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How Much To Listen to Critics

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time. More so when I joined a Creative Writing group in January. And then I sort of forgot about it until I saw this article and realized maybe I should mention it here to get some feedback on the whole topic.

Writing novels in third person POV is the most common way to tell stories. Meaning to say, that the details within a particular story are pretty partial to one’s own thinking or opinion.  So, with that being said, I sort of have a difficult time working with the following types of observations or critiquing:

  • Your character doesn’t sound realistic
  • Your character is not likable because he is a womanizer
  • Why would your character have a close relationship with his mother. That is odd
  • Why does she hate her mother? She is a brat
  • Your character sounds spoiled and I don’t like that in a person
  • Your character is flirting with his friend’s female companion. That is a no-no.
  • How could he have a one-night-stand with a married woman!
  • He sounds selfish
  • She sounds desperate and maybe too anxious
  • He smokes too much. She drinks too much

You get the point?

So, I wonder…what criteria do people use to critique writings outside of the grammatical stuff. Is it mostly a reaction because, what they are reading reminds them of a bad time and place in their own lives?  Or…I would love to understand.

What do you think?

{photo source

Assignment 6 – Home

Write a 200-300 word essay/story beginning describing the moment a character/narrator is departing (home? the country? a party?). What are the sensory details that would be noticed upon this moment of departure?

We lost our home in Sacramento a year after the market crashed, and the housing industry came crumbling down, and somewhere in between my husband lost his job, making my income insufficient to live the American dream. At the time, it was the most difficult of things to go through, and I remember clearly that June day we were instructed by the mortgage company, on our way out, to leave our keys in a planter on the side of the house. I hated the final blow, that the house we once called home was no longer ours.

The night before, we packed a small-sized U-Haul truck with a few of our belongings set aside from the garage sales we held over the course of three previous weekends, selling off major pieces, and then donating the items we couldn’t justify storing in my parent’s garage in San Francisco for an unknown period of time until we figured out life. I woke up that early summer morning to a cool breeze streaming across my face from the opened window by my side of the bed. The chirping ballads from the colorful birds busily fluttering in the backyard, hard at work; I could see vividly, even with my eyes still shut. I lingered in bed for a moment, knowing there was no delaying the inevitable. I stood up, to make my way downstairs, as usual, admiring the sun emerging over the horizon, steadily creeping across the living room, to the open foyer, and moving up the spiral staircase, in its path gracing temporarily a silhouette of an outdoor tree, and its ruffling leaves projected onto the wall alongside the staircase. How I will miss that I thought.

I opened the front door and saw a baby bird, not sure what kind of bird it was, but he had fallen from the nest attached to the corner of the walls to the entryway niche to the house.

I called my husband over, and together tried to get it up into the nest, and although our efforts were with good intend, we were, immediately attacked by five or six birds, trying to protect, what was theirs? I imagined. I was heartbroken, because I knew the baby bird wasn’t going to make it. So I walked over to the front lawn and sat on the grass, just under the magnolia tree, trying somehow to nurse the bird back to life, crying uncontrollably, not for everything we had lost, but for the baby bird that was dying in the palms of my hands.

Assignment Nine – Made Up Story

In 250-500 words, evoke a scene (from memory, or made up) in which the narrator faces a problem.  The problem need not be solved by the end of the scene, but show us how the narrator (you, or a made up 1st-person narrator) reacts to the circumstances.  Action is character!

I transferred the last installment online to the line of credit that my husband and I took out three years ago to pay for our daughter’s wedding–which, according to my husband, went insanely over budget. My fault, he said, a result of misunderstanding our daughter’s expectations, and ‘truly comprehending’ our inability to deliver on our income. He had no idea at the time that there was no misunderstanding on my part.

The wedding reception she dreamt about her whole life I delivered. In the Crown Room at the Fairmont on Nob Hill, with a confirmed guest list of 148, of which 15 were a ‘no-show’, further agitating the man I fell in-love with and married 30-years ago. And although, I still reflect upon that memorable day in a good way, even with all the arguing with my husband, I was glad to be paying off the fifty-two-thousand dollar loan, so we could put all of this behind us.

You see my husband and I, on our last-ditch effort to save our marriage, agreed after the college loan and wedding obligations were paid off, to opt for early retirement, sell our small home and move across the pond, to the English countryside, optimistic that the simpler lifestyle there, would be beneficial to our marriage. I was happy that finally that plan would be taking shape within the year. That is until, the phone rang. My daughter calling to tell me she was leaving her husband, and needed a place to stay until she could get her life back in order. She was hoping we could make ready, her old bedroom. The added news, she would be coming home with a forty-three thousand-dollar debt, and could use a loan in order to sever all ties with that ‘asshole,’ she said she married.

Before I could even consider speaking my mind, she disconnected, abandoning me slumped in a chair, at the kitchen table, staring at a hung photograph of a Cotswold cottage beckoning me. Knowing, while my stomach was in knots, that I had no choice but to step off that cloud, back down to earth, and plan out how to get the room ready in time for my baby to come home, and also…find a way to break the news to that husband of mine.

Assignment Eight – The Dresser

Write the first 250-500 words of a story or essay in which you’re describing an object you saved from a burning house.  Without describing explicitly what that object means to you (to your narrator), let the images themselves, and story or stories you tell about the object, imply the object’s significance.

I’ve never had to save something from a burning house; Thank God! But when we downsized for our move from Sacramento back to San Francisco, we sold every piece of furniture, except a Bassett 3-drawer dresser my mother gifted me decades ago. At the time, my husband wanted it gone. He felt the weathered dresser that was in dire need of repair, and a new coat of varnish, represented everything he wanted to put behind us in order to start again.  

I disagreed with him, and insisted on bringing the dresser along. I adored the intricate craftsmanship, I told him, even, the way the dresser slanted left, compromising the pull and push of the drawers. He laughed when he noticed me carefully packing the contents into a moving box. From drawer one, I pulled out a few trinkets from my childhood, before we moved to the U.S. A dozen or so photographs, held together with a brown ribbon used for a flower girl basket from my cousin’s wedding; I found the color simply elegant and worthy of a keepsake. There were five journals in excellent condition, that I kept during my difficult teenage years. A photograph from my senior prom made its way to the floor. The uptight pose from my date, made me laugh, remembering how he was forced to accompany me.

From drawer two, I pulled out an art book and a dozen or more used up crayons, and markers, and even a dried-up water-color palette. Fabric samples and a Barbie doll dressed in the outfit I made for her decades ago.

In drawer three, I found a stained postcard I sent my mother from Paris in the early 90s; I remember finding in her ‘things to shred pile’, thinking then, it had to be there by mistake. There was also an expired work badge with my last name forever misspelled, a driver’s license from a decade ago with my best mug-shot. I loved my hair cut then. A romantic card from my husband, before he was my husband, was among a collection of other greeting cards, stacked neatly in a collaged box I made in fifth grade. A tarnished bracelet I bought with my first paycheck; I found caught inside a crack in the drawer. And a neatly folded overpriced gold-leafed drawer liner, I couldn’t resist buying from an arts and craft store.

Although everything fit inside one large moving box, easily storeable along with the rest of the frivolous, in a Public Storage unit. I knew the dresser with its contents would end up in a space; I will designate my own, no matter where I end up.