Self-Critiquing

I’m almost sure that while reading A Fistful of Banishment and Lick It to Make It Better someone thought, These scenes are written in the third person point of view, but the perspective keeps on shifting between characters. Okay, it is possible that the shifts didn’t conjure those exact words, but perhaps more than one viewpoint in such short excerpts felt funny in some readers’ guts.  

The changes weren’t particularly abrupt and the passages are short, so the discomfort wasn’t too noticeable (methinks). But imagine 90,000+ words with scenes that go back and forth between the thoughts of Althea and Yvonne, and then hop from Jonquil’s head to Cedrus’… That could get exhausting and confusing.

So why did you write the excerpts like that, in the first place, dear Wicked Witch Writer? (Yes, I can read your brain, muahahahahaha).  

I started writing Of Death and Blooms a very long time ago—way before reading The Elements of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and before attending any fiction seminaries. Those two books, especially the second one, have been showing me that there are a lot of things I don’t know about writing fiction (I’m getting better). I’m a half decent storyteller, but my tales were so laden with technical mistakes that I have a feeling most of the yumminess was lost in the chaos.

I’ve edited the point of view in “A Fistful of Banishment” and “Lick It to Make It Better.” The excerpts remain in the third person, but I’ve changed the perspective to Yvonne and Jonquil, respectively. These ladies have the most to lose (and to gain) in this scenes, so I stayed in their heads. I’ll let the other characters convey their emotions through dialogue and action.

Two examples of the changes:

Before – LItMIB
There was a knock on the front door. “Come in,” Yvonne called out.
           
“Hi,” Jonquil said before closing the door behind her.
           
“Hi dear.” Yvonne smiled at her son’s girlfriend. “What happened to your key?”
           
Jonquil grimaced. “Nothing, I didn’t want to walk in on him.”
           
“You wouldn’t have.” Yvonne shook her head. “‘Him’ hasn’t come out of his room since you two argued.” She noticed Jonquil go pale, and said, “Oh don’t worry, dear. My Cedrus is just upset. You coming to see him will make everything better.”

After – LItMIB
Jonquil stared at the door for a few seconds before knocking softly. She walked in after Yvonne said that it was unlocked. “Hi.” She closed the door behind her.
                                                                 
“Hi dear,” Yvonne said. “What happened to your keys?”
                                                                 
“Nothing, they’re upstairs. I just didn’t want to walk in on him.”
                                                                 
“You wouldn’t have.” Yvonne shook her head. “‘Him’ hasn’t come out of his room since you two argued. Oh don’t get so pale,” Yvonne went on, “My Cedrus is just a little upset. You coming to see him will make everything better.”

Before – AFoB
Althea stared at the woman shaking in front of her. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” Yvonne said, and thought, I won’t let them break me. She would go home, and that would be that. The dead would not ruin this connection for her or for her son. “Althea,” she said, “I need to go. Maybe you could show me the rest of the apartment later, after Cedrus and Jonquil come back?”

Althea felt the fear clouding Yvonne’s eyes at the same time she sensed the uninvited presence in her kitchen. She took a couple of steps to stand next to her new friend. Then she addressed the other soul in the room, sounding calmer than she felt inside. “I know you aren’t evil,” Althea said to the warm oily force thickening the air, “for no malevolence can enter my home.” She raised a hand to stop Yvonne when she tried to move away from her. “But your disposition,” Althea continued, “will mean very little to me if you disturb anyone under my protection. Leave now,” she said, gently but firmly, “or I’ll do something we’ll both hate.”

After – AFoB
Althea was staring at her. “Are you all right?” she said.

“Yes,” Yvonne said, thinking, I won’t let them break me. She would go home, and that would be that. The dead would not ruin this connection for her or for her son. “I need to go,” she said. “Maybe you could show me the rest of the apartment later. After Cedrus and Jonquil come back?”

“What is that?” Althea looked over her shoulder, and took a couple of steps to stand next to Yvonne. In a calmer voice, she addressed an empty spot in the kitchen. “I know you aren’t evil,” she said, “no malevolence can enter my home.” She raised a hand when Yvonne tried to move away. “But your disposition will mean very little to me if you disturb anyone under my protection. Leave now,” she said, “or I’ll do something we’ll both hate.”

Do you partake in the humbling task of self-critiquing, my Wicked Luvs? If you read the excerpts before, try given them a second go. Let me know if they feel different to your reader’s mind. And if they do, is the new feeling positive or negative?

P.S. If you haven’t entered the “AlmaMia Cienfuegos” and Critique giveaway, you have until May 22nd at 5:13 pm EST to do so.
Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com

18 comments:

  1. I think the revisions are great. Much better for the reader, in terms of flow.

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    1. So glad you think so. There are people who can write it exactly like they want it the first time around. Sooo not my case lol. Thank goodness the editing process is actually fun!

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  2. It is like the After version is more precise and at the same time more visualized... like that excerpt from the kitchen filled with spirits - it had a very real feel to it.
    I also have few stories I made up about 6 and more year ago... and I am writing some more. But I don't really know (and can't judge myself) if they are good or not. perhaps I need to give them for reading to my husband - my best and most honest critic:)

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    1. An honest critic is hard to find. I have a great first reader in my Piano Man, he tells it like it is and comes up with great suggestions. And thank goodness for my critique partner! Wait until I share how she is already helping ;-)

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    2. It is hard, yea. Because you know, the person has to feel what you feel or at least get what you wanted tp say...I am glad you could find such person!

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  3. I am constantly switching back and forth between perspectives. It's frustrating, and I don't know how to stop myself. All I can say is that I'm aware of the problem, but I feel like I just have to write and get the story written. Then I'll go back and edit.

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    1. I always let the story come to life like it wants to. Then, like you, I grab the editing arsenal and start killing darlings ;-)

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  4. Your illustration reminds me of Vogons' poetry reading ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxPeIiU2kx4

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  5. Oh, I love the examples you posted. It is a great aide, and I know that it helped me see a few problem areas in my won writing. Thank you!

    I've also added Self-Editing for Fiction Writers to my wishlist. I have a feeing that I'll be getting it sooner rather than later, and making good use of it.

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    1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers might be the best writing tool I've ever possess. I just wish I had found that gem a few years earlier. Seriously, it rocks!

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  6. The new versions are certainly simpler, more streamlined. You're getting your point across in fewer words without really losing much if any meaning. The only thing I might miss is some of the description in the first version of the second paragraph of the AFoB excerpt... the "warm oily force thickening the air" and the suggestion that Althea is not entirely comfortable with this occurrence. These two details give the scene a little extra depth and dimension that the revised version doesn't quite have. Unless you've got plenty of depth and dimension elsewhere in the surrounding paragraphs, in which case it's a nonissue. On a whole, though, the revised versions are definitely improvements. :)

    -Fox

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    1. I just had a very weird flash of me oiling up the air lol

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  7. I like the revisions Magaly ;o) Well done ;o)

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  8. One who is not very good at English I am always self critiquing until I can no longer think. There are times I need a second opinion. Since I could remember I have always had stories in my head but never put them on paper. Now I have and it is one long book that I am slooowlly writing. When I have time or have nothing to do. Reading your blog and you talking about your stories them inspire me to write a little more of my story.

    ;)

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    1. It is always difficult to critique our own work. And let's not even get to discussing the difficulties of editing our own work. I always look for a second opinion, and a third and a fifth if I have time and happen to be lucky LOL

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