Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day of the Cranky Pants

I debated about whether or not to post anything today because I was so pissed when I left the office 45 minutes ago that I knew I'd write a bunch of stuff I'd regret. Granted, I'm sure there's plenty "out there" that I'll already regret, but why go into a blog entry knowing you're headed for trouble, right?

Then, it occurred to me that others may be struggling with issues similar to mine and thinking, Am I alone in being haunted by irrelevant and silly critiques? If you've caught yourself thinking that, this post is a friendly reminder that, no, you're not alone. It happens to me too, so take comfort in knowing that at least one other person shares your experience. Also, please contact me so we can start a support group.

I'd like to preface this by stating that none of this applies to the wonderful writers in the Yahoo Groups critique group I joined. Everyone there has given me thoughtful and constructive suggestions. This is about the bizarre stuff I've heard in person and through other sources that I will not name to protect the guilty.

Here are the crits that I can't stand:

    Not in the Best Mood
  • The know-it-all who questions all of your research and clearly has no idea what she's talking about.
I work in education and I believe knowledge is power. I also believe ignorance is extremely annoying and vocal ignorant people are annoying and possibly psychotic. Every day, I work on becoming more tolerant, and I'm making progress---slowly. However, it doesn't make it any easier to keep my sense of humor when someone expects me to read and respect their opinion on something I know in and out either because I've experienced it or studied it. In general, when it comes to critiques, unless an author specifically asked for help fact-checking, it's probably safest to assume s/he has a reason for presenting the facts that way. Maybe you're reading from the POV of an unreliable narrator. Maybe you're thinking about a place, profession, etc. in terms of stereotypes rather than the way it really is. Maybe the author has it wrong, but if that's the case, it's still worth at least treading lightly. Artists are noted for being unstable and questioning an unstable person's perception of reality could trigger a psychotic episode. (Yes, I'm joking---sort of.)

  • Can you do/say that in this genre?

  • I don't like the characters.
I don't care. Okay, I do care, however, on it's own, this isn't helpful. Also, when I receive this type of feedback, it's usually followed up by a statement that the characters need to find Jesus and stop swearing. Guess what? I found him! He was under the couch the whole time. Now can we move on? I'm married to a scientist, my parents are teachers, and I attended a college that prides itself on having one of the most empirically-based psychology programs around. If I don't see it, I don't believe in it---unless it's in the fiction section. Nothing against Christianity, The Church of Latter Day Saints, Scientology, Judaism or whatever you believe in. Just keep in mind that a character's inability to conform to your image of the ideal God-fearing teenager doesn't constitute a short-coming in the story. So you wouldn't want to hang out with those people. That's cool. So you wouldn't buy this book for yourself or your daughter. That's cool too. Unfortunately, on it's own, that's irrelevant when it comes to critting.

Take a pointer from Tina Fey's improv approach to life and just say Yes
Each story is a reality on its own terms. The question is not, "Does this appeal to me?" The question is, "Does this work for what it is?" If the story is set on a planet Earth with a plaid sky instead of a blue sky, guess what? That's great! Okay, so we're in a reality where the sky is plaid instead of blue. If the sky turns blue without explanation two pages later, that's cause for concern, but if it's consistent and other things in the story are equally bizarre, say yes to this new reality and deal with it on its own terms.

I'm sure I've managed to offend all 2-3 people who bothered to read this. I swear I'm not normally this snarky, but I'm so cheesed off right now, I had to say something.