The Race

PHOTO PROMPT © Linda Kreger

Wheelchair racing has apparently become quite competitive. When Estelle challenged us to a sprint, I assumed we would jog beside her, but when she started pumping her arms and her chair propelled ahead of us, we all started running, laughing at our miscalculation.

Estelle waited for us at the finish, her back turned and the smile of a contented victor on her face.  Jed reached her chair first and collapsed on the handles, as Thaddeus and Mirabelle staggered onto his back. I was the last to arrive: very exhausted, somewhat embarrassed, but happy Estelle proved she was anything but disabled.

Animal Instincts

Two weeks ago, I should have posted about my upcoming vacation. I intended to post while I was away, but yeah, that didn’t work out. As a way of announcing my return, I’m sharing Arpita’s observation on how animals have adapted to life in the bustling city of Bangalore. As humans have become more adept at tasks, we’ve lost touch with our instincts, which means that when navigating our way across a heavily-trafficked street, we may be better off following a dog’s lead.

Sussuration

At thirty minutes before the start of the tournament’s first bout, the gymnasium floor bustled with activity as fencers ran laps, stretched on the floor, and engaged each other in practice bouts, the buzzing of scoring machines rising on occasion above the susurration of voices.

Proleptic

Calling Annie a confident teen did not adequately convey her self-assurance. She would contact boys for dates before they worked up the courage to approach her; she anticipated and completed work for her classes before they were assigned; she only applied to one college, knowing she would be accepted by that school. While her peers used their past experience to guide their actions, Annie acted from a more proleptic instinct, certain in the memory of her future success.

Rules for Reviewers, Part 3: You’re Not the Author

Continuing my series of posts on how to participate effectively in a writing group. In addition to having the right focus and not giving empty praise, it’s also important to recognize who actually wrote the story or article you’re critiquing.

You’re the Reviewer, Not the Author

Every writer has their own style, and will not always make the choices you would have made. They’ll introduce plot developments you think are too extreme, or not extreme enough; their characters will speak in ways that don’t fit with their background; their language will be too pedestrian, or overly sentimental.

You don’t have to like it — and if you don’t, you should let them know, and explain why the writing doesn’t work for you. There’s nothing wrong with an honest, informed opinion.

But there’s a trap to avoid, one I’ve fallen for more times that I care to admit. Too many times I’ve written comments containing one of these phrases:

I would have…
Instead of doing this, why not…
What you really need to do here is…

By making these types of comments, I’m showing the choices I would have made as the author of the work being reviewed. They are similar to editorial changes, but editors make changes to maintain consistency with the style of their magazine or publishing house. In a writing group, comments like these actually usurp the role of the author — this is how you should have written this.

It’s hard for me to refrain from this type of criticism, because I often see simpler or more elegant alternatives in the work I review. But it’s not my role, and it doesn’t help the author. As a reviewer, I’m responsible for showing the author what does and does not work in the style they’ve chosen to write. It’s their story, not mine, and the different choices I might have made as the author are completely irrelevant.

When reviewing a story in a writing group, identify what the story is attempting. Focus on the execution, how well the story accomplishes its tasks. Praise where appropriate, criticize where necessary. But above all, acknowledge the authority of the author to write in their own style.

 

An Incomplete Turn

A few weeks ago, I began an exercise from a fiction writing workshop, using entries from over three decades ago in my journal as my starting point. This lead to the creation of a fictional couple, Merry and Bernie, and vignettes from their marriage.

The first and second vignettes were promising, but my final entry was disappointing. When they’re left with themselves after their youngest child leaves for college, their struggles need to be more dramatic. Bernie needs to resent being tasked with obligations he never wanted, and Merry has to fight against the restrictions imposed on her intellect and desires. Both need to think about the lives they could have lead, and come to terms with their abandoned ambitions.

But as much as I want to explore those ideas, now is not the time for completing this project. I’ll set it aside for now, and return to these two very interesting characters when I want to further develop their rich voices.

The Delivery

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

The seaplane descended towards the lake with deliberate intent, like a hawk hunting a mouse in a field. The floats hit and skidded across the water, leaving a wake no higher than most power boats.

The propeller came to rest, and a canoe with two paddlers approached the plane. A woman stepped out of the pilot door, and handed packages down to the canoe.

The rear paddler waved, and the woman waved back before stepping back into the plane. The canoe paddled away, much slower than it had approached earlier. Before they reached shore, the propeller twirled back into life.

Yes! My entry for this week’s Friday Fictioneers is exactly 100 words!