changing grief. However we’re not allowed to see much of that.

While I understand that children often come to understand their parents differently after they’re out from under their thumb (once they can see them more objectively), you haven't included any internal conflicts or realizations to indicate that XXX is adjusting in her thoughts and opinions toward her father while they're apart. As it stands, you've set up such potential for a rich, conflict-fraught relationship between XXX and her father—and you've done so in such a way that we're emotionally invested in their changing relationship—but then you ignore their relationship for the majority of the book, and only tell us about the changes in summary at the end, rather than letting us take that journey with them.
…Because both of those goals are either superficial or exterior to XXX’s inner conflicts, it doesn’t feel as if it’s able to sustain the plot.
We should also see more of XXX and her father working through the five stages of grief. In that, I mean the process in both of them has to affect real change internally that can be seen outwardly through their actions, as well as in their interactions with those around them. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—we begin the novel simply sitting in that depression stage with the characters and we never delve deep enough into how the grieving process changes them before they move into acceptance. Even if we did see more of their transformation from depression to acceptance, I’d still recommend incorporating some denial, anger, and bargaining into their thoughts and actions—because grief doesn’t roll in smoothly in distinct waves with clean transitions between stages, but instead those stages overlap.
…Emotions at that time are flayed open, pushing reactions to simple events into the extremes...

I wonder if you would pull back on the secondary, thematic elements of the story in your next draft, that would give XXX’s true story a chance to shine. Once you’ve polished the personal plot of the relationships to engage us more, the right details will emerge that will serve to support and propel the secondary plot. And please remember—although you’re writing about big, global ideas—it still remains the secondary plot.
I’m not saying that the adding of these elements, conflicts and obstacles all need to happen in the opening story, prior to the trip to Brazil. They can be added throughout. However, you may need to add them all before and after the trip, if you want to keep that trip from becoming the entire story. If that trip truly is the entire story, then we need to begin with XXX already on the plane or packing for the trip, and she can think of her father, of her mother’s death, and everything else in summary—because it’s back story.
By sending XXX to Brazil to research YYY, I feel you’re prioritizing the themes and messages of the story not the story itself. ...and so you're trying to force to story's direction to share your personal opinions on the subject matter, instead of letting the story follow its natural path. For instance, you spend considerable time discussing the importance of XXX’s heritage, but instead of letting the story follow the natural course of going on an expedition that would take her to a place connected with her heritage, we instead go to Brazil.
And while your the sections set in Brazil are beautiful and interesting, they really don’t serve to deepen XXX’s story. The chapters in Brazil actually serve AAA’s story instead because you’re visiting a country with regions similar to his war experiences. But AAA is a secondary character (perhaps the Brazil chapters need to become a separate novel with AAA as the main character instead of a supporting one?)
If you are insistent on keeping the expedition set in Brazil (which I truly don’t mind IF you make that decision in a way that supports the story instead of derailing it, as it does now), then consider having XXX’s mother be Brazilian instead of ZZZ. They have a culture rich in history as well, and the trip would then better accommodate XXX’s character development.
In the end, I think you have such great potential here for a compelling story that is a beautiful blend of art and science. Your characters are rich and storied, and have potential to create great impact for your theme if only you will allow their relationships to develop and arc in a way that readers can connect with.
After all, it isn’t all the research your characters do or all the findings they gather that is going to impact us readers and change our hearts—it’s the inner, personal, emotional development that we will grow from and then apply to the larger issues of CCC and the EEE that you explore so well (yet superficially because we’re not emotionally connected to those larger issues through the characters).

Let your themes support your characters so that we come to know and accept them, otherwise they will not have the impact I’m sure you desire.