Writer's Life, Writing Classes

Best and Worst of Critique Comments #3

As with my fiction class last quarter, our first two stories are critiqued by the whole class. Everyone gets a copy to write on and we read it aloud. A moment of insanity struck me the day we signed up for when we’d present our stories. When no one volunteered to go first, the voice of my competitive side screamed out “Cowards! You don’t lose anything by reading on the first day!” With that thought in my head, I signed up to read mine first. Turns out the only thing you lose by doing so is extra time for revisions.

Still, I pulled through with something I’m proud of. The story takes place in a Catholic church in an undefined European city during the Middle Ages. It features Maeve (a thief raised in the church), Father Andrew (Maeve’s paternal figure), Quinn (a rich nobleman), and Isabella (a noble lady). Isabella and Quinn had an affair. To increase tension between Quinn and his wife, Isabella hired Maeve to steal Quinn’s family portraits. Quinn and Maeve arranged a meeting in the church to negotiate the return of his paintings. After Isabella pays Maeve, the thief reveals that she didn’t actually steal the paintings; she hid them in Quinn’s house. When Isabella finds out she was tricked, she tries to have Maeve killed.

Now that you know the context, on to the comments that amused me and/or temporarily inflated my ego!

“Why won’t [Isabella] pursue [Maeve into the church]? If it’s because people are around, what good is screaming from outside?” The answer being that Isabella respects sanctuary.

“Judging from the title alone, I certainly did not expect the content within, and I like that!”

“I think Maeve’s blatant disregard for the church rules is what initially caught my attention.”

“Nit picking, but if this was the olden days, where would she get licorice?”

“Butter?” Written next to the circled words “eating knife.”

“Sellable?” Written as a correction for the word “salable.” A few people wrote this, although “sellable” is not a real word.

Old time period. It’s not obvious straight away that this isn’t modern. (You can ignore this comment.)”

“How would she do that? Nevermind.”

“Never good idea to go upstairs. Any horror movie watchers know that going upstairs is a good way to get trapped.” At one point, Maeve runs back into the church to escape Isabella and hides in the bell tower.

“Him clenching his bleeding hand to his chest?” Actually a fair suggestion; I forgot this person had been stabbed in the hand. But, as I told my roommate, “clenching” is for teeth, fists, and sphincters.

“This isn’t relivent, your not trying to protect her from an accident, you’re trying to stop her getting murdered. The two things have no connection.”

“Very nice way of setting the stage with the first page.” I can’t help but wonder where, if not the first page, I should set the stage.

“I know we nit picked today, but don’t let that discourage you from the great foundation here.” Since a few people had comments like this, they must not have heard me say I didn’t give a damn what half of them would say because most of it would be useless.

“Maeve is a great name for her, by the way–the ‘v’ in it just fits her personality.”

“Odd for a woman [to smoke a pipe].”

“I’m not totally knowledgeable of the Catholic Church, but I feel like they don’t have monks.”

“[Maeve]’s not very likable.” Will someone please tell me where it’s written that the main character MUST be likeable?

Is she selling them or not? She’s receiving money for it. NVM. Read the entire story. It makes sense.”

“Owww :(” Next to the part where someone gets stabbed.

“As usual, your stories are wonderful! I can’t think of anything major to say, I got confused at times, but only because you hadn’t explained until later what certain actions meant (like why she was getting paid and the affair and so on); I don’t consider that a bad thing, of course I have to be patient and keep reading haha!”

“I think this is absolute gold. I love the consistency in your tone, and the sort of subtle snarkiness in this piece. The dialogue is admirable because there’s a lot of it but it didn’t overwhelm the pages. The characters and the ending were just as solid. Good job.”

“How would she be taking them?” Written near some dialogue where Isabella says Maeve might be mistaken for a prostitute because of the way she’s dressed. Maeve responds, “I have no intention of taking any of your customers. I’ll direct anyone looking for a cheap thrill to your villa.”

“I am fond of the names chosen except for Isabella. It seems almost too long compared to the others or too ‘light’ for a character that you want us to not like. (I am being ‘nit-picky’ when I say that.)”

“Point?” Written above the underlined words “small eating knife.”

“You’ve woven a delectable short story–I’d like to know the time period. Language was suberb.” I assume that was supposed to be “superb.”

“I needed a bit more background on the villian, like Isabella, and Quinn in the story. Just a tiny bit more. Also the way you read it out loud took away a lot of the excitement of the story for me.”

“Overall, I really enjoyed your story and you read it very well.”

All the spelling and grammatical mistakes are the commenters’, not mine. What bothers me the most this time are the number of people who wrote they were being ‘nit picky’ as though apologizing for having something negative to say.

Since no one asked about my religious beliefs, I’m going to assume it wasn’t obvious that I’m not Catholic. That’s an accomplishment, in my opinion.

1 Comment

  1. […] I posted some of the comments I received from my latest short story, I mentioned that a few people specifically apologized for “being nit-picky.” After […]

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