This week we had three submissions (all WIP). The common themes for the critiques:
Let the character be alive and doing things – just a description of what happened is not very interesting to a reader: Live, live, live!! through the eyes, heart, nose, mouth (dialogue), mind of the POV character.
Cause and effect – the character doesn’t fall until after the gun is fired; they don’t hear the doorbell until it is rung; his voice isn’t described until after it has said something. This is an area where all the group have improved, and it gets harder to find these moments, but if you find yourself at a point in the story where you stop and have to think about what just happened, you probably found somewhere it has happened – even if it is subtle.
Take advantage of the moments in the story that expand the character through their actions, through their words, through their thoughts and feelings (and ACTIONS – was that said before?). The story isn’t about the character, it is the character living the story in their own words, in their own world, through their own feelings, judgements, actions (etc., etc., etc.).
Comma use – some people put them in where they’re not needed, some people don’t use enough. Reading the work aloud, or having someone else read it aloud to you, may help (see that last sentence – if you take out the words between the commas, the sentence still makes sense).
Length of sentences, pace, and character actions – long sentences slow the reader down, slow the pace. Short, sharp sentences increase the pace (sometimes the tension), measured sentences of one metronomic moment represent something similar to a piece of music – and music has a beat, a movement, a feel. If the beat is of the character breathing fast, use the sentence to reflect that beat, that rhythm.
Exposition, telling, does not make a story interesting. It becomes interesting when the character walks, talks, sings, yells, punches, pulls, swears, DOES something to instil in the reader the same information as the exposition.
It all sounds so easy! The biggest issue (probably for most writers) is that we write what is in our head, and we see the whole picture. When we put the words on paper and someone else reads them, they have to make their picture from only the words. Become the reader and read only what is written, visualise the world through the words, and if something is missing or lacking (depth, purpose, etc.), recreate the words to truly reflect the world you want to share.
ALSO, Two members had work published in the Tea Tree Gully Fringe Festival Event: A Trail of Tales: http://atrailoftales.com/ an event staged by Tea Tree Gully Council (see page for full details).
Look for the Houghton Howler.