Friday, September 23, 2011

Lessons from Critique

I recently put two stories, back-to-back, through the Wordos critique table. One is a near-future science fiction short story and the other is set about one hundred fifty years in the future.

What struck me about the process this time is how I (sometime fail to) balance world-building between setting description. What the table told me about one of the stories was that I was using too much exposition to describe the future society's terms of kinship. One analogous example would be if I were writing a century ago and spent a few pages describing the intricacies of an oil change station. We're really used to the idea of engines and oil and gasoline, but how would you write about it to people used to horses and carriages? In any case, the draft of that story is probably a "Wikipedia story" that is slightly exhausting to read.

This leads me to the other story, which had a "Dictionary of Obscure Usage" passage. This is a problem I have because I'm a word geek, so I like to use obscure words, words' tertiary meanings, and awkward phrases because they have special (humorous) meaning to me. During a Twitter exchange about vocabulary, it was suggested that I may be writing old school science fiction, which was more puzzle-oriented.

The most important thing I learned from the critiques was that I needed the reminder that authors don't go out of their way to confuse readers (usually), and even a confused critiquer has something useful to say (um, usually).
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