Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Blue Moon Critique with Elements of Foresight

A full basket of stories:

  1. Update on Ms Hem and her antics (steam punk)
  2. Men go mad under the influence of manipulation (steam punk)
  3. Movement across the desert in search of water – and dragons
  4. What’s down there? Held over ‘til the next critique
  5. Companions we don’t really care for – also held over.


The first discussion was Ms Hem. The story is in fragments of plan, outline, scene/s sequences, and research requirements. A lot of discussion on what level of research is required, specifically for steam punk readers. Detail of certain things is expected, however, other things can be glossed over, particularly if they are a lead in to something that comes later, or have been mentioned before, or are not relevant to story.

Discussion on requirements of scene and POV: when to break a scene, how to prepare for scene change, segue (flow), and cause and effect. It may be good to leave a reader hanging for a moment to build the suspense, to magnify the conflict, but the opening and closing of those little moments are very important.

The second discussion is a follow-on from the previous submission in a steam punk novella (a jolly good show, chaps!). The main discussion revolved around (yes, revolved is the appropriate word) how to use a word to imply a feeling – and the use of metaphors that follow the flow of the story, and stay within the bounds of the metaphorical confines (don’ mix ya metaphoricals, laddy). The story unfolds in a manner that hints at the right things in the right places, causes the reader to check over their shoulder (just in case), and to look askance at people they thought they knew (well, story-wise).

The third discussion tried to get more of a feel of the distinction between internalisation and dialogue – how would a person speak in their own mind about their situation, and whether they would waste breath on someone who is giving them the . . . willies. How many characters need to be active in a scene to bring to scene to life? How many characters does the main char have to interact with in order to give the full impact of the scene? How much of the setting needs to be overlaid onto the main character’s (or should that be through) senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste – and emotions).


We also discussed printed book requirements – what looks good, what doesn’t; cover requirements, text elements, page colours, fonts. It’s a minefield, and that doesn’t include how to ensure the formatting the writer puts forward doesn’t get changed by the auto-formatters!

Short stories – several shorts were discussed and a plan laid out for critique of the ones at the stage of completion (awaiting final critique or final proofread). Short stories can be more difficult because the same requirements of story are held within fewer words, within a tighter structure, but must still lay out a full engagement.

And because this meeting was extraordinary (the blue moon), we’ll be back again next week, to discuss Structure (what is it, and how do we make it work best for this story?).


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April Critique – and Mad Moments in Marketing

Several items came up for this meeting – diversity of the nature only a writer would understand:

  1. Fragments of story and how they fit together to make an outline; preparing the conflict and how it flows; why characters do what they do; and why they want the things that encapsulate the story conflict.
  2. A short story that had already gone into publication prior to the meeting (NDE No. 2).
  3. Ongoing story of steam-punk characters, gadgets, and nefarious plots.
  4. Author bio – need to get back to that one, but it is a necessary item in the bag-of-tricks, just like the press package, or marketing package, in case things like:

Photographer arrived exactly on time, prodded everyone into various locations and situations, snapped and snapped and snapped until he was happy with his loot (got snapped in the process – and liked it!).

Leader Messenger News – story on SpecFicChic – should be out in the next couple of weeks.

The critique issues:

POV character responding to the things around them: the concept of cause and effect. If the POV character doesn’t respond overtly, the reader expects something internal. POV is powerful, and internalisation (in the right place and time) can be the tool of power to show distinctiveness, distress, duress – or on the opposite spectrum, it can demonstrate arrogance, ignorance, distance from the issues. Sometimes we think the writer has last say, but it is the character – who else would behave this way in this situation but the person in it? That’s the point we need to reach – let the character show us exactly how the moment works through their senses, through their thoughts and actions and most important of all – through their words.

And next year, we’ll be putting dialogue back on the toolbox list – it is a necessary item to not only learn, but to keep learning, to keep in mind for each and every thing we write where we expect people to speak (dialogue and internal thoughts, as well as internalisation – which isn’t thoughts, it’s the POV character) – anyway, it’s a tough assignment, and it will be back.


A special thing this month – five Friday’s – a blue moon month.

To celebrate, we will be having a second critique Friday on 29 April.

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Dialogue – Let’s Talk About It

The toolbox topic this month is dialogue – now, that’s not just a couple of heads having a chat or an argument – and it created a lot of discursive discussion and the occasional heated opinion. That’s life in a group of people who want to understand the best way to put the story out there in the format that makes it most powerful, most connected, the most ‘real.’

Dialogue is so much more than the character (or characters) talking, putting words between quotation marks. If the dialogue in the story doesn’t do something (whether that is clear or not at this stage of the story), then it probably shouldn’t be there at all. Dialogue does need to do something. For a start, it needs to  be a true and unique reflection of that character: how they speak, why and when they speak, the words and sentence structure they use, and the hidden or sub-textual meanings or hints.

Tags and pronouns need careful consideration. Do we (the reader) know who the ‘he’ or ‘she’ refers to – has the name been used in the right place to enable a smooth flow of understanding with no need for the reader to go back a step, or a scene, or . . . (worst) stop reading?

If the dialogue is read out with ‘actors’ in the roles, doing the actions and making the moves, does it make sense? Does it do or create the mood or sense that is required for that moment in the story?

Consider the work dialogue must do in story:

First – speak for the character in the voice and tone and POV of the character (their personality); it needs to move the story in a direction (or misdirection); provides information that is new or necessary (but only by following the principles of POV and personality); it should (must) ensure the conflict issue is front and centre, being dealt with (or not); it will reveal character, either by what they say or don’t say, or conversations they avoid (silence is a conversation); and it is an element that allows the most emotion to be brought forward by that character. It can be used to foreshadow (in tiny little bits), to enhance tension and to set the tone of the scene.

Above all, dialogue will make the story interesting if it is true to POV character and does the three most important things: move the story in a direction, put information (subtly – no tell or exposition in dialogue please), and deepens the conflict.

Go ahead, try it – see how easy it isn’t!


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