Friday, October 14, 2011

Critiquing Fiction

Three and half years ago my neighbor, Linda Apple , invited me to attend a meeting of the NWA Writers Workshop I had been writing poetry and songs for most of my life, but had only written two or three short stories and had no earthly idea what I was doing. Boy, was my life about to change.
These folks welcomed me into the group like I was a long lost cousin from their favorite aunt’s side of the family. They must have the patience of Job to tolerate someone as backwoods and ignorant as me. Not only are they willing to share their vast knowledge and expertise, they even invited me attend writers conferences with them.
Today, in an effort to pay forward, I’m going to share some important information that will make you a better writer. You will recognize the story below, but the names have been changed due to the witness protection program.
Go, Rico, go!
See Rico go.
Can Janet go? Yes, see Janet go.
          Plenty of action in this scene, but a lot of repetitive words. Also, it’s lacking a sense of place. Where are we—a football game, the beach, on a treadmill? Who’s telling the story (point of view, or POV in writer talk)?
See Fido run.
Fido bit Fluffy.
“Bad Fido, bad,” said Janet.
          Finally some dialogue. How did Fluffy feel? Add some internalization here. Invoke the five senses—has Fido rolled in something dead? What does Fluffy’s fur taste like?
In this example, I’ve only point out some of the most obvious flaws in this story. It’s not bad writing, it just needs a little help.
What suggestions would you give this author to improve the story?


  1. Haahaa!! Loved it!! Especially "What does Fluffy's fur taste like?" Baaahaahaa!! ;)

  2. Why is Fido on the run? Discovered something in the trash? needs to get to that buried bone?

    Back story. Needs backstory and context.



  3. Thanks for commenting Mahjira and ironwoodwind. Maybe we can Rico and Janet straightened out, and learn a little more about Fido and Fluffy. I hope they've had all their shots!

  4. Not so sure internalization is a good idea with Fluffy. Her thoughts would have to get bleeped at our group ;)

  5. My instinct would be to add the how and where (details)...

    nibbled, pierced, shredded, severed

    the hoof, the wing, the nape, the fleecy rump

  6. Hi, Russell. You are a funny guy. Your writing is humorous, too.

    Is this the one where Fido is pulling a little red wagon with a six pack of RC colas in it. Or is that a different story?