Day 3 – How I Learnt to get to the Heart of a Story…

…through listening to critiquing partners IMG_1397 I’ve leaned so much from having good critiquing partners, and I feel extremely lucky. However, not all critiques are equal.

Let me explain:

What makes for a Bad Critique

The worst kind comes from critiquing partners who essentially hope you’ll write the story they want to write themselves. Maybe they’re poets, who want more description, romantics who want you to include a love interest, fans of sci-fi or fantasy, who would like you to include the odd battle scene, you get the picture. Then there are the under-critical who ‘love everything’ or the over-critical who will tear new writer’s work apart,while seeing no benefit in offering encouragement.

What makes for a Good Critique

The best kind of critique comes from a partner who understands that you may be writing in a different genre, and wants to help you write the best story that you can. They tend to offer a balanced approach, mentioning things that worked well, as well as highlighting areas that could be improved. They will offer honest opinions on the bigger picture in terms of characterisation, dialogue, plot, etc. Through them, you can gain a rare glimpse into what could potentially be your reader’s view.

Good critiques are still hard to hear

It’s hard to hear when your story hasn’t had the desired affect on a reader. Through receiving critiques, I have had to re-think my whole approach to story telling, and I’m a better writer for it. How I learned to get to the Heart of a Story Through receiving critiques, I realised that my critiquing partners weren’t feeling emotionally involved in my stories. Through trial and error, I’ve learned how to immerse readers in the world of my characters. I’ve done this by:

Showing not telling

This is so obvious, it’s almost a cliché, but is perhaps the most often misunderstood dictum of writing. Put simply, showing is ‘not dictating’ to a reader how they should feel, but providing them with the evidence, and letting them make up their own minds. So, instead of stating that a character is sad, as I might have done at one point, I’ll show the tears rolling down their cheeks, the nights spent staring at the phone, willing it to ring…

What it means to provide Conflict

I’ve learned how to hook the reader with a problem that my main character has to face, whether the dilemma is internal or external. In my work in progress, for instance, a strange woman appears in one scene, and then just as quickly disappears. Who is she? Where did she go? What impact will she have on my protagonist’s story? I know my story is working well if my readers ask the right questions. It’s my job then, to provide the solutions.

This is how I rediscovered the magic of story telling. More on that tomorrow…

So what’s your story? Have you had good experiences, or otherwise, from critiquing? I’d love to hear from you!

About Katie Hamer

I am a writer, an artist, a photographer, philosopher, interior designer, listener, and explorer.
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