I have never shown my fiction. Writing a fiction novel is something that I was obsessed with when I was younger, but has fallen to the wayside as I’ve become more involved with blogging, journalism, and life in general. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never something I have sat down to seriously consider.
Thursday was the day I had to show my fiction to a group of classmates. I am a very shy and quiet student, tending to stay in the background and never feeling the need to raise my hand to volunteer my work, or offer an opinion. So having an entire classroom of writers, some being exceptionally good writers, having their full attention on me was incredibly nerve-wracking. I knew of my date from mid-January: March 24. I would have to showcase my fiction to a group of people I barely knew. As I read through my story again and again, I fall more deeply in love with my characters and feel like they are such a part of me. I wouldn’t say I was scared of the criticism, because I know it was done only to make the story stronger, but having all of the attention focused on me and my work wasn’t something I necessarily coveted.
I was pleased as punch when my classmates began to trickle in slowly. By 11am, at the class start time, we only had 9 people. Unfortunately, my professor stalled for time to wait to see if anyone else would show up. They did, and I eventually read my story to 16 classmates. I had decided to print out copies for people to read off of, instead of pulling it up on the computer to be flashed on the screen. It was less scary that way. And it also gave people a way to write down comments they had on the piece as it was right there to look at.
The first comment, made by a guy, was a little harsh. While we are supposed to start off with what we like, he started off with criticism, saying he didn’t know these characters at all and I made the man figure (Jay) too perfect. Luckily, I had a rebuttal in the form of a girl who agreed Jay was a little perfect, but she understand the character development. From then on, classmates began to offer suggestions and feedback.
The good: The story has a nice flow and reads well. The story concept is a great one and, even overwhelming, in the possibilities to grow it. Most people liked Ava’s character and thought she was well-developed. They loved the last scene with Jay and Ava and this is where he is developed best, being controlling. And they loved the ending.
The bad: I made Jay a little too perfect, which I agree with. I was trying not to make him out to be a bad guy, and I think I went too far into the realm of perfection. Dialogue is a little stilted at times and should always move the story along. One girl also made the point of saying that the line “God had different plans” leads the reader to think everything will work out, but it really doesn’t. I think that was such a striking point that I agreed with. I need to show more of Jay and Ava having disagreements, instead of the only one at the coffee shop.
Things to ponder: I received so much great feedback on how to improve this story! One such piece of advice was to make the dress a symbol. Make Ava see how imperfect it really is, even if it is breath-taking on the outside. Another one was to really play on the controlling man vs. insecure woman angle and show that a lot through dialogue and actions. A girl also brought up a great point of how it seems as if Ava, who used to be very insecure, has found a sense of self and independence through this attention she’s getting from Jay, which, in turn, causes her to apply for the study-abroad opportunity. I wanted to KISS THAT GIRL ON THE MOUTH when she said that because it’s never something I ever thought of but it makes perfect sense!
All in all, it was a great experience. I do have to do another reading on April 19, which gives me a few weeks to make it a whole lot better. (And if you’re interested in reading the edited version, let me know in the comments and I’ll make a list of who to send it to!) I’m glad I’ve stuck with this class and it’s caused me to learn so much about the writing process. I still want to be a writer, but I know it’s not as easy as it looks. But there’s something there, a smidge of talent that I need to refine and keep working towards.