Monthly Archives: August 2012

Group Writing Critique: “National Pastime” by Wes Pierce

Welcome to the dogfight! Here’s a snippet from a short story by Wes Pierce, followed by critical comments. Dogpatch Writers Collective occasionally posts these excerpts of our group critiques of work in progress, and your comments are welcomed!
From “National Pastime”

They sit in their usual seats. Tony has season tickets on the front row of the first balcony, right alongside third base. ‘Best seats in the house,’ according to Tony. Her husband makes a lot of money, so he can afford the best seats in the house. But for Beryl they are not the best seats in the house, they’re the worst: she is afraid of heights. 

Tony knows this. ‘We’re only twenty feet up. Thirty, tops,’ he says, whenever she brings up her fear of heights. ‘What’s twenty or thirty feet?’ 

‘But couldn’t we sit just a few rows back?’ she says. ‘Couldn’t we sit lower down?’ 

‘I don’t want to sit a few rows back. I don’t want to sit lower down,’ Tony says. ‘You can’t take in the whole field lower down. I want to sit right here.’ 

Tony says she only has to be logical about it. 

‘You’re not going to fall, if that’s what you’re worried about,’ he says. ‘And besides, we’re only twenty feet up. Thirty, tops. So even if you did fall, you’re not really going to get hurt, you know. Not if you keep your head. If you were to fall from up here, but you kept your head, you’d be all right. Oh, you might break a leg or an arm. But you wouldn’t die or anything.’

Comments from the Dogpatch:

Wes,

You’ve got a harrowing story and a parent’s nightmare—being seated next to an obnoxious drunk at some “family” event they’re attending with their child. They don’t want to leave the seats they’ve paid good money for. They don’t want to make a scene. They want to make nice while maintaining  a psychic distance from the annoying ass and hope that nothing gets out of hand. Until it does. Continue reading

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Filed under Craft, Dogfight

Beauty and the Brain

Dear Writers,

You may be familiar with the Marilyn Monroe–Albert Einstein illusion that operates on the peculiarities of our vision system. Up close, where we perceive detail, the image looks like the great thinker Albert Einstein, but back away a few feet and our eyes will naturally adjust to a less-detailed rendering, allowing the features to resemble the stunning actress Marilyn Monroe. I think both perspectives as well as the distance at which our eyes struggle to decide who we’re seeing is interesting to a writer working to craft character.

Of course, how to describe characters when introducing them to the reader poses one challenge for writers. As emerging writers, at some point we all likely included some awkwardness in that initial description, perhaps including the unfortunate moment when the protagonist surveys herself/himself/itself in a hand mirror/shop window/pond and thoughtfully regards her/his/its own long blonde curls/spiky brown hair/man-killing tentacles. An author like the Franklin W. Dixon ghost troupe just puts it out there, letting us know by page 2 of The Secret Agent on Flight 101 that Joe Hardy is “blond and seventeen,” “enjoys joking,” and is “more impulsive” than his “dark-haird, eighteen-year-old brother.” Oh yeah, both ace teen detectives are “trim all-around athletes,” too. Continue reading

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Filed under Craft, Howling at the moon