About Me

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I am an aspiring writer living and working in Hull. I working on a novel, as well as writing short stories to keep my writing skills fresh. I decided to start a writing blog to connect with other writers. So please, take a look around and leave some comments - I'd love to read some of your writing blogs too. Nari X

Monday, 20 December 2010

The 'C' words...

Welcome to all the newcomers. Thank you so much for coming on over to say hello, and thanks for your comments. It's wonderful to see a little community of sorts developing, and I hope you can all help each other out too.

Constructive Criticism. Oh, what a phrase. For so much of my life it has been a malevolent entity, wishing only to devour my precious words and taunt me from a place of condescending spite. 

I used to get so frustrated with other people's negativity about my work, and became very protective of it. I'd like to think I have grown since then. I'm still reluctant to show my work to anyone until I've had a chance to edit it, as many of my friends and family will tell you. But anyway, I quickly learnt that feedback that genuinely is intended helpfully, usually comes back to me at some point and turns out to be right.

Why do I mention this? Earlier this year, when I was still a student, I had one class which was essentially workshops for the work we produced for our prose portfolio. I was working on CQ then, of course, and overall I found the classes to be extremely helpful, not least because of the wonderful Kath Mckay. There was a guy who I was in a lot of classes with, and we were two of the few who ever actually turned up to workshops, meaning that a lot of my feedback was from him, which was good because it was consitent, and I knew he had a sense of how it had developed.
I remember once particular piece of Constructive Criticism he gave me, which demoted him to one of my least favourite people for a short time. The silly thing is, most of what he said were complements. There was just one tiny little thing that bothered me. This is what he said:
'You've got a great eye for detail and your characterisation of characters that aren't named Ryan is spot on ;)'

Essentially, he told me my main character was the least convincing of the entire thing. This upset me because he is obviously the character who has been with me for the longest, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of what he was about.

Well, I'm starting to think that maybe he was right. As I'm adjusting certain things people are saying, it's all to do with how they are characterised, as in, 'this person wouldn't say that'. I now have what I would say is a good grasp on the way that Toby relates to people, and the way he speaks and moves. The same can be said for Lauren, Joe, Andy, Josh, even. And yet, when I come to editing Ryan's speech, all I seem to be doing is editing in terms of where I want the story to go. I rarely find myself saying 'he just wouldn't say it like that, it would be more like this.'

I'm worried that I've spent so much time looking through his eyes at the others, that I don't really know him.

I wonder if anyone has any advice on how to get to know a character better? I remember Kath's excercise of working out what is in their bag, and in Writers Forum a few months ago, there was an excercise that centred around knowing a character's diet.

While we're on the topic, does anybody else miss Penny Deacon? She used to do a monthly workshop article in WF. She helped me greatly with my fight scene, and is a lovely lady. Due to other commitments, she had to stop writing for WF every month, which is understandable, but a great shame.


  1. Construtive criticism is my worst enemy. Sometimes I will take great offence at it, read it a little later and understand it is for my own good, only to read it again later on and take even more offence at it!

    If I have difficulty developing a character, I let them "Ride in my head" for a while. Just by introducing the character to everyday life and working out how they would react and think when they encounter the little events that the day brings.

    Always worth a go, but if you do end up musing with the character try not to let it show TOO much. ;)

  2. That does sound like a good plan, HC. It's crazy the amount of times characters will start having conversations in my head while I'm trying to do something, sometimes even whilst I'm already talking to someone... I wonder if being a writer means sacrificing just a little of one's sanity...?

  3. Luckily (if you can call it that!) most people I know already have a pretty good idea that I'm somewhat bonkers! I try to keep just one character in my head at a time, a bit like the senate houses in rome. Otherwise two characters from different "universes" usually start bickering - I think I may have given a couple of them too much personality!

  4. I have the same problem. With me, I know my main character so well that I forget other people dont. My approach with novel I've just finished was to set myself a goal. In each chapter, there was one plot point and one characterisation point. That way, I found all my characters had something that moved them along. It could be small like a nugget of body language, or something in the dialogue.

  5. That's a good piece of advice, Craig, thanks. I'll have to try that :)


  6. Well, we'll see what prospective agents think of my approach before I can say if it works or not. I'll let you know as the rejection slips roll in ;oD

  7. As someone who is well qualified in life itself, but not qualified in writing I've built myself a fairly decent library in my 'study'.
    'Why is that pertinent?' Nari asks patiently.
    As you probably do already, I have text books on an abundance of subjects, but for use with my short stories I've found it helpful to have handy; Babies Names, Zodiac Types, Body Language, an atlas and a mail order catalogue. I assume every writer has a dictionary handy! LOL.