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Posts Tagged ‘Critique’

Tuesdays with Story
7/10/22

The first word . . .

“At the most basic we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’ll do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.”

–Stephan King, On Writing

Tuesday evening. . .

Six TWS writers came together on Tuesday to share their works. Here’s the conversation:

Bob Kralapp  Jaime liked the sequence where Katherine is almost clipped by the Mercedes, then thinks through the incident later at the grocery store. Mike felt the story is only partially resolved since the pistol is still in the bedpost. There were several comments that some of the longer sentences later on in the story could be broken up into shorter ones. Thanks all for the excellent comments.

Kashmira Sheth Kashmira submitted two chapters of Journey to Swaraj.

Larry had a couple of comments regarding certain metaphors and phrases. Overall, he thought it flowed nicely. Jaime wanted a little more time to go by in the cart before Veena reached home from helping her brother. Bob wanted a little more information about the salt marsh, the leaders’ involvement, and its significance. Mike wrote that he enjoyed the chapters. He did find Mrs. Bibra too kind. 

Thank you all.

Jaime Nelson Noven  Chapter 1… Kashmira enjoyed the world-building but could use some clarity on the sequence of actions happening. Larry enjoyed the tension caused by the character’s lack of sleep. Jack made suggestions for cutting long sentences into smaller ones, as well as adding some more scene-building sentences. Bob also thought the chapter could go a little longer. We all wondered whether the alcohol business would have gotten better as things got worse or whether the vodka would really be made out of fermented squash from a rotting Jersey. Amit noted that the somewhat disembodied voice of Alexei speaking to Nathan from below reminded him of Alexa, which made for an amusing image. Thanks, everyone!

Amit Trivedi  (If Not For The Partition, chapter 1) The group felt it was an improvement from the previous version. Babubhai illness has to be developed more. The importance of books and Kedar leaving needs to be explained.  Slowing down pacing will also help. Explain  Rangoli. Otherwise it seems it’s a police officer!

Larry F. Sommers Early passages from memoir Good Enough–There were various suggestions for word order and flow in the opening section (1948). Kashmira and others felt I, the narrator, could have been more active in seeking to play with the electric train. The final scene, being evicted from my second-grade teacher’s house, needs a bit more specification of the circumstances and elaboration of the impact. Thanks, all.

July 19,  here’s who’s on deck

So far, we have only three. There is room for more. If interested, please let Larry know. Thanks.

Kashmira Sheth

Amit Trivedi

Larry F. Sommers

???

???

Our editor

Amit will edit the July issues of Writer’s Mail. If you have something, do email it to Amit.

The last word . . .

“The first draft of everything is shit.”

                                                                                                                      —Ernest Hemingway 

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

June 7th Meeting

First Word…

“I write to discover what I know.”
― Flannery O’Connor

Tuesday evening…

Larry, Jack, Kashmira, Jaime, Daniel and Bob met via Zoom to discuss the works submitted. Here is a summary of what was said:

Dan Culhain (A Grand Thing, chapters 3 and 4) … Dan submitted two chapters from his work-in-progress. In general, he received more feedback on the Aikken chapter than the Nellie chapter. Kashmira thought there were some opportunities to better show Aikken’s mental state vs. telling. John offered a couple of wording suggestions related to how Aikken would perceive the sudden presence of the strangers. Jack wanted to see more of Aikken up front to invest the reader more in the character. Also, the Aikken chapter seemed to jump around a bit and could use some arrangement.

—Larry F. Sommers (“Sketches,” experimental early chapters of memoir) … Discussion centered around the contrasting and complementary roles of juvenile vs. adult narrator voice in different sections. It was illuminating and informative. I will go and try to make it better. Thanks, all.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, chapters 14-16) … Kashmira submitted three chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Jack wanted sentences to be shortened in the part when Veena confronts the police officer. Jamie asked about the turban and how it came undone. John wanted to know how quickly the brother disappeared and reappeared. Overall the comments were positive. Thank you all.

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York, After All, chapter 3)… We talked this week about world-building, and Dan brought into question if the population is dwindling, why does she pay for rent, and why would the city build a new train? Larry would almost like to see this as chapter 1. Kashmira enjoyed the slow build and the character relationships. Bob enjoyed the tone, texture, and imagery of the chapter. John brought into question the connotation of a toucan’s beak (as being long more so than curved). Jack was concerned the narrative voice may be dulling the scene, and that the narrator should notice more than the characters do. Dan pointed out that Charlie needs to think about her missing book in this chapter since it’s so important to her and the plot. Thanks, everyone!

Who’s up Next?

The only definite presenters so far for June 21st are:

Kashmira Sheth               Journey to Swaraj

Bob Kralapp                    Storm, revised ending

That leaves several slots open if anyone has something to submit for the next meeting.

Interview…

On June 1st, Amber Boudreau appeared as a guest on The Author Blurb Podcast, hosted by E. A. Maynard. Some of the talking points include finding a supportive writer’s group, the slippery conventions of the genre, and the sometimes disconnect between the writer’s intentions and the reader’s expectations. This interview can be seen here

Last Word…

That’s my only defense against this world: to build a sentence out of it.— Jim Harrison

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Tuesdays With Story

May 17th Meeting

“Remember, a writer writes, always.”—Billy Crystal, Throw Momma from the Train.

Five of us, Daniel, Kashmira, Bob, Jaime, and Mike, got together for Tuesday’s meeting to discuss and offer suggestions for the three submissions. Here are the summaries:

Kashmira submitted two chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Mike and Jaime said they enjoyed the metaphors that were grounded in Veena’s world. Jamie had a question about the chapter 12th ending. Daniel felt that Veena’s paranoia could be better presented and Bob wanted more details about the mob scene. Thanks all for your comments.

Mike submitted a new version of his short story, Roger. Bob missed the post-funeral dinner scene in the re-write, but liked young Roger’s wondering about the baby being lonesome. Kashmira suggested that the ending should show more transformation or resolve from Roger. Daniel thought that Roger lost some kindness in this version. Thanks, everyone for your helpful comments!

(more…)

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Tuesdays with Story

May 3rd Meeting

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”
–Virginia Woolf

Well, let’s just hope we don’t get as cynical as that.

Mike

Seven of us Zoomed in on Tuesday to share their writings to offer suggestions and comments on writing. Here are the summaries from the writers:

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York, After All, chapter 2)… Most writers agreed the chapter is working well in both introducing the characters and providing intrigue. For Bob, the detail of the chocolate on the breath of the nurse made the scene really come to life. Kashmira suggested that instead of telling Charlie’s intentions in the last line, I can show this by having her hesitate putting on her reading glasses. Thanks, all!

Amber Boudreau Amber read from the beginning of chapter 6 of her sequel, Second Act. Jaime seemed to take immense pleasure in deleting sentences and Amber can’t wait to see what she got rid of. John, who wasn’t with us last time, said he didn’t immediately like Jeremy as much as he did Mavis. Jaime suggested mentioning a role Jeremy didn’t get as a way to perhaps endear him to the reader. Bob wondered if Jeremy isn’t on the autism spectrum. Spoiler: he’s not. Kashmira was looking for a little more reaction from Jeremy concerning his old pack. 

(more…)

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Tuesdays with Story
April 19, 2022

The first word . . .

In selecting the starting point and ending point for your story, it will help “if you will remember the following facts about readers:

  1. They are fascinated and threatened by significant change;
  2. They want the story to start with such a change;
  3. They want to have a story question to worry about;
  4. They want the story question answered in the story ending;
  5. They will quickly lose patience with everything but material that relates to the story question.”

– Jack M. Bickham, Scene and Structure, p. 7 (1993).

Tuesday evening April 19, 2022

Six TWS writers came together over Zoom and in person this week to review the works-in-progress of four of their colleagues and offer insights and critiques. Here is a summary of what was said:

— Mike Austin (“Roger”) … “Roger” was very well received. I had concerns that it might be too depressing, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. Some areas that could use fleshing out were the things that have alienated his family from him, such as his affair and his mocking of his son’s religion. I also should clarify Angie’s comment about not being able to afford an emergency room. (And along those lines, it occurred to me that if Angie had a job at the university, she’d have insurance. So I might have to give her a different job.) There was a little brawling, though no bloodshed, thanks to Zoom, about whether the structure could be changed so that the story begins with Roger waking in the waiting room, contemplating the events leading up to his being there, or if it should remain linear. I did find the idea of beginning in the waiting room appealing. Hm. Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions.  

Dan Culhane (A Grand Thing To Be An Afternoon, Ch. 2) Dan submitted chapter 2 in which we are introduced to Nellie, Oren, and Jacob and start to see the world of MY026. Dan received some very helpful feedback on the mechanics of the chapter, including on the opening description of the scene and the purpose of certain section breaks. A universal agreement against the use of parenthesis was duly noted. The piece succeeds in introducing characters that are engaging and get people to care about their relationships. However, the narration needs some attention in places to avoid the voice of the narrator sneaking into Nellie’s internal dialogue. All very helpful feedback and much appreciated.

(more…)

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
April 5, 2022

The first word . . .

“Drama is the way of holding the reader’s attention. The basic formula for drama is setup, buildup, payoff—just like a joke. The setup tells us what the game is. The buildup is where you put in all the moves, the forward motion, where you get all the meat off the turkey. The payoff answers the question, Why are we here anyway? What is it that you’ve been trying to give? Drama must move forward and upward, or the seats on which the audience is sitting will become very hard and uncomfortable.” – Anne Lamott (bird by bird).

Tuesday evening April 5, 2022

Seven TWS writers came together over Zoom (mostly) this week to review the works-in-progress of four of their colleagues and offer insights and critiques. They also got a look at Larry’s freshly minted bookmarks! Here is a summary of what was said:

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, 7-9) …Kashmira submitted chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Larry thought that the story has improved from the previous draft. Daniel liked what the description of the food evoked. John had some logistic concerns and Bob suggested places where the story can be deepened. Jaime pointed out places where the story could be tightened. Thank you all for reading and sharing your comments.  

(more…)

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Tuesdays with Story
3/5/22

The first word . . .

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” — George Orwell

Tuesday evening. . .

Nine TWS writers attended March first meeting.  

Bob (Slow Dancing Under the Mirror Ball, part 1)

There were many comments that the small-town setting was believable and that the conversations sounded real. The homecoming parade needs work on two points. The first is showing a stronger connection between the temperature of a snowy day and how the townspeople are dressed. The second concerns making Bernie a stronger or more continuous presence.

(more…)

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Tuesdays with Story
2/20/22

The first word . . .

“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”

–Charles Dickens

Tuesday evening. . .

Nine TWS writers came together on Tuesday to talk shop. Here’s the conversation:

Jack Freiburger (poems, “LAL Moon,” “Skeets”) . . . Nothing to report as there was not much feedback.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, ch. 1-2) . . . Kashmira submitted the first two chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Overall, the response was positive. There were suggestions to fine-tune some sections, less narration by Veena about her family’s situation/history, and a few tweaks to strengthen the story. There was also a suggestion that “telling” could be omitted and that the same trees were mentioned in the front and back of the house!

Thank you all for reading the revised version.

Amit Trivedi (poem, “Nursing Home”) … Jack felt it was thought-provoking and liked the references to Van Gogh paintings. Jack also felt that western readers will not recognize the gods/angles of death in the last line. Larry thought it was an interesting tour of a typical end-of-live situation. Bob felt the situation in the poem seems real and intimae. When I thanked Jack for his comments/advice he said, “Semper laetus erit adiutori poetae!” I’ll let you figure it out using google translate.

(more…)

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Tuesdays with Story
2/5/22

The first word . . .

“One time, while I was at my day job of computer programming, I was working through a conversation two characters were going to have in my story. I mumbled both parts to myself as I walked. When I got to the door, I walked through and held it open for a moment. I realized I was holding it open for the ‘other character’ that I was talking to.”

―Andy Weir, author of The Martian, Artemis, and Hail Mary

https://writingcooperative.com/andy-weir-comes-clean-on-how-and-why-he-writes-f2da98d29ffe

Tuesday evening. . .

Nine TWS writers—including newcomer Dan—filled our screens this week for a lively critique session, which included an in-depth discussion on how and why crop fields are plowed, proving that this is a very Wisconsin writers group. Here is some of what was said:

Jaime Nelson Noven (chapter, New York After All) . . . John and Amber want Nathan to have stronger dialogue. Kashmira thought Nathan could have an inkling of memory of Charlie as being some kind of fisherman, and that we should see an example of Charlie’s resistance to letting other people hold her baby. Jack added some new jokes. Bob wondered if there is something else Charlie can notice about Nathan’s hand, other than no wedding ring. And where did that escaped Lifesaver end up anyway? Thanks, all!

Bob Kralapp (“Street Fair” and “Driving to Town”) . . . Larry felt that Street Fair had some interesting images, but lacked context. Jack commented on its conciseness, that it was almost a haiku. In Driving to Town, Jaime felt that there was a problem in not showing what the narrator sees in the field before going into the interpretation of what he sees. Helpful comments, all. Thanks.

John Schneller (chapter 29, Precious Daughter) … Kashmira was hoping to see Nia in this chapter. (Sorry, Kotel needs to keep moving for a chapter or two.) Jack and Larry picked up on a few word clarifications. Jaime noted Kotel used the horse character names before he was privy to that. A short discussion on what words/wording are appropriate for middle-grade readers. The dialogue of Guardian raised questions in some readers but was accepted as a part of his distinctive character. Many good suggestions tonight.

Larry F. Sommers (chapter 1-2, Untitled Memoir) . . . It was unanimous that the new Chapter 2, going from the recon flight to the Freedom Bird flight with memories of the Knox College failure experience, was more effective than the previous Chapter 2, which went back to infancy. More is needed on the return to Kenosha and on Joelle. Jack suggested that “Reconnaissance” could be a title for the whole memoir, not just Ch. 1, and pointed out that movements from one place to another are natural opportunities for flashbacks. Thanks, all, for your insights.

February 15, here’s who’s on deck

Jack Freiburger (poems)

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj)

Amit Trivedi (???)

Larry F. Sommers (chapter, Untitled Memoir)

John Schneller (chapter 30, Precious Daughter)

Mike Austin (???)

Our editor

Jaime Nelson Noven is editing the February issues of Writer’s Mail. She’s always looking for good things to include. If you have something, do email it to Jaime.

Happy Pub Week, Amber!

TWS member Amber Boudreau celebrates the publication of her novel Second Nature, which the group helped critique not so long ago. Happy pub week, Amber! Second Nature is now available for purchase from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/1952919800/), and watch for a bookstore event with Mystery to Me Bookstore this May.

What goes into your Character Bible?

A Character Bible is a tool used by writers to keep their characters straight. It can be an outline of the primary characters in a novel that the author creates before beginning to write, or it can be a place to track details about a character as the story is being written, to prevent continuity errors down the line. So what should be included in your Character Bible?

In an article by The Writing Cooperative (https://writingcooperative.com/why-a-character-bible-might-be-the-key-to-your-character-creation-24650823ae99), they break it down into three sections: SKIN (physical appearance), FLESH (backstory), and CORE (psychology). If you’re missing any one of these three, your character is not well-rounded enough.

In a new interview, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, who uses repeat protagonists in many of her books, says that she includes in her Character Bibles details of the characters’ lives from the “resting” moments. If she has a detective protagonist, she thinks about who that person is when they’re not working. Family tree. Professional resume. What does their apartment look like? How do they dress? “Sometimes you can go on Pinterest to look at things. I have friends who are big on astrological signs for their characters. I have one writing friend who can define [their characters] by a flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.”

https://community.autocrit.com/posts/20563954?notification_id=2252006459

The last word . . .

“There is some confusion as to what magic actually is. I think this can be cleared up if you just look at the very earliest descriptions of magic. Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as ‘the art.’ I believe this is completely literal. I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic.”Alan Moore, author of Jerusalem, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen

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Tuesdays with Story

from

January 18th, 2022

Flannery O’Connor

“I write to discover what I know.”
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

Here’s who presented on Tuesday evening:

Kashmira Sheth (Nina Soni, Perfect Hostess, chapters 10, 11)

Kashmira submitted the last few chapters of Nina Soni, Perfect Hostess. Most of the comments were positive, including the ending. Mike wanted a scene when they drove back after dropping Nina’s grandma and cousin. John had a comment about popcorns vs popcorn. Amber had few small suggestions. 

John Schneller (Blessed Daughter, chapter 28)

We discussed the dynamics of using two story lines. While it is difficult to know the full impressions of a reader who is reading it straight through versus our biweekly breaks between chapters, there is a significant contrast between the two storylines. A larger volume of story is attached to Kotel while the more intense with Nia. Her segments would benefit from development of Nia‘s thoughts and emotions.

Amber Boudreau (Dragoneer 2, final)

Amber read from her final chapters of The Dragoneer 2, the first chapters of which she submitted to the group a year ago in January of 2021. John suggested getting right into the action and not even show Moira arriving at the room. Jamie had questions about Cal and the Librarian but applauded the book ending with such a solid mix of emotions. Also, he may not have liked the first lines of the submission, but John thought the last lines could stand.

Bob Kralapp (What Did You Think I Meant?, short story)

Both Amber and Kashmira made comments about the children at the pool and just how they fit into the story. Jaime suggested having more of Warren’s observations about the other characters and how their lives might continue after college. Mike felt that the characters were well done although Warren needed background. Great suggestions all.

Next Meeting

On February 1st, the meeting will be at Larry Sommer’s house. The meeting link is:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82771394742?pwd=QXlKWUNjTDVnYlVjUk83Vk1lVVNMdz09

For February 1st, the presenters will be:

Jaime Nelson-Noven (chapter, New York After All)

Bob Kralapp (?)

John Schneller (chapters, Blessed Daughter)

Larry F. Sommers (?)

Our Editor

Jaime Nelson-Noven will edit the February Writer’s Mail. If you have something good you’d like her to include in the next issue, email it to her.

A few thoughts from Ann Lamott on what it means to be a writer:

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
―from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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