Category Archives: Monthly meetup/discussion

February Critique, wherein monsters and magic reign

Two pieces were presented for review this week, both part of ongoing W’sIP. [I like that – wees in pee!]

The first critique focussed on the presentation of the power moments of the scene/s and the character in action and the placement of things and people – you guessed it: the whole gamut of how to get the right feel in the right place at the right time. And clearing up the repetitions.

The second critique focussed on trying to find the reaction to the [where did they go?] character actions. And the repetitions. And the placement of power moments and the placement of people and things – oh, hey! You guessed it: first/second drafts that need to focus on the purpose and progression.

But it was fun and a great learning process.

And in the middle of the discussion, one of our members (the one with the broken wrist and the great story about subterranean beasties that lift the pavement in heaves of discomfort (see the real thing at the museum – yes, they’re real! Diprotodons[?]!) when they try to scratch that itch) had to get the help of the trauma nurse who noticed how we couldn’t help get the funny-looking not-quite-cotton thing – oh, a sling! –  around her neck and arm to hold it in place with a small measure of comfort. Thanks, Danielle, it was wonderful to see the character Adelaide come forth again.

Which started another conversation. ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’  No, Danielle didn’t look funny – it was the issue of how people in Adelaide are really helpful and how much they go out of their way to offer assistance.

And the conversation moved onto the people we’d met, or heard about, who were not what you would expect an angel to look like, but were nevertheless, angels who helped people in trouble. It’s people who can’t be judged by the covers, not the books, because if a book can’t be judged by its cover, how is the reader going to figure out what it’s about?

The words of  the story introduce the reader to the broad sweeps of the story, just like a painting. They get a view into the world of the story. They see a picture. Or they should. And the cover is part of that introduction to story; it should allow itself to be judged by the way the writer dresses it for presentation to the world. When it comes to people, the saying (adage) may ring true, but for the book and story, it is the opposite – it will always be judged by the first few flickers of the picture that is generated.

Yes, I’m still talking about story with words. Story creates a world for the reader to become part of, to live in, to breathe and sing and dance – it’s real, and it only becomes real when the word-pictures are deep, compelling; when the reader is drawn into the spell (your) story creates for them.

Anyway, next meeting is all about people: Character, how things change, how the person grows and learns though the things they suffer (what we put them through, but it’s alright – we don’t feel a thing). See you then.

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A New Year – A Bigger Dream

January, and we’re all here – the whole lot of us! From poet to pastry chef, from dancer to singer to high-flier to cat-whisperer. Okay, enough of that! What did we do? What did we discuss? Where are we going for this new (and better) year?

Discussed:

  • Radio plays (PBA-FM 89.7) and who’d like to do one for the host
  • Chuck Wendig, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett (know what they have in common?)
  • the word tailor within our group, and the new site
  • the new collaborator (Rose, of the tawny eyes)
  • the Anthology (yes, yes, yes – it will be good, better, the greatest) of Speculative Fiction Stories from Hell to High Victorian and everything in between
  • the list of things to discuss and learn and use in our work as professional writers – the toolbox, now updated
  • And (tah dah)
  • Goals for 2017

What are some of those goals? To write more, of course, but the big one is to learn enough to be able to share that knowledge with someone else. People who teach understand this: the teacher learns as they show others how to learn. This is what we want for each member of the group – learn and relearn when showing others what was learned. It works – try it! The only time to truly understand the level of [craft] knowledge is when it’s put down in a plan to show others how to incorporate what the teacher knows and uses into how the student can use and learn and incorporate into their own knowledge base, their own skill-set. That’s what we want!

Oh, and to write more – or did I already say that? Doesn’t matter – repeat the goal enough times that it becomes a mantra, and repeat the mantra enough times that it becomes a life meaning (and meaningful).

As this was the first meeting for the new (and better) year, the post is short, and it’s no reflection on the amount of time we spent discussing issues and items and responsibilities, but next post will be full of bones, full of sustenance and fibre; it will be solid and . . . [there I go, off on the fairy-trail again – so goodbye from her, and goodbye from him – see you next time!].

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September Critiques

Things are happening. Three short stories, destined for our upcoming anthology, were critiqued this month. Prepare yourselves for dragons, gadgets and a dalliance with the Fae.

We discussed description, show/not tell, the origins of words and symbolism. Altering one word can change the meaning of a paragraph, or clarify the intent of a scene.

The quote for the day:
Other languages borrow words. English lures people down a dark alley, knocks them on the head and goes through their pockets looking for loose grammar.” (unknown meme).

 

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August Meetup

The discussion this month was Spec Fic Chic’s upcoming anthology. Things are happening.  We now have a name, a design for the cover and a growing list of stories to showcase our members’ work, including science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and suspense.

This month’s critique featured a delightful time-slipping fantasy short story, for possible inclusion in our upcoming anthology. Discussions centred on description, symbolism and word choices.

August meet-up was not at the library, due to my convalescence and no-drive status for a few more weeks. We should be returning to the library by the end of September.

 

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May Critique – An indrawn gasp, a long drift down, and the pound of hearts

Yes – that’s how it is! Get the right feel – for a lazy moment, the sentences should reflect the ‘feel’ of that moment; where the character is in a moment of fight, flight, or freeze – show it through their actions, reactions and events. Setting is part of that event; rhythm of sentences reflect the POV passage through that scene.

Long, lazy, slow sentences are at risk of putting a reader to sleep; sentences that follow the same structure line after line are worse – the reader will never get a feel for the words. Music has rhythm, words have movement and music and light and smell and interactions (action-reaction; cause-effect), and story has ebb and flow and metaphors that don’t get cross or lazy or expositional.

Today, we discussed a lot of pieces:

A short story that was trying to impart a moment of departure from this world. To ensure interest, intersperse deep internalisation with action and events; make something happen.

Short – the fear of the dark, and how to best present how the character finds the moment of redemption/change through the response to normal, everyday moments of joy.

Short – when crossing the line between ‘them’ and ‘us’  and how to ensure there is a line, and the line is clear and distinct, but the story defines the pieces where what really happens, what was really there, is real. It is real, isn’t it? The thing in there? Excellent touches of humour and denouement.

Short – wolves and moons and when the changes happen and don’t; who can see the clues? Good suspense, good thrill.

Viola – rapid paced scene of intrigue.

Stair – where and why and how to instil a fear of the inevitable. What is the moral? And how does she fear the consequences of her actions?

We discussed a lot of things (always do), and even with different genre writing, styles and voices that vary from post-modern to pre-medieval, and the diversity of starting and ending points – we learned a lot. About our own work, about how we use the work of other people to improve our own work, how to push ourselves to produce better work each time, and how to help (push) our other members to do the same – all of us.

Life is short, story is life, put them together to impart a little journey through life into each and every story, each and every character, and each and every theme.

We are all story, and we want you to read ours. Bon appetite!

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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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