I finally got to present my short story to my fiction class, and the comments I received were worth the wait. (I had food poisoning the day I was scheduled for critique, so I was in limbo for two weeks.) As confident as I am in my writing ability, I was nervous because my classmates all wrote in a modern setting. Also, our professor told us he didn’t want us to write fantasy–but I did anyway because I love breaking rules.
Here’s a synopsis of the story: Solomon and Grant are bounty hunters pursuing a murderer who has taken refuge in a small village. Grant’s reckless actions earned himself and their fugitive a noose around their necks. The village chief–a terrifying woman named Gwenhywfar–will only allow Solomon to save one of them. As Solomon reaches his decision, a villager informs Gwenhywfar that her son died of the injuries Grant caused. Gwenhywfar shoots Grant, forcing Solomon to take the murderer he was after in the first place.
These are some of my favorite comments (in no particular order):
“What is a dirge?”
“What kind of Native American tribe is this if [a woman] is chief?”
“Why are they both pointing their guns at Grant?”
“What does this mean: ‘the hammer of his gun’?”
“Thank you, THANK YOU for doing something that wasn’t set in modern times!!”
“I think you juggled too many characters, a plot that you have no experience in, and a motivation you likely have little attachment to. This story is very ambitious as it’s about bounty hunters who f*** up and then have their whole task turned onto them. You execute the story-plot clearly, but I just think emotional qualities were missing due to this (most likely) being a foreign circumstance to you.”
“I really like the psychology of the situation that Gwen put Solomon in; it was mentally engaging and it made me wonder what I’d do in that situation.”
“I don’t know that I like how Gwen killed Grant so suddenly. It was very sudden, and interrupted the flow a bit.”
“The two G’s are jazzing here.”
“Dirge sounds awkward. Rephrase.”
“That being said, I see creativity and talent in the noodles and oodles. I’m excited to see what stories you bring to class next.”
“There are literally no words I can say to describe how badass this story was. I was engaged and curious the entire time, and tense, too. I have no complaints. I’m sorry I’m not helpful. I just really like the story.”
“Not sure WHAT era we’re in, but I can’t imagine such a high-ranking person being a woman.”
“This is like a badass chapter from the Django/John Wayne Diaries.”
“What’s a mantle?”
“[The word ‘niggling’] seems awkward.”
“Good title, such a different story than the ones we have read. Well written as is written in the time of the event. The ending is well resolved. How do you know about all of this stuff? It’s very interesting. I enjoyed it very much. Too many dicks…”*
*That last comment was a little difficult to make out; the last sentence might say “too many dies,” but it also looks like “too mong dicfs.” Since Gwenhwyfar was the only female, I’m assuming I read it correctly.
From this, I’m saddened about my classmates. Usually the word I get the most grief over is “niggling” or some derivative of it. Only two people questioned it. Most of them wanted to know what a dirge is, or what I meant when I said that Gwen wears a fur mantle on her shoulders.
Sadly, few people signed their names, even though we are supposed to. Personally, if someone is too scared to admit to their opinions, I’m going to disregard them.
Anyone interested in reading the story can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wow. I recently opened up 250-word excerpts to various online critiques and have only come away annoyed. Glad to see it’s not just me. But focus on the positive. Some people are just idiots. :-)
The saddest part is a lot of these people are writing majors, like me.
That is rather sad. :-(
There are some howlers in there.
On the plus side, they are writing majors so are already receiving the help they need.
On the negative side, I do not think tuition in grammar and penmanship will resolve the issues with wanting fantasy to be the same as the real world.
Did your professor criticise your choice of fantasy or was he using a different definition of what is fantasy?
In the past, he’s received stories with dragons and magical mushrooms that were so complicated for such a short space that they were impossible to follow. He also said there were wizards fighting in one, and he wanted to avoid reading stories like those.
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