The Writing Critique Thread

Discussion in 'The Arts' started by inexpediency, Jul 18, 2011.

  1. inexpediency

    inexpediency Ruler of this [CHAT]

    Writing is a tricky thing, because everyone assumes that the act of writing to move and amuse people with words is somehow only slightly more difficult than the act of writing to place words into vaguely coherent sentences. This is like saying that playing professional baseball is only slightly more difficult than hitting a beach ball with a stick. Most everyone can hit a beach ball with a stick, but very few people would think that means they’re ready to play in the World Series. Given that, it’s funny that people think that they’re going to be really excellent writers from the first time they try to tell a story with the written word.​
    -John Scalzi, 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing
    Let's be honest, here. Your writing is not perfect. It never has been perfect and it never will be perfect. Whether you're writing poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, a short story or an expository epic, these things will always be true.

    Does that mean you should never try to improve? Of course not! In fact, even when you're not actively trying to improve, if you're writing on a regular basis then you already are.

    However, this process can be slow, frustrating, and clumsy. So how do you speed it up?

    The first way is to learn to criticize your own work, and many writers know to do this from the start. But the problem is, you're criticizing it as a writer, not as a reader. It can be near-impossible, sometimes, to recognize the flaws in your own work--like a parent looking at their own child, you tend to ignore the bad for the good, and many times there are little implications in the writing that rely on your own knowledge--knowledge the reader does not possess and thus will not understand.

    Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, a writer can't go so far as to think that all they write is complete garbage. Why would they want to keep writing, then?

    The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.
    -Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
    So what is a writer to do?

    The answer, of course, is to drag their work, kicking and screaming, into the light for others to tear apart--which is exactly what this thread is for.

    tl;dr Post your writing here for constructive criticism.

    I'll start:

    "a parable"

    emerging from the egg and yolk
    all vaporous with coffee-smoke
    he s l i d e s, and unable
    to remember how the stories go

    he shuffles uneventfully
    between the misty cars again;
    he watches as his feet watch
    every fissure in his fellow men;

    reciting softly to himself
    the latest bits of tragedy,
    he minds his way: an entertaining
    member of society.
    I don't write rhyming poetry nearly as often as I do free verse or even haikai, which is why I'm usually a lot less comfortable with the end result. For example, there's something a bit off about the second stanza that I just can't put my finger on.
  2. Cucurbita

    Cucurbita Filled with Candy

    Welp, I guess I might as well.

    Have this extremely unpolished and completely unfinished nanowrimo from last year. It's about 9000 words. I didn't get very far due to exchange student applications devouring my time.
    dropbox download
    Like I said, it's nano, so expect spelling mistakes and purple prose for the purpose of filling up the word count.
  3. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    Inex: I like your poem, and I will emphasis that I do not know much about poetry but I find that the rhyming of the first verse doesn't match the rhyming scheme of the last two, so it doesn't flow as nicely as I expected it to. And having a one syllable word like 'go' end a verse seems very sudden and almost a little jarring. Whereas the one syllable endings in the second verse work because you have two together (Watch and Men)
    Um but I could be really wrong about all that.

    Cucu: I will do my best to read yours when I get the chance, I'm a super slow reader though so it will take a while.

    So just a question, would I be able to get feedback on ideas? I'm not drunk enough to drop any off tonight but I do plan to have a few drinks, probably tomorrow night and drunken AH might have the nerve to pass a few ideas around and see if they're as interesting as I hope they are.
  4. inexpediency

    inexpediency Ruler of this [CHAT]

    Hey, don't apologize! That's good crit--I hadn't even thought about the thing with the syllables. Thanks!

    And sure, pass around your drunken ideas to your heart's content!
  5. Cucurbita

    Cucurbita Filled with Candy

    If I ever write a Nano again, I'm considering writing it from the perspective of a probation officier(?) who's been assigned to a man who thinks he can fly. During the course of the book it would become more and more unclear if this is actually true. Things that could seemingly only be explained by this abillity would happen, etc etc. I have yet to decide wether or not I want to end the book with a clear answer.

    My working title is Soaring With Avian Gray or SWAG for short.
  6. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    I actually really like that idea Cu! I had an idea that also plays with the borders of reality and fantasy, but it ends up kind of going in the opposite direction haha.
  7. MadameSB

    MadameSB Hot blooded

    I don't see why not!
    Writing critique of any kind should fit here, even if it is about ideas!
    Its always good to fine tune plots/stories/characters to make sure it works!
  8. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    I didn't end up with any liquid courage tonight so I'll post ideas tomorrow.
    I got wrangled into a few hours of Fallout instead and now I haven't eaten anything since about 1 in the afternoon and between that and the heat I'm exhausted and drinking would just kill me haha.
  9. NotAPumpkin

    NotAPumpkin Game maker and tie breaker

    I had an idea for a short story that I thought of forever ago and now I'm trying to write it.
    Once I read that it would take two minutes to fall from the height of Mt. Everest and for whatever reason it really stuck with me. I was wondering what it would be like to be falling for two minutes straight.

    I dunno, is this a good idea?
  10. inexpediency

    inexpediency Ruler of this [CHAT]

    I think it depends on what you do with it! The premise is a little vague so there are a lot of possibilities; as long as you stay away from the over-beaten paths (three pages of life flashing before eyes, etc.) I think it could be really interesting.
  11. NotAPumpkin

    NotAPumpkin Game maker and tie breaker

    I was thinking that I want to make it at least somewhat plausible. Realistically, a person would probably be dead long before they hit the ground, so I figured I'd set it in an elevator instead. It'll be a few years in the future to have an excuse for more advanced technology like buildings the height of Mt. Everest and gravity stabilizers in the elevators and stuff. The person doing the falling is a tour guide who works at the building.

    Yeah, I want to see where it takes me without getting too cliched.
  12. MadameSB

    MadameSB Hot blooded

    Well, it certainly has me intrigued.
    The concept is different that's for sure.

    I would like to see what you do with this, I can't imagine two minutes will give much time between the start and end of the descent.
    Of course, I'm sure it'll work.
  13. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    I like the idea of knowing what people think about when they think they're going to die, or know they will.
    Had the car kept going my last thought would have been "Fuck, Greenday? I thought I took them off my playlist"
    which as far as last thought go would have made for a pretty stupid story, haha
  14. inexpediency

    inexpediency Ruler of this [CHAT]

    (Almost Human arises to the heavens; converses among a group of people)

    "So what were your last thoughts, everyone?"
    "Mine were 'I hope I can get this grenade away from the orphans in time.'"
    "'My life has been fulfilling; I have no regrets.'"
    "'I just hope my wife will be alright.'"
    "'Fuck, Greenday? I thought I took them off my playlist.'"
  15. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    In my defense, the car initially hit the volume up button on my MP3 player, so it was really LOUD Greenday.
    Could be worse. Before even checking for broken bones or and sort of damage I crawled to the middle of the road and grabbed my five dollar umbrella, apparently more concerned with it's retrieval then getting out from under a vehicle that could very well start moving again.
    Can you imagine if he'd just taken off?

    "You were worried about what music as playing?"
    "Yeah but the initial hit didn't kill me, it's when I went back for the umbrella that did it."
  16. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    Okay, so I have a million notebooks and artbooks filled with ideas and scenarios, and they change pretty quickly, but I have two big ones I've been toying with lately.
    One is really silly (because that's the easiest way to write for me) and one is super serious and I don't really think I'm capable of writing it.
    Seriously, I have an idea that I think is over my own head.
    I know.

    Anyway. Most of this stuff is handwritten between character and setting sketches, so I'm going to try to type out some brief descriptions now but I'm also kind of drunk so it might not work.
    Let's try anyway. First my silly idea.

    With my silly ideas I like to start out with something generic or popular and see if I can twist it to better suit my own tastes. Right now Vampires are the big thing, and I kind of don't like twilight so I thought about how I could make them more fun for me.
    Now I'm a complete and utter theater nerd and have actually played with this idea in the past, but it's only just coming together now.
    First the 'serious' backstory bit:
    So the idea is that there is really only one family of vampires, their leader being the main character grandmother. She made a deal with demons centuries before that her family be spared from an invading army by granting them powers, and in return they would each give the demons a bit of their humanity (something all demons want. It's explained later). So the only way for a memeber of the family to regain their humanity is by biting humans and spreading their disease, taking a bit of their victims humanity and in return the victim gets a bit of their power. If the new vampire is killed, their humanity is taken from the original vampire and the original vampires power is returned. That's the dull part that all comes into play later.
    So basically there are a lot of vampires tooling around now because Atticus (all my main characters in this are named after characters from famous plays and they all reflect a bit of their namesake with a twist, but I'll get to that in a minute) is pretty powerful and is a bit scared by his own power, so he stays as human as possible. He has also exiled himself for quite a few years and is incredibly out of touch with society, because I love the delightfully awkward. So the Human rulers of this delightfully generic fantasy world have been hunting vampires for ages but only after killing one of the family members (and subsequently destroying the 'demonic' side of all that family member's victims, restoring them to normal humans) have discovered the source of it all and is preparing for war with the family.
    Pretty bland right? Human vs. Vampire war. Yawn.
    Well Atticus decides that the best way to win the war is to not have one at all, and he's out to prove that he can be a productive member of society. That way, when he reveals his heritage and how harmless he is, he can gain support and save his family! Horray for the delightfully naive!
    But war is coming and he needs to gain support quickly.
    And who do people love more than entertainers? So he buys up an old theatre house (the Old Trunk 06) in the middle of on of the capitals and sets off to direct some award winners and hob nob with the rich and famous. Unfortunately when he gets there he finds that the theatre has long been abandoned and is in pretty rough shape (oh the sad side of a blind buy) and currently houses two residents: a brother and sister, running a brothel. After a lively exchange about whose turn it is to take the blame, the sister takes off and vows to break her brother out of whatever jail he finds himself in. But instead of turning him in, Atticus hires him as an actor, figuring he's already got plenty of acting experience.
    I wont go to far past that, since they spend some time recruiting a completely emotionless girl who only comes to life on stage, and eventually a high priced opera singer, but the plot mostly revolves around their schemes to bring in business and their failures on stage. I have the loose plot figured out, and know how it will end but at the moment I only have three characters drawn and really hammered out.
    About the names, I don't like arbitrary names so I tend not to name chatacters until they're all figured out.
    Atticus is named after Atticus Finch (To kill a mockingbird) who passionately defends a man wrongly accused against a prejudice society. He's charismatic and charming but ultimatly fails in his quest for justice. My Atticus is also on a quest to convince a prejudiced society to acceot those he defends, but he is defending monsters, so he's much less endearing in his case.
    The brother from the brothel is named Eric, after the Phantom of the Opera. He too stalks the hall of a theater house, living in it's basement with his shameful secrets, but his twist is that instead of lusting for someone and not being able to obtain them, Eric is instead lusted after and plays this to his, and the theater house's, advantage.
    I wont ramble much more. It doesn't sound like much but I think the dialogue I have worked out is kind of funny and the plot gets pretty clever...
    sort of.
    I'll um, start writing out my other idea but it makes me nervous because I'm not good at serious stuff.
  17. inexpediency

    inexpediency Ruler of this [CHAT]

    Don't worry, this happens to me all the time. But if you'll allow me just one more pretentious quote:

    "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now."
    -Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

    But anyway, to the actual thing...

    AH, that's a really good idea! (And trust me, I'm not just saying that to make you feel better.) It's a nice, clever subversion of the normal vampire stuff that's been popular lately, and it sounds like it would be really entertaining to read about their opera house exploits. (Also bonus points for the Atticus thing because Atticus Finch is definitely the best forever.)

    I think you need to give yourself a lot more credit. <3
  18. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    So my other idea is dead serious. Sure there may be a few funny exchanges but I want it to be very grounded and realistic.
    It's called Polybius.
    If anyone knows the 'urban legend' about Polybius, this will make more sense.
    So go read that, I'll wait.
    Okay so my Polybius is a a story all about obession. It's about one boy's obsession with escapism, one girl's obsession with answers, one town's obsession with the idea of normalcy and one country's obsession with order.
    Again, names are important to me so I'll explain them later.
    In a nutshell, it's the story of the summer of 1981 for a 13 year old girl named Michelle McMartin. Her mother and stepfather are too preoccupied with their new baby to pay her much mind so she finds herself at the local arcade and throws herself into a new game, determined to beat the reigning champs high score on Polybius. While playing the game she eventually meets the High score holder, Adam Routier and befriends him through their friendly rivalry for the high score. But both Michelle and Adam are escaping into the game, trying to avoid their home lives as they spin out of control.
    Michelle starts to get headaches and feel sick, she can't sleep at night as is plagued by nightmares. She starts to see strange people in uniforms hanging around the arcade and talking to Adam (who still holds the high score) until one day Adam disappears. Convinced the people in suits took him, she tries to warn the town but no one will listen. She figures the only way to find him is to beat his score until they take her too.
    So if this were a sci fi story, this is where the government would come in and recruit them for a secret project and train them as assassins right?
    Unfortunately real life isn't that simple/
    All the symptoms she blame son Polybius are really just stress symptoms. Her mother (Iana McMartin Boudreau) is obsessed with maintaining her new life and sees Michelle as a constant reminder of her past mistakes. She comes to hate her own daughter and pushes her away at every turn. Michelle hides as much as she can in the game, and in her own fantasy constructs, but the truth is making her physically sick. The stress made her sick, and the lack of sleep made her paranoid. But she wasn't hallucinating....
    Adam was always a nervous boy, awkward around others and prone to bursts of rage. His foster parents were incredibly neglectful and the people in suits were social workers, hoping to speak to him in private. He is found later in the shallow river of their hometown, but it's never determined if it was murder, suicide or an accident. Near the end, he seemed withdrawn and almost robotic in his responses.
    The tragedy shakes the town, who had all known something was wrong with Adam's homelife and in the end it's what gets Michelle out of her house and in with a foster family, in a new town far away from Polybius.

    Michelle McMartin is taken from Michelle -> Michelle Remembers, the fraudulent memoirs of a woman claiming satanic ritual abuse and McMartin -> the McMartin daycare hysteria. Both cases refelect a jump to the wildest conclusions, hysteria and a strong belief in the supernatural where a rational explanation can be found.

    Adam Routier comes from a few places. Adam from Adam Hermann, a child in foster care who was missing for ten years before it was reported and Adam Walsh, who was killed in 1981 after watching others play video games in a Sears. And Routier, From the Darlie Routier case, who may have stabbed her two sons to death.

    Ianan McMaryin Boudreau comes from Iana Straw, whose child died from neglect while she played video games and Penny Boudreau, who illed her daughter to keep her boyfriend.
  19. Almost Human

    Almost Human Mightest of the Drunks Staff Member Bürgermeister

    Really? I mean, I do trust you not to say things just to make me feel better but I find it hard to believe that my ideas are any good haha.
    I'm thinking when my art improves a bit I might draw some out.
    Would you be willing to look at it if I did?
  20. inexpediency

    inexpediency Ruler of this [CHAT]

    Well, for one, it's obvious you've put a lot of thought into these stories already, and that's one of the things that separates a boring, forgettable story from an interesting and engaging one. (By the way, I also think your "serious" idea is good--obsession is one of my favorite themes, and I adore character-driven stories.)

    And of course I'd look at it! I'm always here to help. :sun:

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