It’s creative nonfiction. I’m taking the class to complete my minor in creative writing. I love writing. I love the formulas, the methods, the elements. I enjoy the science of crafting good writing. So naturally, I thoroughly enjoy workshop classes. I love the opportunity to read the work of other writers, and critiquing their piece for clarity, character development, and story structure among a multitude of things. In turn, I LOVE when others do this to manuscripts and stories I that I myself scribe. I consider myself an artist of the written word, and as such it is imperative for me to receive honest, accurate, and constructive criticism to better myself as a writer. As well, I see it as my duty to return the favor for fellow writers. When I read a piece to critique, the first thing I want to make sure of is that your story makes sense. Does everything that needs explaining get explained? Do the plot points make sense in structure? Is their a point? Are the characters fleshed out? And so on and so on.
We recently had a piece turned in by a classmate in which she documents the abuse she was the victim to by an ex-boyfriend. A tragic situation, and a brave topic to write about, no doubt. However, at the end of the day, it is a STORY that is being written. If in your story you first introduce this ex-boyfriend character as ugly, mean, and rude with ZERO explanation as to why you even like him the first place, that’s a really shitty story. I critiqued the piece, making note at each instance where the persona went back to or submitted to the abusive boyfriend, wondering why the persona did so in the first place. Without any explanation as to what it was that the persona liked about the abusive boyfriend, I became increasingly frustrated with the persona as the narrator of the story. At one point, the boyfriend literally throws the persona out of his house, and two sentences later, without explanation, the persona is grovelling at the boyfriend’s feet asking for forgiveness and admitting that the persona is wrong for being upset with the abusive boyfriend. Zero explanation. So I wrote, “FUCKING WHY?!?!?!” in the margins. At the end, I wrote a a page to the author explaining my incredible frustration with the persona due to her lack of explanation, and that ultimately leading to the story being ineffective.
I am very active in class discussion. Very vocal in regards to negative and positive criticism. In fact, when we discussed the piece in class, one positive note I made was that the ex-boyfriend was a fleshed out character. It just made no sense whatsoever as to why anyone would want to be with him or even like him in the first place.
This morning I had to meet with my professor because I was accused of being harsh, insensitive, selfish, and “gutting my classmates” in my critiques. I was told that such “cruelty” has “no place in art”. I nearly vomited from the peace, love, and bullshit my professor was trying to shove down my throat. I critique pieces in the way I want my own to be critiqued. If I write shit, I would LOVE to be told so and how I did so, so I do not recreate the same shit.
In life, especially art, you’re going to make shit. And when you make that shit, it’s nice to have people around that will let know. Nobody wants to make shit. And when you make shit, that’s your fault. Own it. Don’t get upset that someone said a story about your trauma is a shitty story. If you don’t want people to say that, write it better. But until then, you’re going to need to take notes on how to improve. I find it pathetic on not only the author’s part for essentially taddling on me, but my professor’s part for acknowledging and agreeing with the coddling of the class like children.
If you want to make good art, you have to learn how to. It’s a rare thing to be a prodigy. So until then, shut up, quit crying, and learn from your mistakes.