Best and Worst of Critique Comments #6

Here we are, ladies and gents: the last Best and Worst of Critique Comments. It’s been a load of fun and I love all the wonderful reactions you’ve posted here or on Facebook. Thank you very much to everyone who has been reading this mini-series since it began!

This final story was only 500 words. It’s in the more romantic vein of work I’ve produced, focusing on a moment between a husband and wife a few months after she’s had a miscarriage. I spent a few weeks on this one and I’m very happy with how it came out — especially since everyone underlined the sentence I spent the most time crafting. There was some dissent on whether or not I should have dropped an F-bomb at the end of the story, but I haven’t decided what to do about it (if anything).

So without further ado, I give you the best and worst of the comments:

“This is a very soft, romantic piece. It suits your romantic voice. I was a little bit confused as to what exactly was going on, but I appreciate the subtlety you use to convey your ideas.”

“Such a truly wonderful short-short. You captured a moment, a history, and a hope in a small space as well as I think was possible for this.”

“While somber, you balanced it with such great humor. Because, well, when something is just too damn sad to be funny in life, that’s the moment that it has to become funny if progress is going to be possible. So beautiful job with that.”

“Aw this DID hit me right in the feels!”

“Weddings are murder.”

“It’s engaging the whole way through and the ending made me smile. Also, the coworker is a DI**. Don’t change a THING.”

“I want a hint of how/why she miscarried, if it just happened, or if something external caused it. It would be easy to include here.”

“I like that the dialogue is very casual and funny, but what’s going on is deeply emotional. You made it touching and sad without being melodramatic at all.”

“What does this mean?” Written next to an underlined piece of dialogue that says, “I said you’ve never been easy.”

“There maybe could have been more descriptions of their body language and their comfortability with each other. There’s a lot of dialogue, so add some descriptions.”

“Good dialogue. Good chemistry between characters. The amount of ‘I’s can be cut down.”

“I presume Maelyn was their child that died or was a stillbirth. I presume she wants to forget the nightmare through sex.” 

“Excellent story. Really tells a lot about the couple and their marriage without a bunch of ‘fluff.'”

“No! It was a sweet story, don’t spoil it with foul language.” Written next to the F-bomb, but not near the word “di**” a few paragraphs before.

“I would have wanted to know more about their past, but due to the word restriction, see that’s impossible. You could consider making the father losing his job somehow related to them losing their child.”

“Maybe change the title. It sounds to romance-novel-esque and the story is so far from that. :|”

“So sad… :(” Written next to the sentence, “It’s something I can only see in my dreams.”

“I don’t know. This line seems too rough for this piece. It’s a little jarring. I understand what you’re trying to say though. Maybe ‘f***ing’ is too strong of a word.”

“Love this whole thing. You say so much with so little.”

“Genetic flaw/virus?”

“I do like page one more than I like page two, though — there’s something about that conversation that just seems off when compared to the trauma but, then again, it’s a way of dealing with it.”

“Also, why was Tom such a di**?? Maybe add a little line about him, that describes his relationship to the narrator/his wife. But this was beautiful okay?!”

“The relationship between the two is so descriptive and lively. There’s a crucial AND symbolic meaning, even in the rhythm of your voice.”

“This was a really interesting take on what I assume to be a pregnancy? Or abortion? Or miscarriage? Your writing is so quiet and really beautiful.”

“I love Maelyn, she seems so genuine. When she curls back up in his arms and just giggles — aw, dead. I also loved the transition from touching her head and wanting to touch another. Nice subtleness with the information regarding a failed pregnancy.”

“The only part I’m unsure about is the ending. It seems like this would be in the realm of her character, but it doesn’t fit here. It tears away from this tender moment you have given us.”

“?” Written next to the circled phrase, “I hope to God.”

And there we have it. Thank you very much for reading! I wish there had been more outlandish comments, but there was only one person who seemed to be reading a completely different story.


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Advice From the Pros (And How to Take It)

Last week, my duties as an intern took me to various classrooms. Several designers were visiting for SCADstyle to give lectures, talk on panels and meet students. I attended the events and shadowed some of the visitors, taking notes on how they interacted with students and the advice they gave.

I had the opportunity to follow Dana Thomas around as she spoke with fashion students designing their senior collection and I sat in on a short lecture she gave to a Writing for the Arts class. When I took that class, Ms. Thomas came and gave similar advice to what she did now. I know I had the same glassy-eyed, “how the hell am I supposed to do all that” look on my face as the students I visited. Advice from successful people is great, but it can be hard to digest. Hopefully this is makes it easier to swallow.

Advice: “Read every day!”

You want to write for the arts? You better be reading the arts sections of The New York Times. You want to write or review books? You better be reading the latest reviews (also in The New York Times). You want to write anything even slightly relevant to what’s going on? Read The New York Times. Every day. Front to back.

How to do it:

If you’re a student, here’s where you take a deep breath. You won’t be shooting yourself in the foot by not reading NYT every day. You can stay up to date by listening to the news, checking Flipboard, skimming your local paper, checking out the homepage of nytimes.com, and clicking on the list of trending topics on Facebook. As a student, your primary goal is learning and getting your degree. If you want to submit an article to be published on Huffington Post but you haven’t been reading it religiously, give yourself a crash course on what they’ve published over the last few weeks.

If you’ve got a job or an internship in some field related to your career, there’s a good chance the time to catch up on the news is built in to your workday. No matter where you work, they probably have an office subscription to newspapers and magazines related to your field. They have these subscriptions so employees can read them and be up to date. You’ve got the publications there in the office, it’s part of the job to read them and know what’s going on, and you don’t have to panic.

Advice: “Join the student newspaper!”

Get professional experience in an environment where it’s okay to mess up, plus you get your writing published. And if it’s an online newspaper, you don’t have to be a writer; they’ve got photography, videography, graphic design, social media, marketing, editing, etc. And it looks great on your resume!

How to do it:

That was Ms. Thomas’s advice to students in the Writing program, but the idea works for everyone. Join the student newspaper/debate team/architectural society/whatever they have in your field of study. There’s the constant fear of having too many obligations, too much work, too much stress, not enough time for eating, sleeping or socializing. The great part about student organisations is that they know you’ve got that going on. Seriously. Everyone on the team has the same struggle, so they’ll understand if you have to quit halfway through because your classes got really intense.

And it really is okay to mess up in these organisations. Most likely, you’ll walk away with nothing worse than a bruised ego (unless you don’t play well with others, in which case no amount of skill will save you from being voted off the island).

Advice: “Fake it til you make it!”

You claimed to be an expert with Photoshop and now you’ve got a huge project to turn in by the end of the week? Just don’t let anyone catch you Googling how to do all the stuff you said you knew how to do.

How to do it:

Start by being honest about your abilities and open to a challenge. Bragging and making up skills might help get you the job, but actually having the skills will help you keep it. If you don’t have them, be willing to learn. Pretending otherwise is frustrating to everyone involved. I’ve sent out reporters who claimed to know what they’re doing only to see their work later (and sometimes get an unhappy email) and find out they don’t. I’ve also been asked to do things I didn’t bother telling anyone I didn’t actually know how to do. It’s a lot of extra work on both sides.

No one will think less of you for not being an expert, especially if you’re fresh out of college.

Advice: “Get an internship!”

Employers love if you’ve had an internship prior to applying for an entry level job, so get as many internships as you can. You might have to do unpleasant tasks like filing, making copies, or the dreaded coffee runs, but it’s a small step on the path to a better paying job and a stable career.

How to do it:

Just like working for a student organisation, an internship is a place where everyone knows you’re inexperienced and want to learn. It’s okay to mess up. You know you’ll work for a set amount of time, so there’s no need to wake up wondering if today’s the day you’ll get fired. Do your best, learn what you can, and take it easy. If you do well, it may turn into a paying job when your time is up. If not, you’ve still got the experience on your resume.

As for filing, making copies, or getting coffee, all that falls under the “stuff you’ll have to do anyway” category. Everyone I work with gets their own coffee, but filing and copying things for other people shows you how to do it when you’ve got your own things to file and copy. Basically, you’re the Karate Kid.

In theory, advice from successful people is scary. And then you find yourself actually doing it and you laugh because it’s not as hard as you thought. So take a deep breath, friends. You’ll get through it.


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Best and Worst of Critique Comments #5

Ah, the return of a popular series! If you need to catch up on the last four episodes, you can find all of those right here. The guidelines are slightly different from last time; instead of writing an 8-10 page short story for class, the limit is 6-8. We still had to print off 30 copies and read the story aloud, and yours truly volunteered (as usual) to go on the first day. In my mind, I thought the first day would be next Tuesday so I would have the weekend to work on this. I quickly realized the first day was actually Thursday (yesterday).

Due to this immediate deadline, a pleasantly tiring day at work and me getting sick, I could not write a fresh story. I did the next best thing and grabbed part of a chapter from The Thieves of Traska. It’s an experimental sort of chapter–I sprinkled in a few scenes from her brother’s point of view for a subplot that was difficult to execute when the whole story was told from Claire’s perspective. I wasn’t sure about keeping it, but my classmates‘ opinions make me think it should stay.

Without further ado, I give you their comments!

“Great stuff! I’d love to read the rest. Confused as to the timing and how this escape went down.”

“What does this mean?” Written next to the sentence “Well, what was one more palm to grease?”

“I like the premise, but it feels unresolved. Would have liked a cut to what Claire is thinking.”

“I find Reed’s possessive and obsessive nature very interesting, but also creepy in a way.”

“Nice, atmospheric piece. I could very easily envision the scenes that you constructed… I wanted to hear more about what was going down, more about Claire, etc. … It kind of reminded me of Fargo atmospherically.”

“Is he referring to his sister?” The words “precious possession” are underlined. “I would change ‘possession.’ Just … ow. She’s a person. :(“

“I would like some more descriptions. The ones you have are fantastic, but a few more might solve some of the period-confusion people seem to be having (the sheriff and village confusion is bogus though because freaking Robin Hood had a sheriff GOD!)”

“I definitely want to read more! Lots of tension and unknowns. Worried about the guardsmen. Hopefully he likes Claire. Is there gonna be a romance there? Don’t tell me! I think this is super rad and I hope you keep developing it.”

“It feels like a book chapter, not a stand-alone.”

“I like how all of the characters have complex moralities; there’s not a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ oversimplification, especially with Reed and Claire, that felt real, believable, and interesting.”

“There is not much of a resolution and we’re hung out to dry. It’s good to be ambiguous at times, but this feels odd.”

“The use of a sheriff combined with chain mail and tunics is very confusing. Apart from that small detail, the story kept my attention all the way to the end.”

“Wish I knew more of Claire… Kind of want her to take him out in the end.”

“This seems a bit of a unique place to have the story, to end before the action really starts. It isn’t bad but I am left wanting to know what happens … Good narration, good dialogue, and a slight sense of wit.”

“Setting and time have me a bit confused. Would like more dialogue at beginning. I like the gritty characterizations.”

“While the tension between the sheriff and Reed was particularly interesting, I wanted someone to be the main antagonist. I thought that was Garrison, but the sheriff seemed to be that.”

“The very beginning states Reed didn’t want to involve the authorities, but then he goes to the police guarding the prison? Or is he at his last resort? That would make sense. Reed also wouldn’t want to openly admit that he saw Claire after she escaped from jail because he would be arrested for harboring a fugitive.”

“I like it. Sharp dialogue, interesting characters, a page-turning plot… I think you have a great start for a novel here.”

“The characters’ background is unknown thus, confusing. We need to know why Claire was in jail and what criminal behavior she has. I also wonder who the narrator is. Perhaps an omnipotent POV?”

“Was he holding it or did he get stabbed? :|” Next to the sentence “Seeing the tiny blade flash into Garrison’s hand had been a surprise, though.”

“This is kinda suggestive of domestic abuse???” Next to the sentence “It wasn’t anybody’s business how he dealt with her.”

“I don’t think this is really a ‘short story,’ more like the opening to something bigger, which is both really good and bad.”

“I think it’s well written, and there’s even a bit of humor in it, like when the one guard walks in and says, ‘Does it look like no one got hurt?’ lol.”

“The ending could be stronger because I feel that nothing is really resolved. He is still going after Claire just as he was at the beginning.”

“This sounds too painful to kind of brush off, even if he’s a tough guy.” In reference to a cut on Reed’s face.

“This is written very well, is engaging and intriguing, and I want to read this book, I want to solve this mystery. I’m willing to bet Garrison isn’t such a bad guy and Claire sees this in him? Or maybe he has something she wants? Man I have so much I want to know and you do such a good job of pulling me in with just this one bit. I want to know Claire’s character and her past and yeah you get the point.”

“I wish you wouldn’t have stopped right there, as well. It makes the story feel bit off. Or maybe that’s just me wondering what would happen when Reed actually found Claire.”

“Obviously incomplete. Abrupt ending. Couldn’t decide what time period was until chain mail was mentioned. They didn’t have time to draw wanted posters or the money to get paper. Felt like fantasy.”

That last person also wrote this comment, but I have no idea what it says.

Snapshot_20150326

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Best and Worst of Critique Comments #4

The final verbal critique of the quarter. The 500 word short story I wrote for class was one I’m very proud of. I spent a few weeks on it and even volunteered to read first two days before we had to sign up for days to read. Saying I was excited is a bit of an understatement.

The story is set in Ireland sometime in the 1300’s. Colin is an arrogant man who repeatedly beats his wife and suffers from a leg injury he treated himself. After the wound gets infected, the wife sends for a doctor and Colin succumbs to a fever. When he wakes up, he discovers his wife has left him and the doctor amputated his leg.

This is probably my favorite short story that I’ve written. For those interested, you will be able to read a copy in the near future. In the meantime, here is what my classmates said:

“I enjoyed it. My only concern is the word ‘healer.’ This story seems to take place in the past, but not so long ago that the word ‘doctor’ did not exist.”

“Love the characters. Very gruesome little surprise for Colin.”

“I enjoy the sense of irony throughout the story and dark (…almost comic) end that it had.”

“I enjoyed the second part of the story the best… I feel that the selection is very strong and is the perfect glue to hold the 1st and 3rd parts together.”

“I love the middle part; the image of him struggling alone in the dark is very cinematic & creepy. Big impact.”

“Only the wife’s character seems a little inconsistent–first we see her as a complacent beaten wife, then a little fiery/sarcastic with ‘big lout,’ then she cares for him (calls the doctor), but then she leaves–a bundle of contradictions.”

“Perhaps if you had read it a bit louder and with more inflection (it was quite monotone) there would be more tension or emotion. Great story though! When I went back and read it a second time I found all the components I felt were lost in translation from your reading.”

“Nice! Seems to have all the major needed elements. I enjoy the idea & for only 500 words it does the job. No real suggestions/corrections on my behalf. Extremely nice!”

“F*** yeah! Water of life, yo!” (Written over the word “whiskey.”)

“Great ending! Your flicks are superb, especially for people who like historical fiction. TAKE RABB’S CLASS! It’ll forever change your writing style.”

“Bummer, he lost his leg! But I s’pose he deserved it.”

“The wife’s got her chance to escape. Though the story is interesting as is, I’m left wondering of her fate–maybe that’s what you wanted!”

“Why did it take so long for his wife to leave? He’s obviously a drunk, couldn’t she have snuck out sooner?”

“I wasn’t surprised when she left because she didn’t seem scared of him, and I didn’t feel bad for him because he hit her. So I wish there was something that added drama. That aside though, this is really well written. It has good pace and is well put together.”

“Awkward opening sentence.”

“‘Ass’ would be a stronger word.”

“If this is what caused the wound, make it seem a little more like a hackjob. Like, a little more detail on how it festered.”

“Nice premise from start to finish. Very ‘olden’ days style but it could work. I like it. Make it a little more clear she only stays because he supports her.”

“Awkward sentence/gesture.”

“AAND I love the inclusion of the ‘putting him out of work’ comment in the third paragraph. PERFECT way to just slide that information subtly. Nice job! Overall, great job! But you already knew that. :) If there’s one thing I’m gonna miss from Fiction, it’d be reading your pieces.”

“Post discussion: Since when does location matter? That’s not the point of the story, man. Why are people SO nitpicky about silly things. :(“

“Can I ask the writer where exactly his leg was cut off at?” (Actually a question presented during verbal critique. I told her I would get back to her with an answer once I was certified to amputate legs.)

“I don’t totally understand how he got the injury or what exactly kind of injury it is besides something with his knee so maybe clarify that a bit more. Also, I’m not sure about using the word ‘healer’ instead of just ‘doctor.’ Healer makes me think of magic & spells, but this guy just amputated the leg. It doesn’t seem like he really does anything like a healer would.”

“I like this a lot. Your style of writing shows us the characters without dialogue or a real physical description which is great. I would like to know if the wife really did leave him or just couldn’t be there for the removal of the leg.”

“I love that you wrote this from the abusive husband’s point of view. Usually it is from the wife’s perspective.”

“You should try to read with a bit more emotion. I think that it would enhance your style. This is great writing but more emotion when read would show that off more.”

“It’s tough to get a story arc in just 500 words, but you did it well and so cleanly. (is that a pun? I’m not sure.) I wonder if Colin’s wife left him for good. I’d think so, but the ambiguity there is oh-so-good.”

“The story was interesting because it was about the tense feel of the situation rather than two people trying to connect. Actions instead of dialogue was a good idea. His leg was amputated right?”

“I really enjoyed your story. It was bright and happy and filled with joy and butterfly farts. I wanted to rub this story down with vasoline and call it my sugardaddy.”

The last comment is definitely one I’ll remember. I kind of wish there had been more outlandish or negative comments to amuse you with, but it seems my class is of the opinion the story is good. Also, my reading voice could use some work.

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.

The Next Big Thing: Blog Hop

I was tagged in this Blog Hop business a while ago. I meant to get on it right away, but a few things pushed ahead of it. Now that I’m less busy, I can indulge in this and talk about my own writing. As part of the rules, I have to explain the rules:

Give credit to the person who tagged you. That would be Dave Higgins over at Davetopia. I’m very glad of this; I enjoy reading his blog.

Explain the Rules. Self explanatory.

Answer the ten questions about your current work in progress. Since I’ve started various projects and work on them at different paces, I’ll go with the one I’ve been working on for the longest.

Tag five other people and link to their blogs. Continuing this practice isn’t necessary, but I wouldn’t mind sending some of my readers to blogs I enjoy reading.

Now that the rules are out of the way, I shall get on to the questions. I am hesitant to put any details of my writing in public view, but I have been working on this book for almost six years now.

What is the working title of your book? The new working title is Beholden to None, thanks to a coworker. It had a placeholder name (Bayonets IN SPACE), but I’m glad it has a serious title now.

Where did the idea come from for the book? Randomly, I thought “What if Pandora’s box wasn’t a box, but actually a person?” The story has absolutely nothing to do with that now, but that’s where it started.

What genre does the book fall under? I’m going to go with science fiction.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in the movie rendition? That’s a tough question. I never thought this would be a book anyone would ever want to turn into a movie. I think I could see Arnold Vosloo as my villain.

What is the one-sentence synopsis for your book? As of right now, that would have to be something along the lines of “Civil war has divided an alien planet as they fight for Earth’s fate: enslavement beneath the Secure Empire, or a hostile alliance with the Ahkhar Fleet.” (As I’m sure every writer does, I hate writing a one-sentence synopsis.)

Will your book be self-published or published by an agency? I honestly have no idea. We’ll see what happens when I finish it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? It took me a little under a year for the first draft. The five years since then have been spent on the second and second-and-a-half drafts. (Draft 2.5 happened when I rewrote the plot.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Another difficult question. Aside from the previously mentioned thought about Pandora’s box, I’m not certain what inspired me. It could be my failed first attempt at science fiction made me want to write something new that was much better.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I’m not sure about “within my genre,” since I haven’t read as much science fiction as I would like. I like to think I’ve channeled some Brandon Sanderson into my writing, but that might be wishful thinking. There is one place, however, where I noticed a major shift in my writing; the way I handled each character’s emotions made me think I subconsciously tried emulating Monica McCarty (a romance author). I believe I wrote that part when I first discovered her work and then developed a minor obsession.

What else about your book might piqué the reader’s interest?
Two of my characters share a telepathic bond, and the addition of a third person affects their relationship as well as the events of the story. Plus there are giant robot fights (if you’re into that kind of thing).

I’m going to break the rules a bit here and ask Shylock Books to tell us about her project.

The Best and Worst of Critique Comments #2

So we had another full-class critique of short stories. This time, the story had to be 500 words (as opposed to the last story, which was 8-10 pages). After some of the comments I received last time, I figured I’d get another healthy dose of nonsense with the occasional constructive comment. My classmates did not disappoint.

For context, this short story featured a girl named Adelaide breaking out of jail in a country-western type setting. She picks the lock on her cell door, then fights off two guards. She dispatches the second guard by grabbing his crotch and twisting.

“Ew.” (Written above a line that reads “The stench of old piss clung to the dirt under her face.”)

“If the locks are modern-day, they might not be possible to pick.”

“I feel like I’ve seen a lot of Medieval fantasy stories have this kind of sequence (the knife in the boot, the lockpick, the thief escaping prison. . . almost like a Tamora Pierce novel.)”

“Whether it was intended or not, the piece ended on a humorous note because of the man’s ‘buckling knees’ after he gets grabbed in the balls. It was hilarious and lovely!”

“Is this a prison with both men and women?”(and a few sentences later:) “Is she in a co-ed prison?”

“Story does not stand on its own, more like an excerpt. How big is this girl? Modern cell?”

“Fast paced–me gusta. Thank you for making it a kick ass woman and not the stereotypical male assassin/thief. I liked it a lot. The concept is super witty and yeah. I’m going to draw you a cactus.”

She definitely drew a cactus

“We don’t know her well enough to support her escape, and for all we know she’s not exactly a Robin Hood.”

“Cool story.”

“Feels more like a slice-of-life than a fully contained story. Perhaps because of how casually Adelaide handles the situation. Not a bad thing, just an observation.”

“It seems like she would put up a more sophisticated fight. She seems smart and aware and I wish she would have fought more easily.”

“Would that be in her pockets?” (written next to the underlined phrase “…her coat, her satchel and all the jewelry she’d stolen…”)

“I wish we knew why she’s in jail.” (See previous comment for the answer.)

“Fun. A cute little adventure story, has a beginning, middle and end.”

“Your descriptions are literally out of this world, I literally have no stylistic complaints.”

“She is a girl and obviously she is strong, but I feel that she recovers from that punch way too fast. She could be a little disoriented or surprised by it.”

And now the story in a series of drawings (sadly, there is no name signed on this copy):

The Best and Worst of Critique Comments

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.

A drawing of Grant one of my classmates did.
A drawing of Grant one of my classmates did. That may be Gwenhwyfar behind him, but I’m not sure.

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 switzythoughts@gmail.com.