My critique group goes to work!

If you write, join a critique group: other writers who read and critique your writing. Yesterday, my critique group liked the conclusion of “The Criminal Cupid!” (click to read it) I’ll share their comments. (And I will likely do that again for future critiques.)

One newer lady had said this was the first story I’d turned in where she could easily visualize what was happening. She said I had a little more description that slowed down the action and let her keep up. (I still have concerns that I skimp on description.) An older lady who wrote wonderful prose-poetry said, “This is slower?”

My methhead description felt awkward. (I agree.)

One writer said the Billy Jack banter felt flat and did not contribute to the story progress. Another writer really liked it. (That bit is there because Bennie is delaying the arrow girl so Holly has a chance to break free, and so I can take a shot at Billy Jack. I’ll rewrite it to show the former.)

Late 60s Bennie the cop needed to resist 25-year-old Holly more lest he come off as creepy. (I am putting more effort into Bennie holding off love-arrow-smitten Holly. I must make sure the reader knows what Bennie is thinking: Holly needs to back off and get back to police work! It’ll make for better, funnier conflict.) And as a corollary, a writer also said the badge cam felt creepy. (The camera stays! All the cops wear them! I will foreshadow the camera earlier, Holly will also wear one for her day on the police force.)

When Holly struggled against her bonds, followed by her dialog, one writer did not know who was speaking. (I have erased dialog tags too often! Readers MUST know who says what! I will tag that.)

I stole a line from Time Bandits when the villain is about to cast a spell: “Half-warthog? Half-donkey? Half-oyster? Half-carrot?” Arrow girl says, “Half hippie. Half hipster. Half commie. Half socialist. Half angry poet. Half stoned rock star. Half vegan. Half beatnik. Half tie-dyed anti-war protestor. And no cop!” One writer said, “That’s a lot of halves.” (I added a Bennie wisecrack about the girl being bad at math.)

One write gave me the line “untidily bowled over” for the shattered toilet knocking people down. (I took it!)

A writer wants a better description of the arrows. (I will describe earlier in the story, maybe Holly can say superpowered exposition stuff?

A writer liked the collard greens joke and the mocha brown face and Holly’s pale Swedish face gag, but did not get Holly’s beaky nose as deadly weapon. Also said the fascist references seemed to refer to our current government. (Actually, that came from annoying Marx worshippers I met decades ago in college. They’re likely tea-partiers now, wimps who always stuff their little pea brains into a comforting ideology. “Ew, this capitalism sandwich tastes like crap! I’ll hoark down this communism sandwich in one swallow, I don’t need to smell or taste it, it must be good cuz the other is bad!” The epitome of willful stupidity!)

P.S. Ugh, the story is up to 7000 words, that is TOO MUCH! But I have the middle and beginning to rewrite, and a big scene to cut out, so I hope to get it to the ideal length of just over 5000 words. Ideal in not too long, and maybe can be split into 2500 parts for shorter audio files.


Whose side am I on, or Robin Hood vs. Trump!

At my critique group last Saturday, one writer said that my latest piece (part 2 of The Criminal Cupid, that she was not always sure who to root for, and that I seemed to be going after the left-wing side. Yeah, that was intentional. The POV character is Bennie the Rubber Cop, who is showing Holly the ropes of police work. I don’t want to show ideology, but a cop mentality. The law vs. morality. And I need a few more wisecracks. (You know, I should riff on that taxpayer line.)

I wanted a teen girl villain who tries to be a Robin Hood type to contrast against Billington Stumpfinger (Donald Trump type), and who would show the differences between Holly and Bennie in what is right and wrong. I was drawing on Law & Order’s Lennie Briscoe for Bennie, and for the arrow girl, I was thinking of misguided and annoying liberal types (other than myself), afraid to think without an ideology and spout Errol Flynn movie lines mixed with old 1960s protest/hippie lingo. Maybe I was thinking of the couple of communists I met in college. One actually said that because capitalism must exploit the masses (how about proof of that?), communism must be a better system (how’d you pole vault to that with no evidence?). Super Holly, at one point, does not want to stop the arrow girl from steading from Stumpy and giving to the poor, whereas Bennie wants to stop her from causing a riot. It is fun to take shots at both sides, and I figure Bennie, as a cop, would want more law and order and less political ideology. I wish I could talk to a few cops about this.

I thought this would be a short post. This is why I do not tweet.

A brief post: movies and feedback

I noted that a few radio DJ jerks got obnoxious with the actors who play Johnny and Sue Storm in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. (Salon link: How can you be black and she be white, that boggles our little DJ brainzzzz!!! (Another Salon link) And girl, you are so HAWT I wanna kiss yer toes! (I linked because you should not take my word for it.) Gee, rude DJs, who’d have thunk it?

Still need to see Ant Man. I do not want to see Pixels (even with the always cool Peter Dinklage), low Rotten Tomatoes rating and it always bugs me when girls are just trophies for guys.

I joined a new local feedback group for writers. I showed the first quarter of KIttygirl two weeks ago (they loved it), and the second quarter last Saturday (some were tougher on it). I got some good advice. If you are starting to write, I can think of no better advice than to have other writers critique your work.

P.S. I still worry about Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards (looks WAY too young!) and Ben “The Thing” Grimm (does NOT look like a burly but lovable curmudgeon!). Will they get it right this time? Rotten Tomatoes does not have a rating yet, and it opens Friday. Not a good sign.



Critique Groups RULE! Except for rare rotten apples.

Critique groups, where writers hand each other their work to be critically read and written upon, are wonderful for writers. Over the years, I have read and marked up romances, poetry, adventure, memoirs, and other stuff that has expanded my horizons.

I have been in enough critique groups to love the huge helpful majority. Like the ladies who said about Holly (the superwoman) and Cal (the Batman type) that those two made a perfect couple (I cranked up the romance). Who liked when I gave Holly a larger, beaky nose (I was right to make Holly’s face not be Barbie). And who drew a smiley face when I had Holly say when a line of huge super-muscle men charged at her, “I hate football!” I cannot praise them enough.

And then there are the rare (thank god) members who were not helpful at all. One guy would write one word on my several pages of story. Really? He called himself a writer, it was his JOB to write more than ONE MEASLY WORD!!! Or the old woman writing stories about a serial murderer. She read my superheroine story and said she had nothing to relate to. Really? She can relate to a killer, but not to a hero? She also kept asking who was gonna draw my stuff. Plenty of older ladies have read my writing and given me great critiques, but this one shut her brain down every time she read the word “superhero” without a bunch of pretty pictures dancing on the page. Then there was the guy who wanted the entire group to read only his oh-so-brilliant writing, who would not even peek at anyone else’s writing, and who wondered why we did not all want him to succeed. Maybe because he didn’t care about anyone else?

When you are in a critique group, you read other writer’s work, you write critical comments on the work, and you helpfully share them. Critically read, critically write. Say what you like, say what you don’t like. It’s fun, it helps other writers, it helps you. To those few who refuse to do that job, form your own group.

You can call it the “Only my writing matters” group. It’ll be a small group, because it will always split into groups of one member each.

P.S. I need to get back into a critique group again. I miss it. I need it.

The 80s, a friending fiend, and chubby kids

Eternity_PosterAnother Cinequest recommendation: Eternity the Movie. Great sendup of the 80s music. Also got to see Lou’s Records in Encinitas, where I have bought a lot of CDs and DVDs. During Q&A, I asked how the actors could say those lines without cracking up. They said that they played their parts absolutely straight. Remember Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun movies?

Also saw Friended to Death. (also on facebook) I laughed a lot, and the movie had no dull moments. Making a movie with a conceited jerk as the main character is not easy, but in this case it WORKED. Lots of Facebook and texting jokes (LOL, ROFL, etc.). For instance, one character was adopted by a black lady. The main guy says, oh, you have a BLOM (black mom); a funny smothering mom. I met a producer and a lady actress from the flick (she played another crazy character in the movie, again proving that a very beautiful actress can be staggeringly funny) at a VIP meet-up. Which I got into for a few minutes. Don’t ask me how I did it.

Bite SIze, a documentary about childhood obesity, had me rooting for a young football player with anger issues. Not something I normally do, but boy did I want this kid to win.

Another note for Nothing in Los Angeles: I should have mentioned that one joke in the movie was a guy telling the scriptwriter that the script was not good “sonically.” Reminds me of a book publisher telling a guy in a critique group I was in that he needed “verbal fluency.” I do not believe that even  the book publisher knows what the heck that means.