Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I have a new critique partner and he really doesn't like one of my characters. Basically, he thinks the character is stupid and boring--I'm paraphrasing. This partner has been complaining a lot. What my new critique partner doesn't know (he came in in the middle of the novel) is this character is the antagonist. Based on this feedback, I've (hopefully!) rewritten the character to be not-boring and to be less stupid. But, his stupidity is intentional; it's part of the character's fatal flaw. Ultimately, he is going to fail, be foiled by the protagonist.

This experience has made me wrestle with the whole issue of likeability. Do readers need to like all the characters? I say: no. But they have to be somehow intrigued enough to see what will happen, right?

What do you think?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

second person

I tried to read a book recently which was written with a second-person
narrative. Wikipedia says, The second-person narrative is a narrative mode in which the protagonist or another main character is referred to by employment of second-person personal
pronouns and other kinds of addressing forms, for example the English second-person pronoun "you"

I say, it was super-annoying. Every time I read "you" it took me out of the story. I kept thinking, "Who you? Me? But I'm not a futuristic detective investigating a kinky murder and missing my hair-do appointment. Why did this author use second person?" Suffice to say, I couldn't stick it out and didn't finish the book.
Caveat Scriptor! As a writer, you should think carefully before you try using second person. Is it really what your story needs? If so, go for it! :)

Of course, there have been successful fictions written in second person. Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss (1990) comes to mind.

I must admit, I do like second person for blog entries. :)

How about you? Have you read or written any good second person?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I love libraries

A couple weeks ago I got a huge stack of novels from my local library. Several of the novels were good, one was really not to my taste and one was awesome! I haven't quite finished it, but I may have found a new favorite novel of all time. I'll blog more about the book in question at a later date. In the meantime, I can't help feeling grateful to the library that enabled me to experience something filled with life-changing, intriguing ideas and stories.
Wow. Libraries rock! I love libraries!

In support of libraries, here are some quotes:

  • "Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better." --Sidney Sheldon
  • "Libraries are absolutely at the center of my life. Since I couldn't afford to go to college, I attended the library three or four days a week from the age of eighteen on, and graduated from the library when I was twenty-eight." --Ray Bradbury
  • "It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive." --James Baldwin
  • "We must not think of learning as only what happens in schools. It is an extended part of life. The most readily available resource for all of life is our public library system." --David McCullough
  • "I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it." --Isaac Asimov
  • "Libraries are where dreams begin." --Jamie Freveletti
  • Your favorite quote here.

Obviously, I could go on and on. Libraries are important; please support them in your community.

The American Library Association (ALA) has a neat website: www.ilovelibraries.org. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Critique 101

Okay, let's say you've found a critique group. How, exactly, do you critique the work of other writers? I have some suggestions...
  • Generally, it's better to address comments to "the author" rather than "you". In other words separate the author from the work's characters, narrators, etc.
  • Always be specific rather than vague. "I liked this." is less helpful than "The main character here was sympathetic and funny." To help with specificity, focus on writerly concepts such as dialogue, characterization, descriptions, similes, metaphors, plotting, word choice, etc.
  • Begin with positive comments before getting into constructive criticism. This is psychology 101: if you're negative right off the bat, fellow writers will raise barriers and become defensive.
  • Note any confusion or problems you have with the piece, and, if possible, give specific suggestions for improvement.
  • Tell the writer what made you curious, what questions were raised, what you want to know in the future. (But don't expect to get answers right away--authors need to stay quiet during critique.)
  • Comment on the words on the page in front of you. Do not comment on what you think it means, or what you think the author meant, or what your personal opinions are on the subject.
  • Feel free to suggest a craft book or novel that you think would help the writer.
  • Write your comments on spelling, grammar, etc. on the document. You don't need to go over them verbally during critique group unless the writer has a particular pattern.
  • Try not to verbally repeat points that others have made. Feel free to mark on the manuscript if you agree or disagree with comments of other critiquers.
  • Generally, you don't want to comment on what is written; rather, focus on how it's written. All fiction involves some kind of suspension of disbelief.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the genre in question, feel free to say so and refrain from comment.
  • End on a positive note. It is a brave act to submit work for critique.
  • Your suggestion here.

Good luck!