September 2015 Critique/Review/Thoughts
October 9, 2015Posted by on
I recently sent an email to an ex-colleague saying something like: a thought that now seems rather obvious — but to me as an engineer and ex-civil servant who spent a lot of time writing reports and specifications certainly wasn’t — which is that if you are writing fiction you don’t have to tell the truth. This assumed truism amongst fiction writers is a real struggle for me, even when reminding myself of it. Rather strange that I should even think like this given that I have never had a problem embellishing the truth (just a little bit), being deliberately conservative with the truth or on occasions concealing it. In all of these concepts previous untruths may have remained hidden depending on the circumstances, but no untruths were ever added. Writing fiction that allows characters, time, places, events, etc, to be manipulated for the purpose of the story is something that I’ve happily accepted in my reading but I find it an alien concept in writing.
I mention the foregoing because of another obvious thought that crossed my mind and that is interesting the reader in a good, readable, story. The readership in my professional career were captive or, perhaps more correctly, self interested readers. I could think and write in a logical and factual manner, what I wrote didn’t have to be enjoyed but it did have to be understood and accepted. I’m slowly coming to terms with the notion that I have to lead a reader to an understanding that does not (necessarily) follow a certain logic and can be related to something quite abstract (especially in thought), possibly to the point of being abstruse. That in doing so and for the purposes of a storyline, I have to create a belief in the truth — or not— of the fiction being read. Moreover, this understanding is often related to the emotional state of the characters in a piece, which may itself be an abstraction but should never be abstruse to the reader — I’ll need to give some thought to that last remark.
PS — Talking about emotions, I quite liked this article: 3 Secrets of Transmitting Naked Emotions.
The top three stories earn a place in its publication and yet I’m not certain that the annual anthology will include any illustrations that accompany a story. So — my ranking this month assumes that a story must be able to stand on its own and without any graphic support. The rules of this group do not cover the inclusion of graphics or what happens to those graphics if a story including them happens to end up in the first three.
- Giselle’s story Hinky Dinky Parlay-Voo was my second choice this month, the originality of the story, the allusions to the the hype theme and the inclusion of the song made it a compelling story. We were living the trauma that George experienced during the war and carried back from it. What I took to be the rebirth his marriage to Edith along with the fading of that trauma was brought about by the baby. I don’t think such trauma can ever end but it can be suppressed when a greater emotion is experienced. Given the 3000 word limit, there was much that I thought ‘implicit’ in the ending, especially in the birth of the baby and his name ‘Donald’. Lovely story Giselle.
- Mr Bentinck’s Portrait by Colmore was full of characterisation encapsulating so much of what is taking place in this trend to modernise everything in this world, where the the baby is thrown out with the bathwater and somethings are lost forever. I don’t usually read these ghostlike fictions Colmore, this one touched a nerve and dealt cleverly with the theme. I liked Emma and didn’t like Jasper, which was the intention. The hype element was quite implicit and the social elements included were covered well. PS — I haven’t been to our local ‘Playhouse’ for a long long time but you’re right, I’m sure that there are many people who do only deal in cash.
- I suspect that we belonged to the same school of writing Gaz; your story Media Hype was an interesting storyline but it failed to involve me emotionally as a reader, your story lines are invariably good ones and this was, I believe, intended to draw out emotion in the reader. Unfortunately, I didn’t make any emotional connection with the events that took place in the story, which was — to me — a logical sequence of events that led to a (presumably) happy ending, by which time I was indifferent to whatever befell Janice, John and Dr Richardson. Janice was wrong about Dr Richardson’s wife, yet was this a realisation that impacted on her? I wonder what would she have done if Dr Richardson’s wife was alive and as fat as butter? Having created the condition she found herself in, who was she sorry for, did she have any remorse at all for her thoughts and actions or was this yet more self-pity? Self-pity? You must have struck an emotional note there Gaz! Was self-pity the intention?
- Helen and Henry by Capucin (my third choice) cleverly set the theme into a relationship between Henry and Helen, taking us back to the hype used throughout history in times of warfare. Writing this, it occurs to me that the wars mentioned had a real context to Henry and an historic context to Helen, but I wonder (now) how Helen’s generation are influenced by the hype of their wars and the consequences now for the young men who fight — and fought — in them, especially when compared to wars discussed by Henry and Helen. It seems to me that war is now only real to non participants in an historic context, modern warfare is now entertainment?
- Atiller’s story The Bag was hype full on, written tongue in cheek perhaps but quite an achievement to include so much so amusingly. The story illustrated how the inclusion of graphics can enhance a story, in this case becoming an intrinsic part of it. This month’s hype theme was possibly a difficult subject, to write about in this amusing manner — and not to include graphics — would be quite difficult
- I’m not sure that we have any Turkish businesses where I live Lost but we do have plenty of Greek (Cypriot) ones. I’m sure such rivalry exists as you wrote about in Striking A Full House. I liked how setting the context of this rivalry was put into recognisable social changes both in social entertainment habits and building usage and the fact that customer loyalty is recognised as a part of this. But perhaps mostly, the explicit ingredient of all hype, that of money winning the race (although this isn’t — necessarily — always the case).
- My First choice was Looking West by Jenny whose stories set in Turkey are really a good read. I’m not quite sure what it is about the skill of telling a story, I’m beginning to think that it’s the inclusion of small and seemingly trivial detail. Small details like the sentence — In the silence that followed this announcement, a small boy’s voice could be heard squeezing through the pantalooned legs all around him — which I thought captured the scene very well and was read by me as I believe it was intended to be read. However on pasting it here, I don’t think the voice would squeeze through the pantaloons (a small muffled voice may be heard — hidden among the pantaloons, perhaps). I had to search for the term efe, which I found at —Wiki with a capital E. The use of another term could have made the search easier however, my thanks for causing me to amend my story for October and take out an obscure term that was unlikely to be understood and only put in to stroke my own ego.
- Charles’s Move To Mars covered the theme and entertained with a good sci-fi story. Still a bit too much detail for me Charles, in this case mostly about the wrong things. I can accept the cctv without explanation and I think it is acceptable that they simply went to Mars in a spacecraft, the term terraforming was used to cover making Mars fit human habitation without the need for any explanation. There are many things that a sci-fi aficionado takes for granted and the common use of know technology is one of them, as is plausible but fictional technology — explained more by its use. How much of the technology needed explaining in a story where they had to get to and from Mars and where the how of the technology was not as important as the why of the plot? Nevertheless, it was a good story that was really nicely rounded off at the end.
- Angie’s storyline Shops That Work Magic was her usual magic involving romance; I can’t remember the last time that my wife itched to iron a crumpled shirt, although she does have a tendency to sponge down the front of jackets, but running a hot bubble bath, shampooing hair and giving it a quick trim is pushing it a bit. Kidding (just a little bit — maybe), you always write enjoyable and readable stories Angie. I love cinnamon by the way. Does John’s daughter have a husband and is she likely to be around the same age as Hattie’s son? Are the boys well behaved? I sense some significance here involving a romantic pursuit by Hattie!
- What a cynical (if realistic) approach was taken to the hype of RosieDee’s story Never Knowingly Oversold the humour in the piece sometimes subtle, sometimes not — a vision. Unfortunately, his was a bit blurred — always funny. I don’t know where I expected this story to end but certainly not where it did. I liked the last sentence — what a fine and funny concluding one, Lewis pulled them inside. “Come in and I’ll find a biro. Tell you what. If you make it 600 grand I’ll throw in the personalised reg plates.”