Apples vs. Oranges

I blame Demetria Gray. She had to miss our critique group meeting the other night and her absence has put poor Sandra Rathbone in a pickle. We’re not a big group. There’s just four of us but we’re very good at what we do so one can rest assured, one’s work is getting a thorough critique.

So when we met the other night to critique Sandra’s manuscript, there were only two of us actually critiquing, Myself and Cynthia Bullard. Cindy went first in giving her verbal critique. I was sipping my coffee, following along, when I began to notice something a little odd. We (Cindy and I) agreed on all the technical stuff (comma placement, sentence structure, passive vs. active, etc…) but then came the biggie. We were at totally opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to characterization and character motivation.

Cindy thought the protagonist’s boyfriend was being a controlling jerk. I thought it was sweet he wanted to help. Cindy thought he was sticking his nose into someone else’s business by sharing details about his own life. I thought it was great he was opening up. Cindy thought the protagonist should have stood up to her boyfriend better and told him to back off. I thought the protagonist was being rude and argumentative.

You can see where this is going. Sandra got a lot of help with her commas and sentence structure, but the big picture questions…she was on her own. A good rule of thumb for having a group critique your work is majority rules (most of the time as it is still your story).

6 Comments

  1. Okay, I take full blame. I should have been there to witness all the drama. No fair you pick the day of my absence to turn our group into a reality tv show.

  2. Thanks everyone for the great comments! I think it’s the first time in our group we’ve had such differing opinions. Be interesting to see how it plays out 🙂

  3. The writer has to do what she believes works best for the story. When it comes to characters in particular, you’re going to get varied reactions (even in a small group). What some people praise as self-confidence and a pro-active attitude will be criticized by others as obnoxious pushiness. In my latest novel, my two protagonists are in deep conflict on a couple of issues — it’s affecting their long-term relationship. I see this as an integral part of the plot, and apparently most readers do too. But one reader-reviewer said online that my characters are irritating because “all they do is fight.” Not true, but it seems that way to this particular reader. Would I have changed the story if this person had been my critique partner before the book was published? Absolutely not. I know my characters better than anyone does.

  4. Ha! I blame Demetria, also! Great post, Lynn!

  5. Majority rules is a good way to look at it. Although…sometimes if you ask five people their opinion about something, you get five completely different viewpoints. It can get confusing! lol I treasure my critique partners, and most of the time, I find they’re input is right on target. It took me some time to finally understand that, ultimately, the story is mine, and the decision lies with me. It’s a hard lesson to learn, especially if you’re working with crit partners who are more experienced and have been published more often or longer. But when there is no true majority vote (they all have differing opinions), it’s crucial to own your story and do what feels right to you.

    Loved this post, Lynn!

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