21 August 2014

Battling Constructive Criticism - Ferret Style

Scholarly ferret has answers.
There are many things we'll hear from critique partners during our writing journeys. I've heard them about my stories and you'll hear them about yours, if you haven't already. These words are hurtful when you first hear them. After all, writing fiction is an art form and the creative soul cannot be judged, for art has value only to the artist. But if you want to sell your art, you are opening yourself up to scrutiny, right?

I encountered such criticisms in one of my first creative writing classes and I can tell you my reaction wasn't pretty. I'd spent almost $400.00 to take this class and I had better not hear anything but how great my writing is and how wonderful my story.

That didn't happen, unfortunately. I heard many things, and I'm about to share them with you. Trust me, I was steaming mad. The vulgar gestures I produced after having read the "constructive criticisms" of my classmates, went largely unnoticed, mainly because it was an online class and my computer shielded me from the rest of the group.

Q: Whose story is this?

A: What the hell are you talking about? It's my story, bitch!

Just kidding. When I was first asked this question, I wasn't sure what folks were talking about. I've introduced three characters already, so obviously it's about "at least" three characters, right?  ...right?

Confused ferret asks question.

It's their way of saying that they believe a story should have one main character and that character should have a story all about them and their journey. Fine and dandy! I get it. For new writers, maybe it's smart to stick to this "template" but seriously, there's more than one way to write a story folks.

Q: What is the main goal of your character?

A: Shouldn't you read more than the first chapter before you ask that question?

This is no joke. Why do you have to know the goal of my character when you start reading the story? Do you want to know the goal in the first chapter so you can then decide whether or not to buy the book? Is more than 15 minutes of reading in Barnes & Noble too much time to waste deciding whether or not the goal of my character is important enough to fork out $5.99? Read the back cover!

Angry ferret's favorite acronym RTFM

Okay, so the goal of my character is to travel to China, unlock the mystery behind the ancient Chinese secret, and rescue the world. Tada! End of story in only one chapter. Chapter Two: Does the Character Meet Her Goal?

Q: Do you expect us to believe your character actually drove off that cliff and survived?

A: It's fiction! 

The answer to this question is obvious. No, I don't expect you to believe it because it didn't happen for real. It happened in my story, and my story is fiction. If you do the same things my characters do and think you'll get away with it, then you deserve to die! Much like the Mountain Man.

Ferret wants you to chill.

Q: Couldn't you change it to read more like "blah blah blah blah blah, "blah, blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?"

A: No, because then it would be YOUR story, not mine.

Writers are so funny when we critique other work. We all do it, but let's be honest. When we like something, we always want a crack at it to see if our version will sound better, look better, smell better, or taste better. Just like chefs, there's always a twist to make it better. Just remember, it's my food you are sampling. If you like it, get the basic recipe. You can always add your twist to it in your own kitchen, when you make your version.

Ninja ferret is not happy!

Q: Why is there so much head-hopping going on here?

A: What the hell is head-hopping?

I seriously did not understand this whole concept of head-hopping. It made me angry for so many people to tell me I was doing this when I didn't even know what it meant. In the voice of a whiny, little brat, "How does Jane know that John is feeling sad? She's not privy to his thoughts."

Can you guess ferret thoughts?

Um, I'm the author writing the story. Jane doesn't need to know that John is sad. I'm telling you he's sad! I know he's sad and because I know he's sad, Jane knows he's sad, and now so do you! Now shut up and read the rest of my story.

Do you recall any criticisms which made you feel immediately defensive about your writing? Please share!

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