Masks Guests Wear To Your Story’s Masquerade Ball

Mask Of The Masquerade

“The most important kind of freedom
is to be what you really are
You trade in your reality for a role
You give up your ability to feel…
and in exchange…
put on a mask.”
~ Jim Morrison

To be honest, when the Absolute Write Blog Chain regulars were talking topics for this month, I loved the Halloween concept. Ideas immediately leapt to mind. I instantly knew how I could relate All Hallow’s Eve to the craft of writing fiction. But, Halloween is not this month’s theme. Instead, I stare glumly at the word “Masquerade” and wonder, “What can I do with that?”

Say hello to my friend, Writer’s Block. There are many causes but the one that tangled me up is: lack of direction. To move forward we each need to see into the darkness ahead. We must unmask the handsome stranger who is our story (or blog post) because while he is hidden behind a mask he is distant and insubstantial. And THERE it is. The connection between Masquerades and writing.

No matter where you find the source of your idea waterfall, be it a dazzling Muse-moment, or a keyword prompt from your writing community (or client), a story begins like a masquerade ball. The invitations were sent, the catering prepared, the music sets the beat, and we wait for guests to arrive. Without the guests the party is a dismal flop. The guests bring the character and plot to every event.

As the first guests arrive, either in your first paragraph for a pantser, or, planner, as you begin to brainstorm and take notes, you meet their mysterious masked faces. Their trues selves are foreshadowed by the mask they wear. They are hidden beneath lies and half-truths. They exist as something other than who they really are.

We all wear masks, don’t we? We have a face for every situation. We wear the “Mother Lion”, or the “Capable Worker”, or the “Talented Writer” mask and we change our mask as frequently as we change our hats. The elements of our stories wear their masks too. These masks are an illusion. They hide the depth and substance of the person beneath.

Just as a person is never a single mask, owning many, our plot and characters are multi-layered. Life is not simple. It was never meant to be. Life is a song, a story, deep and complicated. The best stories reveal each facet slowly, with sultry looks and edge of the seat anticipation. Mask by mask we reveal the strange creature beneath.

As the Masquerade Ball of your story swells, the room fills with masked strangers. They are freer because of their anonymity. They act and speak with a closer connection to their true selves because they are not themselves. Our story is truer too, before it is fully revealed to us, which is perhaps why it can destroy our motivation if we plan too finitely, but, to uncover the core, to see the final and one true face of our story, we must peel back those layers and discover the intricate characters and plot beneath the surface.

How do you remove the masks of your story? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Check out other great posts from Absolute Write’s October “Masquerade” Blog Chain:

Masks by pareeerica

Image Credit: * Wearing The Mask * by pareerica
Image Credit: S2 Wraps Blends by pareeerica

Unearth Your Archive Of Fiction Stories

Fiction stories and novels buried in an archive.Most writers have fiction stories from years ago that have since been abandoned to the dark recesses of a desk drawer archive. Some stories never made it past the opening lines, others were just a few chapters away from their dramatic conclusion. While some stories are best left hidden away, others can be revived and fashioned into more exciting plots.

If your current ideas aren’t inspiring you, go digging through your old files to find treasures you may have forgotten that you have! After years have passed, you can read over your partial first drafts with a fresh eye, as if they were written by someone else. Once you find a story that still has potential, read it over and look for areas that can be crafted into a new short story or novel.

Mine the Introduction

Most writers have the peak of their enthusiasm within the first chapter or scene of their story. Introductions bring the first characters and plot points into main focus. It is possible that your characters are incompatible for the story you put them in. A confident, powerful businesswoman may not belong in a sleepy Midwestern town when she’d shine in a bustling city. (Then again, she just might, providing a marked contrast. Your story may vary.) When you can extract characters from a weak plot, you can transfer them to a more exciting storyline.

On the other hand, your plot may shine, but your characters just aren’t interested in seeing the story through. They may be flat and lifeless, and not yield any additional information when you try character building techniques. It may be time to send those characters on their way, and give the story to more enthusiastic protagonists who will care about what’s happening in the world around them.

Dig into the Heart of the Story

For lengthier abandoned manuscripts, it can be harder to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Characters seem to get minds of their own, going off in unexpected directions and wandering away from the story. Plots can weaken and meander, to the point where even you don’t know what is going to happen next.

While many writers prefer the excitement of an unplanned route, others need a solid plot outline to bring their story and characters back on track. Write out an outline of the plot so far, and see where the story is actually heading. If it is workable, then you can revive that story and get back to writing. If not, see what needs to be cut, rearranged, or expanded into new avenues. If you’re at a loss, use a mind map to free associate possibilities for your plot.

Carve Into Your Words

An abandoned story will need a lot of work, and you will need to put on your editor’s hat for awhile before getting back to the writing. Ruthlessly cut into your story, removing anything that is not serving the plot. You can literally do this with a pair of scissors and a lot of tape, or you can cut and paste within your word processing program. If you don’t want to toss out perfectly good writing that just doesn’t fit, put those unneeded phrases into an idea file that you can go over later.

Have you revived an aging story? What ideas do you use when called to rework an unfinished or finished manuscript?

Photo Credit: Orcmid

Writing Romance and Strong Character with Patricia Strefling

It’s a delight to have the opportunity to welcome a talented romance author to The Craft of Writing Fiction today. Patricia Strefling, is an author of Christian romance novels with titles including “Edwina” and “Cecelia“. These novels reflect Patricia’s hope “to instill encouragement and inspiration in everyday people living everyday lives”. She joins us now to talk about writing romance, character development and her “drawer full of story-line ideas”.

Rebecca: Patricia, welcome to The Craft of Writing fiction and can I just say, “congratulations” on bringing two lovely, heart-touching books into print. The journey from inspiration to publication and then into marketing is fraught with trials and triumphs. Your personal success (and not just the stories it is growing from) offers encouragement, inspiration, and motivation to writers at any stage in their own journey.

What inspired you to begin writing romance books?

Several years ago I experienced business burn-out. I needed something to do that wasn’t work related. Since I loved reading romantic fiction I wrote what I loved to read. Something with real-life in it… not “predictable” stories that seemed too perfect to relate to.

During a 10-year period I wrote about 6 novels and a few short stories and kept them in a drawer. “Edwina” was my first attempt at putting a book out.

Your novels have strong characters, particularly in the protagonists Edwina and Cecelia, how do you develop characters and discover who your story is about?

First, my characters come from real-life experience mostly. I want to read about characters in difficult situations that require some “getting out of”.

Edwina” was written immediately after I’d returned from a trip to Scotland… as I was traveling home I began to think of how a person like me would react… finding herself alone in another country! The story was born.

Sometimes a good movie will charge my brain with a new twist to what I’ve seen… how I would have written the story differently.

How do your characters evolve through as you’re writing a novel?

I begin the writing but eventually the characters begin to develop themselves. It’s very weird, but we writers know about this phenomenon; the story takes on a life of it’s own and we are just the person getting it down on paper.

Some people find it very difficult to “find and define” their characters. For some reason it comes easy to me. I have a drawer full of story-line ideas. Too many. I work on the ones that most touch my own heart. The strongest stories, ones others may want to read.

You’ve already found success publishing two touching romance novels but what are you working on now/next?

[I’ve] just finished rewriting a story that has been in that drawer I mentioned for several years. Got it out, dusted it off, read it through, rewrote parts. Expect to publish this year (2010). Before I did this last rewrite, I was working on a story that connects with my Irish roots; set in Charleston, SC and then Ireland 1880’s. That’s my next project to finish.

Patricia is donating a copy of “Edwina” and a copy of “Cecelia” to one lucky winner at The Craft of Writing Fiction in celebration of her visit here. I’ll be sharing part two my talk with Patricia next Monday the 12th of July and part three on Monday the 19th, so you’ll have a total of three opportunities to enter. I’ll announce our winner on the 26th of July.

Want a chance to win? Simply, ask Patricia a question of your own, or leave a thoughtful comment, regarding writing romance and developing strong characters below. Then share this post with your friends.
Even if you don’t want the books ENTER! Because you can give them to me if you win. I’m not eligible to enter myself but I WANT THEM! lol

Make sure you subscribe to The Craft of Writing Fiction in your RSS feed reader or direct to your email inbox so you don’t miss any of the great posts we have coming up.

Add Spark To Your Writing

By Jan Hoadley

I think we’ve all done it. We find a book that looks incredible. It’s on a topic we’re keenly interested in – the cover and description are great. We buy the book, get home and settle in to read – and by the fifth chapter we’re bored to tears with the presentation. It’s hard to follow, the information isn’t focused, and it’s difficult to get a grasp as to what the author means and where they’re going.

For example, I could write about my dog. She’s a border collie, three years old, hyper at times and bossy to the other dogs. Doesn’t that sound immensely boring? It gives the facts – but beyond that tells little to nothing. Contrast this:

Her nose pushes out the barely-opened window sniffing for the cats on the other side. She turns, bounds off the couch, runs to the other window, bounces off the wall and returns to thrust the nose out the window as if it might go further this time. As Fly crawls on the sofa to rest she pins her to the ground and stands over her growling. Then a blue merle blur circles the room again before returning to the window in hopes there’s a cat out there NOW.

Which description gives you a better picture in your mind of Abby? Do you, the reader, really care how old she is? Bringing a character alive makes the reader want to see more. It brings up questions – why is she so interested in cats? Does a cat make contact with her and what does she do then? Does Fly avoid her or return to the sofa? How does the scene figure in to the bigger story?

Before getting in to sensory description sharpen the characters in your mind. Write down as much information on them to get it clear in your mind WHO this character is. Know your character well. When you thoroughly understand the character it’s easy to put yourself in their shoes. It’s almost like becoming an actor – the actor might be outgoing but the character he plays is quiet and plays things close to the vest. The character may act different than the actor would in the same situation. In writing – we are the “actor” – we decide what those characters do if it’s fiction. If non-fiction we can research and make the characters interesting enough to teach our audience and entertain them at the same time. Fill out an employment application for your adult characters. Do a background check on them! Interview them and look at the pictures on their desk! Use your imagination! Why does this character do this?

Non-fiction writers doing a profile want to portray their subject accurately – use these same powers of observation and details to breathe life into your character.

Sharpen your writing of directions. Think of something you do on a regular basis and write step by step directions. Use something you do often – brushing teeth or heating a can of soup. This teaches you to pay attention to details in your explanations. We often take for granted things – open the can, put on the stove, pour soup in a bowl and eat. Do that exactly and it’s not very tasty!! It leaves out pouring the soup into a pan, water or other ingredients added, turning on the stove and placing on a burner until heated. With the former one – if followed exactly – you could be eating cold soup concentrate! While this might seem silly – when you think about it, what if it’s directions to something that could be fatal when done incorrectly? Leaving out a step could be bad! When you learn to take and give directions precisely even mapquest and other map sites aren’t accurate in many cases – and when it leaves out a step you can end up a totally different place. On the same principle, your story can end up a totally different place if something is left out. It doesn’t make sense.

Some people have the idea non-fiction writing is boring – it doesn’t have to be. Using similar techniques can breathe creativity into fact. While it’s true that fiction you don’t have facts to box in – facts don’t have to be boring! It can be a little more interesting to make it interesting but it can be done. Books like “Secretariat The Making of a Champion” (William Nack) or “Great Horse Racing Mysteries” (John McEvoy) are all factual information – but read like novels. The influx of true crime and other books may or may not be fact but those based on fact tend to be more believable. When you put the right spin on something you can make the unbelievable believable. Think about it – how many read Steven King’s “Christine” and thought twice about a car coming up behind them? We *KNOW* cars don’t have minds to think and stalk people but there’s just enough there to think “what if”. How many read a scary book and associate bad things with corn fields or sewer grates or other things? The power of a good story gets through.

Use word pictures to sharpen your writing. When your character is in the car is she driving down the road? When looking at the trees is she looking at a tree line in the distance or laying under one watching the branches and leaves over her? They’re both trees but proximity and perspective makes a difference in the story. Good descriptions make scenes come to life. It enables someone who is blindfolded to see the picture you’re looking at. Strong characters, purposeful actions and making writing interesting makes the difference in a story with good information and a story with good information that gets read.

Whether you add creative details to non-fiction or realistic details to fiction, making writing interesting *and* engaging enough to read keeps the reader going.

Sharpen your skills and make your writing sizzle.

How do you add spark to your writing?

The Importance of Pace in Short Fiction

Pace is one of the most important elements for any short fiction writer interested in success. When handled correctly a good sense of pace can help create a piece of written art, when mishandled it can spell disaster for a short story. Learning the difference between the two is what divides ambitious amateurs from successful writers.

Given the inherent brevity of short fiction, pace plays a more prominent role than in novels and larger texts. In order to fully tell a story within the word restricted remit of a short story, a writer must utilize their skills to keep the plot moving along at a fast clip; fast enough to keep the reader interested, but detailed enough to be comprehensive. Below are a few methods with which to ensure a successfully paced short story.

One of the most fundamental skills a writer needs in order to write a well paced story is the ability to differentiate between a story that works well as a short fiction and one that does not. Amateur writers are often so determined to tell their story that they neglect to consider the correct form of the piece. A longer fiction artificially compressed into short story loses the elements that made it a good story in the first place; as side plots, secondary themes and minor characters are cut to meet the word limit the story loses its ‘heart’. Likewise, although less common, when a single scene or flash fiction is expanded into a short fiction it ceases to be effective as superfluous elements are added to pad it out; and the pace of the important elements slows accordingly. Knowing when a piece needs to blossom into a longer fiction and when it should remain as a single scene or idea is the mark of a good writer.

Having identified a suitable story, how then does the writer maintain a pace fast enough to convey it fully in a limited word count? Where novels and long fictions are able to spend pages building up complex descriptions and imagery, a short fiction writer must have a prudent and comprehensive vocabulary. Where a novel uses many descriptive words, a short fiction uses few. Therefore those used must be suitably evocative, able to conjure up an image or describe a scene briefly but completely. Essentially in this regard a short fiction writer utilizes the same skill as a poet, paring down their work and selecting only the most powerful words. In this way a skillful writer can keep the word count down, but convey just as much meaning and impact in far fewer words than a less skilled writer with twice the space to fill.

Pace is by no means an easy writing element to master, but with practice and patient reworking of short fiction it can be a real asset to a writer and with it a story can shine.

Nicholas Cockayne is a talented UK-based writer with a BA in English and a MA in Creative and Critical Writing. He’s currently involved in Media Consulting, Marketing, and Advertising.

How do you control the pace of your writing? Have you ever considered it’s importance before?

Free Write Against the Blank Page

A Guest Post By Kimberlee Ferrell.
Enjoying small town life and her two daughters, Kimberlee Ferrell still carves out time to write. Her blog, Freedom Writing, explores writing, parenting, and anything that flows out of her pen. Stop by to investigate the inner workings of her mind, and to learn more about her copywriting, proofreading, and editing expertise. Strong coffee and walnut brownies will be provided.

The blank page stares me in the face again. I am trying to write this post, but the lack of words on the screen paralyzes me. It causes the greatest writers among us to freeze up, and decide to wash the dishes, walk the dog, or do anything else but stare back at the empty canvas.

As writers, we face this on a daily basis. With each new article, blog post, or short story, we come full circle, to give birth to a new idea, to share our words with others. We turn to a fresh page in our notebooks or turn on our processing program, then stop. The glaring white page is empty, and our minds fill with doubts. “Where should I begin?” “What should I write about?” “Does anyone care about what I have to say?” “Are there really any original ideas?”

These thoughts and doubts can instantly send your muse to a vacation in the Bahamas, without you. There is a way to rekindle your writing: the free write. Many writers have used this technique to work past their writer’s block, and write no matter how they feel. I first discovered this exercise in Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in free writing, or just looking for an excellent read. She illustrates how to free write without expectations, and how to mine your first draft for those golden nuggets of exposition.

There are many ways to free write, and there is no one right way. There are two key techniques that I use when free writing. I set a timer in my head or on my desk, to give myself an immediate deadline. I also never stop writing for any reason. Do not be tempted to fix your spelling or grammar, save it for the editing phase. Choose one of these free writes the next time your fingers refuse to hit the keyboard.

Write the thoughts running through your head. When your inner editor casts doubts on everything from your lack of vocabulary to what you ate for breakfast, get it out on paper. Write whatever is bothering you at this moment. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and just keep writing every random thought that enters your head, whether it is related to writing or not. Let your mind dump its cluttered thoughts onto the page, and then set it aside. Your mind can relax, knowing you have addressed whatever was bothering you. Plus, you have written a few hundred words. Keep the momentum going, and dive into your writing project.

Write anything about your chosen topic. Sometimes you don’t know where to begin. Give yourself permission to dive headfirst into your topic, and write anything about it. Don’t worry about writing a captivating lead, or placing your thoughts into logical order. Cover the length and breadth of your topic, as the ideas come to you. You can always organize it later. This technique unearths new ideas I hadn’t considered before, adding depth to the final draft.

Write down topic ideas. This free write can be written traditionally, or in list form. Brainstorm a list of anything you want to write about. You can write a list of article titles, blog ideas, or conflicts for your main character. Once you have exhausted your list of ideas, go back over each and write a few sentences to flesh out your idea in more detail. This technique generates a lot of new leads over a short period of time.

Write something completely different. When your current project is wholly uninspiring, try writing something in a different topic, genre, or format. For example, if you are having trouble writing another SEO article, write a few pages of your novel instead. Once you’ve given your brain some free time, you can switch back to your project and get to work.

These are just a few of the possible ways you can use free writing to rejuvenate your writing juices. Once you start to write, the words come quick and easy.

The key is to sit down, and just write.

How have you incorporated free writes into your writing life? Do you have any other types of free writes to share? Leave a comment to let everyone know what works for you when you encounter the blank page.

Character: Live Another Life? [MEME]

Actress: Jessica AlbaIf you could be one character from a comic book, fiction series, or anime, who would you be, and why?

The novel I’m currently writing figures a strong female lead, Tori. She’s gritty, determined, and independant. That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard for her to learn to accept an inner darkness within her, and the help of her guardian angel.

When I watch the television series, Dark Angel, I feel a real tug to the main character, Max (Jessica Alba). Like Tori, she’s gritty, determined, and independant. She’s the kind of woman who can take care of herself and has learnt that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.

I’d love to have the kind of empowering confidence that Max (and Tori) have. They’ve got a core belief in themselves and their right to be the person they are. There are people in their lives they care about but it is on terms that maintain a freedom.

If you could be a character you’ve read about, or written about, who would you be and why? Do you find yourself writing characters you wish you were, or who echo yourself in some way?

What do you read or watch when you want to connect with a character? Have you ever considered which actor you would cast in the role of your protagonist were it made into a movie?

Related to this Meme: Location: Live Another Life? [MEME]

SG1 Series Part Three: Action & Dialogue

All Show, No Tell – The Audio/Visual Experience

One of the greatest lessons writers can gain by watching television series (and movies) is the importance of action and dialogue. In today’s world, we expect richer, active, even sensual experiences. We fill our entertainment hours with games, movies, soap operas, drama, theatre, ballet, situational comedy and reality television. Tangible, engaging experience involves interactions with all of our senses.

Thankfully, written media offers a wonderful opportunity to reach readers on a level of expression that goes far and beyond other forms. With words we can cause readers to see, feel, taste, smell and hear. The only way to truly allow a reader to experience a story is to show it, rather than tell it.

The Stargate Series, thanks to its audio/visual medium, is ALL SHOW AND NO TELL. Viewers watch the characters through every interaction, through every scene. We never experience internal monologue or exposition. Every vital element must be expressed to viewers through action and dialogue. The writers and producers of the Stargate SG1 series have mastered the subtlety needed to get the vital facts to viewers. They cut the chaff and engage viewers in this rich, science fiction environment.

ACTION – Something is ALWAYS happening.

In fiction we can resort to other forms of narration to tell the story but the most engaging, interesting and enriching is to ‘show’ the story through a series of SCENES. (Note: Fiction isn’t ‘all show’ and ‘no tell’ – read more but “show, don’t tell” is a vital writer tip – learn why.)

Every move your characters make, everything they see and experience, everything that happens to and around them is action. Whenever the SG1 step through the Stargate they’re taking action. What they do on the other side is action-packed.

Action isn’t always about guns blazing and car chases. Simple things like dinner, work and even sex involve action. The important thing to remember is anything you show happening must move the story forward. Every scene should take the story toward its climax, its ending.

DIALOGUE – Communication with purpose.

Getting characters to communicate is a significant action that offers writers a chance to use language between characters to share other important information. All dialogue should serve a purpose in your story. It could be character development, fact expression, or relationship based but it must move the story forward.

I’ll go into dialogue more in future Writer’s Round-About entries. Meanwhile read more about dialogue, writing dialogue, dialogue tips, and dialogue in scripts vs. novels.

Television series are rich with elements that involve viewers. We reach into the stories, interacting on a cerebral level that generates interest in the characters and what happens to them. We see it happening, we hear it happening and the audio/visual cues pull us into the action. The exact same scene could be written in two different ways, ‘show’ or ‘tell’.

If you tell the story to someone it creates the distance of a second-hand account. As writers we want to close that gap as much as possible. Sometimes it’s appropriate to give your readers distance but most of the time readers want to be fully engaged. Pull them in by showing them the action. Then they can use all their senses to experience a story, rather than just read about it.

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SG1 Series Part Two: Character Development

Characters are an elemental part of every story. An intriguing plot with a good story-arc is important but without approachable characters your story will never connect with an audience. Readers need characters. Characters are the socket for your stories power supply. It is through your characters that readers can plug into the plot and experience the life of your story.

The Stargate series introduces a multitude of characters in various stages and of differing quality and consideration. Some play bit parts as extras or body count but others grow into the story, we come to love them or hate them, we come to care for the part they play in the story, their injuries and deaths bring anguish and grief or heartfelt cheers.

SG1 – Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal’c

The original SG1 is a team of four diverse characters. Their differences create an initial challenge; they struggle as a unit until they learn to use each others strengths to counter their own weaknesses. It shows the importance of bringing opposites together. These characters are unique in their own fields. It is their united purposes, each individual to their character, which brings them together. A bond is formed that gives this eclectic community a solid friendship. We see the bond develop and grow with the characters as the series progresses.

It is important to blend characters but avoid carbon copies. Each character should be unique and individual. Distinguish them with separate goals, established histories, areas of interest and technique.

The SGC and General Hammond

The Stargate Command is an entity in its own right. It is actually a collection of individuals that work in regulated ways to create a standardized base of operations. There are many faceless characters lead by the General. Most of the time we don’t connect with these individuals but General Hammond represents the unity. His personality molds the actions of the SGC.

Larger forces need a strong head character to represent their interests. Armies can seem like a long column of faceless men but a charismatic leader will show a distinguishing command of his forces. Each of his men is ultimately the voice of this man and a solid leader is one whose men will lay down their own lives to support the orders he puts forth. This is true of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ guys.

The Goa’uld

While the Goa’uld are a nasty bunch in their own right they are an ideal antagonist. They aren’t evil. They have solid reasoning and a collection of emotional reactions that allow readers to associate with them. The Goa’uld act entirely out of an arrogant sense of self preservation and domination. As a people (um… symbiotic race) they act with rational, intelligent thought. They are challenging but not insurmountable.

Antagonists should be normal people. You can create more impact with a sympathetic antagonist then with a diabolical freak. If a reader can see themselves in a protagonist you have a good story but if readers can see themselves to some small degree in the antagonist then you have a charged situation that will keep a reader tied to the outcome.

There are many more characters involved in the Stargate series. Each new person (or group of people) is shown in snippets. Base motivations appear and personality traits are revealed but characters always have an element that remains unseen. It is impossible to know everything and it is important that characters can still do something unexpected or unpredictable.

Over time, we get to know the main characters. Their own personal stories are revealed and delved into. The primary characters are challenged with personal situations forcing them to make choices that distinguish them. Whole episodes play a vital role in adding depth to these characters and introduce situations that push their qualities forward.

  • Use time in your story to slowly reveal your characters.
  • Allow their actions and reactions to portray the depth of their beliefs and desires.
  • Each scene should use your characters strengths and weaknesses.
  • 3D characters have sides we cannot see.
  • A characters relationships reveal vital clues to their personality.
  • Characters always continue to grow and change based on the situations that occur in each moment of their lives.

Finally, just because your story has reached ‘The End’ does not mean your characters have. Characters should still be imperfect in the final scene. Their growth remains incomplete. Some of your characters may have died but most will live on beyond your closing paragraph and while they began at one point and progressed to another in this story there should always be another world to save, another enemy to fight, another day to live and another dream to follow.

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Critiquing Your Critics

Critiques and reviews are an important part of every writer’s success. There are many helpful responses readers, writers, editors and agents will give you but along with these you’ll often find much of the feedback you receive will be of no use to you. Some suggestions, if followed, could actually prove problematic for your writing’s success. This occurs for many reasons, so what should you look for when you critique your critics?

1. Accuracy – Firstly of course it’s important to make sure your critic is accurate in his or her comments.

When it comes to suggestions on alternate spelling and grammar, various dialects and locations can differ in opinion. For example, some words when read by an English audience should be spelled differently then they would be if written for American readers. This is important to remember when you are writing for a specific audience but the real rule in this case is to be consistent. You are not incorrect if you use one spelling over the other since both are correct but it is important to maintain the same regional choices throughout your piece.

Some corrections and suggestions readers may make will simply be incorrect. If you’re not sure, always double check in a reliable dictionary or style guide. Check your resources and confirm your facts and your source. It’s better to be sure than to be mistaken.

2. Style and Voice – Some critics will comment on points that are purely personal choice.

Style and Voice are two things that are uniquely you. It’s important when revising the comments of your reviewers that anything relating to areas where opinions will differ greatly should remain true to your own opinion, or the opinion of your primary audience. There is nothing worse than a writer adhering to suggestions in bits and parts of a piece that alter his personal voice. A fluid line of language will quickly become a jumble of multiple personalities that confuse and frustrate readers.

It’s also important to remember that the “you” factor is what makes your writing your own. There is no point listening to the comments of an acclaimed author if your story begins to sound more like their story than your own. Maintain your personal integrity and make changes with your own voice and not the authority of someone else.

3. Motion, Plot and Character – It is important that any suggestions maintain the whole rather than destroy it.

You know your story, plot and characters better than any reader. If you’ve done your job you’ll have given your readers the information they need to fill in all the plot blanks and by the end of your piece you should have answered those pressing questions (and left a few hanging if there will be sequels).

Some critics will pick at points in your story, plot or characters. Much of the time these will be valid and you should pay particular attention to verifying their comments. Decide if you agree with their suggestions and if you make changes ensure they are rounded; follow through with every fact throughout the piece. Consistency is the key to keeping your readers enthralled. Any changes you make need to be maintained by every corroborative scene.

Give Thanks!

Regardless of the value of each critique and review it is important to thank your critic. They have taken the time to read and respond to your writing. Time is a valuable commodity. All feedback enriches your future work. Every review offers you significant insight into the minds of your readers and what they like or dislike. Even if their comments cannot be used with this particular piece you can carry the thoughts into your next story or article. It’s important to acknowledge the efforts of your critics. Besides, you may want them to offer their comments on your next piece.