2016 October Comments/Reviews/Thoughts
I’m not sure how to regard the lack of entries this month but although conscious that all things have a life cycle I would regret the demise of this group. I frequently use the word disparate when referring to it, which I think it apt and a good reason for belonging to the group. We are not all the same, either in the perceived quality of our writing or in the subjects we choose to write about in response to a theme. When I joined the group I felt that I should offer a critique of the stories and so I did some research on critiquing.
My conclusions now are pretty much the same as everyone else — critiquing is a skill with a very strong bias towards the commercial marketing of a story. That is, will the story be well received in the market that it is aimed at. In terms of marketing this may not apply to most of us in the commercial sense but I suggest that it has a great application in the choice of reading sense. There are stories that I would normally choose not to read but only finding stories that you instinctively want to read is not the raison d’être of the group. I see the group’s primary aim as being to encourage everyone in their wish to present to a readership their creative writing (in any form). How they proceed from here is the author’s choice but it’s disappointing to see any literary success, or a perceived failure in creative writing as a reason to leave the group.
The group clearly has a strong bias toward the short story and this is certainly the simplest form for me to deal with. So do you say you don’t like a particular story — I’m inclined to say that you don’t! This does not mean that you should not be critical of the aspects of the story that did not appeal, such comments may — or may not — be welcomed by the author but it is their responsibility (I think) to validate them in terms of their own intended readership. It is the author’s responsibility to read the works of the reader and to satisfy themselves as to why such comments were made.
I would claim that trying to deliberately write for the group should not be attempted, a story is unlikely to be written in a way that conforms to all reader’s choice of reading matter. It is the reader’s responsibility to think about the readership they believe story’s author intended it for. I don’t think that this means considering the commercial viability of a story, this should be left entirely to the author, but to remember that the story could appeal to other readers. It seems to me that we only need two primary criteria: the first being to put ourselves in the mind of the intended reader (as we perceive it to be) and the second being to read the story knowing this context.
Having done that I believe we are now in a position to comment, review, or offer any thoughts that we may have on the story. This not a critique but rather simply views on the story, I suggest that critiquing is not what we are about. We are readers of stories who comment, review, or offer thoughts on how the story impacted on us as the reader. It is up to the author to interpret where each of us as readers are coming from. As time consuming as it is, I generally write a c/r/t. It makes me read all the stories and — I believe — helps me formulate what are, hopefully, better stories. In that sense, it’s quite a selfish activity but given the quality of the writing in the group is a worthwhile one.
Men in Black — Peter Barnett: Intended to be a humorous piece about Hologram Tam but it didn’t work out that way. Instead it became a cross between Sir Ethelred Rutt K.C and Rumpole of the Bailey. At least, that was the idea. I came across Hologram Tam when I was researching the post Money, money, money… and thought his — tragic — life really worthy of a story but fiction prevailed. I dealt with helicopter money in some depth here.
Fred the Philosopher — Araminta: I thought this a really difficult subject area to jump into Araminta and I would have liked it to be longer, in that while Fred’s lust was part of the theme, both his and Gloria’s transformation would have been really interesting to read about. I’m reminded of Screwtape and the occasional Gloria I see around town who appear to live (or at least dress) as if living in a 60s time warp and didn’t become the wife of a vicar.
PS I did have a friend who was a Teddy Boy in his youth and became an evangelic preacher.
Sloth And Lust — Danthemann: I really like your stories Dan but sometimes feel — as I did with this one — that I have led a very sheltered life (even in the 60s) and find them difficult to understand sometimes. Nevertheless I found the gist and style of the story a compelling read and the little asides like, Gavin stepped gingerly over the haphazard layer of newspapers over the floor. He wanted to avoid stepping with his polished office shoes on the smattering of discarded beer cans, at least a couple of which had been abandoned with some contents lingering inside, setting the scenario and characterisation so easily.
PS My mum took me to the cinema a lot when I was a child (WWII), we used to watch a lot of films that I didn’t understand either (especially those of Bette Davis) but a few scenes are still vividly remembered.
Deadly Sins — Colmore: The story certainly set the scene for the ending Colmore, Peter coming across as a very unctuous character but I thought that the ending could have been done better. I wonder if the last two paragraphs were necessary or, if you felt that they were necessary, could have been put differently. One suspects that Peter really neglected his wife and her bitterness at his neglect of her was manifest in her remarks at the end. This is a difficult one: Peter’s characterisation was clear as were the others, except for his wife who he clearly treated with some disdain and didn’t consider a part of the professional life he had made for himself. The inference drawn from her remarks at the end were that she felt herself being an important and much neglected appendage to Peter’s career. Given her intentions and her being a major beneficiary in his death — I wonder why she cried.
Halloween Temptations — Expatangie: A story that’s a little bit risqué Angie, it’s a pity it couldn’t have been longer. I loved the ending. I do wonder a little at what Geoff’s lack of effort was, we could assume that Geoff was not good in bed and that Celia was a very erotic person but I’m not sure. We know Geoff was a bit of a lothario, or at least thought himself such, but what was Celia? It’s a difficult choice in so few words to decide where to put the emphasis on in-depth characterisation. I suspect the risk of going with Celia would have required the story to be even more risqué. Perhaps with such short stories it’s inevitably you end up with a multitude of story lines and have to pick one of them to go with.
The Shuffle — Atiller: I wonder how many people would relate to someone coming all over ‘Brief Encounter’? This was a really amusing story, I liked “I regret Jerome, that you will see it reflected in the size of your script. ‘Lust’ catches a STD halfway through the first act and goes off to hospital, and is replaced by a character to represent present day sexual minorities, which part Lancelot has graciously agreed to accept.” I sense a touch of cynicism here, then perhaps the whole story had a cynical edge. The characterisations and the atmosphere of a theatrical group (something I became involved in a long time ago) were brilliant.
To Win, One Must First Survive — Atiller: Here was a tale with an unexpected twist to it Atiller. I’m sure there’s a lot a truth to the reaction of the people involved in a remembrance day parade from, She knew from long experience exactly the routine that was being enacted upstairs. Every year the same, but each year more fervid as the memories faded and heroic fantasy usurped the mundane realities of war, to, That bloody Joanna Lumley might have worked to allow them to retire here, but nothing was said about them leading the remembrance parade, brooded Maurice. The mixture of the parade with the realties of a war was so well done — especially the last paragraph.
Postscript: A plethora of online commercial outlets are willing to write a critique on a story for a fee but beware — I believe that writing a critique requires a knowledge of publishing and even more so that of writing, not only as a skill but as an art form. It would be interesting to read of a group author’s commercial success in terms of the story and its market, but wonder if any author would want their story form to be defined by success in a particular market. Perhaps that’s why JK Rowling is now writing her adult novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
While I congratulate all those authors who have achieved some degree of commercial success, it would be nice if they were to continue supporting the group in some form or other. However, I would be concerned if commercial success became the benchmark for the group at the expense of encouraging those who wished to involve themselves in creative writing.
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