Tough Love

I submitted my last piece to group for the year. I’m not going to let any more unedited pieces pile up. I’m gonna finish them and spend the beginning of 2008 getting things back out into circulation.

In the meantime, here’s what they had to say about the latest thing, “Before Me Was a Pale Horse”…

The Good

  • One person said the characters “leap off the page.”
  • The same person noted that while she wasn’t at the last session to hear the first half of the story (though she heard my quick summation), she didn’t feel lost going through the second half.
  • Dialogue was realistic, i.e. “what people would say.”
  • One person liked how the narrator/protagonist was likeable, despite his obvious flaws.
  • Folks felt they got a clear picture of each character with a minimum of description (e.g. one character who “waddled over in his khakied, polo-shirted Sunday best…” was all the description they needed)
  • The story was paced well.

The Bad

  • A certain unclear passage regarding one character’s spacial distance to another.
  • The ending is too hitched to religion.
    (Which means I screwed up trying–if it was even possible to begin with–to use as many religious references as possible while minimizing religious themes.)
  • Again, I mashed two stories into one (possibly three, depending on how one reads the ending).
  • Some folks wondered if the protagonist paid too high a price for his flaws at the end. (Though one person didn’t necessarily see anything wrong with that.)

The Ugly
No ugly from the others; just from myself.

  • For one, I had the unfortunate experience of re-reading a short story by pure happenstance, one that I first read about four years ago, with the same fucking conceit. I about tore up the MS. I didn’t, because by any measure, I know my story’s different. But if some schmendrick comes up to me and goes, “Gee, isn’t your story just a blatant rip-off of _____?” I think I’d have to give that a response without automatically smacking the person upside the head.
  • The reason there were “two stories” was that as I wrote, I spotted a particular chink in my protag’s armor that was just too tempting to pass up…
  • …but instead of jamming the knife in and twisting at the end, I got squeamish. I copped out and “implied” the ending.

So, basically this leaves me trying to figure out how to have my cake and eat it, too. I got some good suggestions from the group. I just gotta be careful not to allow them to “write it for me,” so to speak. None of them want that, either.