Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by glorybee » Sat Mar 28, 2015 9:24 am

Every several months, I have a week where I just don’t have time to come up with a lesson. This was one of those weeks: I had my daughter and granddaughter here for four days, then I had to spend a day with my mother who had a fall that sent her to the hospital (she’s fine now), and then I had three couples—longtime friends—visiting us for a weekend, with all of the shopping, cooking, and house cleaning that entails. I’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone write a lesson for this week. However, come Sunday afternoon, all will be quiet and peaceful once more.

So I’ll toss out an opportunity for a mini-critique, for those of you who are willing to have a very short piece critiqued in public. Here are the rules:

1. Use the prompts below to write a story, paragraph or poem of no more than 200 words.
2. Post it as a reply in this thread. If there’s anything you particularly want me to look at, let me know.
3. You have through April 3 to post your reply here.
4. Be aware that I won’t hold back—although I won’t be brutal, I’ll definitely let you know where your writing is weakest. I’ll also give suggestions for improvement.

Please read though those rules again—last time I did this, I had several people who didn’t use the given prompts, or who submitted pieces that were too long.


THE PROMPTS:

a. Choose one character from this list…

Homeless person
Guitarist
Athlete
Pizza delivery person
Protester

b. Choose one conflict from this list…

Anxiety
Horrible weather
Vindictive rival
Wrong decision
Lost

***
Now...write!

I’ll read and critique each submission, here in this forum. This might be a good opportunity to try some new writing technique or to practice one of the lessons from the past several weeks. Have fun with it, and spread the word!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by Milly Born » Sun Mar 29, 2015 4:01 pm

Thanks, Jan, for this new opportunity to grow.

First, a confession: my "natural writing style" includes the use of (too) many adverbs and adjectives. When I joined FaithWriters, I quickly learned that strong verbs can replace most of them. Nowadays, to write "correctly," I tend to avoid them all together. However, I would like to find a balance, because my writings become sort of dry--at least, in my own opinion. I like to read "succulent, poetic prose" and would love to be able to write it.

Here's my brief attempt--reintroducing adverbs and adjectives.

Shoot!

Keywords: homeless person, lost.

He strolls amid crowds who are running to self-realization, or so they think.

Unnoticed--his rags blending into polluted facades--he discerns their struggle to discover purpose in the myriad of activities that fill their day. They don't linger in the present; they race into the future as they crave to satisfy their starving souls, but the finish line is forever out of reach.

They are consumed with an existence they weren't created for--a people lost in the treadmill of self-imposed objectives that won't bring them any closer to the essence of life. Belying their hearts, which desire to soar in the omnipresence of their heavenly Creator, they persist in pursuing cramped goals of earthly subsistence.

His feet wander, but his heart knows where to find direction. Steadfast, he follows the One who leads the way.
Milly Born
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Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
--Psalm 105:1

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Re: Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by glorybee » Sun Mar 29, 2015 4:42 pm

Milly Born wrote:
Keywords: homeless person, lost.

He strolls amid crowds who are running to self-realization, or so they think.

Unnoticed--his rags blending into polluted facades--he discerns their struggle to discover purpose in the myriad of activities that fill their day. They don't linger in the present; they race into the future as they crave to satisfy their starving souls, but the finish line is forever out of reach.

They are consumed with an existence they weren't created for--a people lost in the treadmill of self-imposed objectives that won't bring them any closer to the essence of life. Belying their hearts, which desire to soar in the omnipresence of their heavenly Creator, they persist in pursuing cramped goals of earthly subsistence.

His feet wander, but his heart knows where to find direction. Steadfast, he follows the One who leads the way.
Milly--this is lovely! I'm delighted that you chose the spiritual meaning of "lost" rather than the directional one.

I don't have any mechanical critique except for one tiny thing that's quite minor. Even among grammarians, this word is changing in usage: the word "myriad" means "great number of", so that your phrase "the myriad of activities..." should read "the myriad activities..." As I said, though, using "of" with "myriad" is becoming more and more acceptable, so I wouldn't worry about it.

The only other thing I'd say isn't really critique, just personal preference. By far most of your little vignette is devoted to description of the lost people; I'm very interested, however, in this homeless man. If you ever re-visit or expand this, consider developing him a bit more. Some of the sentences describing the other people almost became a tad redundant to me. Nevertheless, they're beautifully written, and there's very little to critique here--just those few suggestions.

I wasn't at all bothered, by the way, by your adjectives and adverbs. They're fine when they're done well, and yours were done exceptionally well.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by GeraldShuler » Mon Mar 30, 2015 5:10 am

This was hard. I had almost 400 hundred words and I had just started. Most of this sample was lost to the word count.

I went with "homeless person" and "horrible weather." My original idea was to have the reader fall in love with the homeless man and feel bitter toward the ones who didn't care. 200 words didn't allow my untuned skills to succeed. But did I at least convey some of that?

Bink rubbed his hands together in a futile attempt to get warmth back into his fingertips. The bitter wind ignored his ragged coat, mercilessly piercing directly to his old bones. He shivered and pulled his coat tighter. The shortage of bedspace at the shelter put an unfortunate kink in his plans, but he was used to obstacles in his life. It wouldn't get him down. He smiled at the policeman who had been suspiciously eyeing him for the last several minutes.

“Evening, Officer. Bit chilly, ain't it?” Bink watched the officer shuffle his feet uncomfortably.

“You got a place to go tonight?”

“Yes, indeedy, Sir.” Bink forced another smile. “I'm just heading home now.”

Bink knew the cop didn't believe him. It didn't matter. The two just turned and walked away from each other. That was fine with Bink, though, because he knew of a nearby furniture store with empty refrigerator boxes in the alley. That would be “home” for tonight.

The next morning a calloused garbage crew found the vagabond cuddled inside a box. Finding the corpse didn't even shake them up. The bum should have found better shelter on such a cold night.

No loss.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by glorybee » Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:01 am

JayDavidKing wrote: Bink rubbed his hands together in a futile attempt to get warmth back into his fingertips. The bitter wind ignored his ragged coat, mercilessly piercing directly to his old bones. I loved that personification of the wind. You don't often see that in prose. He shivered and pulled his coat tighter. The shortage of bedspace I would have just gone with 'beds.' Purely personal preferenceat the shelter put an unfortunate kink in his plans, but he was used to obstacles in his life. It wouldn't get him down. He smiled at the policeman who had been suspiciously eyeing him for the last several minutes. There were a few cliches in that paragraph--put a kink in his plans, obstacles in his life, get him down.

“Evening, Officer. Bit chilly, ain't it?” Bink watched the officer shuffle his feet uncomfortably.

“You got a place to go tonight?”

“Yes, indeedy, Sir.” Bink forced another smile. “I'm just heading home now.”

Bink knew the cop didn't believe him. It didn't matter. The two just turned and walked away from each other. That was fine with Bink, though, because he knew of a nearby furniture store with empty refrigerator boxes in the alley. That would be “home” for tonight.

The next morning a calloused garbage crew found the vagabond cuddled I would have used 'huddled' here. 'Cuddled' has a much different connotation inside a box. Finding the corpse didn't even shake them up. The bum should have found better shelter on such a cold night.

No loss.
Well done! In so few words, you gave the readers a few peeks into the personalities of three characters (Bink, the cop, the garbage crew).

I actually felt more drawn to the cop, who seemed to care for Bink. He wasn't gruff with him--even seemed to feel uncomfortable with Bink's plight. Bink, on the other hand, with his forced smile--I wasn't sure that I even trusted him. I know that 200 words is very, very few to actually develop characterization. I guess the key would be to pick one of those characters and concentrate just on him, leaving the others flat until some kind person gives you more words to work with. :oops:

I found your ending very effective and chilling (no pun intended). Two tiny syllables that effectively conveyed the world's attitude toward its disposable people. Lord, have mercy.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by HISsparrow » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:23 pm

Here is my attempt. Thank you very much for doing this. You had mentioned before that I needed to work on realistic dialogue the most, so I would like to know if you think this attempt is any improvement. Of course, I would love to know anything else that comes to your mind. :)

My prompts were "protester and horrible weather" though after I finished writing "lost" might have also been applied. :)

-----------------
Joanna clutched her sign to her chest as if she could draw warmth from it. Are we doing any good, Lord?

Joanna pulled her hat away from her eyes and turned to check on her husband. David held his sign with one hand and had shoved his other in his coat pocket.

“It’s a long way home. You ready?” David said.

“Sure.”

Joanna and David weaved through shivering protesters to unencumbered ground. After a few steps, a woman shoved a voice recorder in Joanna’s face.

“What gives you the right to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies?”

“I’m Joanna. Who’re you?”

The woman leaned her head back a little and said, “Anna.”

“Anna, I don’t. But the majority of women who have abortions had sex knowing the repercussions. We choose the results when we indulge our pleasures.”

“And those who didn’t choose?”

“What choice does the child have? Would you punish it for the sins of the father? That’s what we’re doing; we’re doing it with the abortions, with the laws, with our inaction, and with our words. Anna, let me ask you: what gives anyone the right to deny the God-given right to live?”
------------
Ashley

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Re: Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by glorybee » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:00 pm

HISsparrow wrote: -----------------
Joanna clutched her sign to her chest as if she could draw warmth from it. Are we doing any good, Lord? I'd combine this paragraph with the next, as neither the person nor the scene has changed, and replace 'Joanna' with 'she.' She pulled her hat away from her eyes and turned to check on her husband. David held his sign with one hand and had shoved his other in his coat pocket. This sentence needs a teensy fix. You have David doing two actions, but one is written in simple past tense (David held) and one in past perfect (had shoved). To make it more parallel, I'd recommend something like 'David held his sign with one hand and shoved his other in his coat pocket.')

“It’s a long way home. You ready?” David said.

“Sure.” Two good, realistic pieces of dialogue. They may not seem 'writerly,' but they feel natural and true.

Joanna and David weaved through shivering protesters to unencumbered ground. After a few steps, a woman shoved a voice recorder in Joanna’s face.

“What gives you the right to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies?”

“I’m Joanna. Who’re you?”

The woman leaned her head back a little and said, “Anna.” I know this is just a little writing exercise, but I recommend against using two very similar names (Joanna and Anna).

“Anna, I don’t. But the majority of women who have abortions had sex knowing the repercussions. We choose the results when we indulge our pleasures.”

“And those who didn’t choose?”

“What choice does the child have? Would you punish it for the sins of the father? That’s what we’re doing; we’re doing it with the abortions, with the laws, with our inaction, and with our words. Anna, let me ask you: what gives anyone the right to deny the God-given right to live?”
------------
Ashley
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MINI-CRITIQUES, THIS WEEK ONLY

Post by Milly Born » Fri Apr 03, 2015 12:30 pm

Thank you, Jan, for your critique. I actually started to rewrite and include your suggestion...
glorybee wrote: The only other thing I'd say isn't really critique, just personal preference. By far most of your little vignette is devoted to description of the lost people; I'm very interested, however, in this homeless man. If you ever re-visit or expand this, consider developing him a bit more. Some of the sentences describing the other people almost became a tad redundant to me.
...but didn't find the time to finish. Unfortunately, because it's a privilege to take private writing lessons with you! :D

Have a wonderful weekend.
Milly Born
Witnessing, worshipping...writing.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
--Psalm 105:1

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