Last night saw my story, “Good Taste,” was discussed in my MFA Fiction workshop.
Most comments centered on the information the main character gives the reader (and what he doesn’t give the reader). He’s selective in what details matter to him, while at the same time being really verbose in his speech. My classmates wondered if more pitfalls weren’t apparent than pros in this move. On one hand, the character talks incessantly about the most mundane details, yet speaks virtually nothing about his past. Similarly, the question of an emotional center to the story was up in the air for most readers. Does this character change, and if he does, can we tell?
I included a few innovative moves in the story, at least innovative for my writing. The main character works at a product sampling company and his worksheets are included in the piece. I was also deliberate in style, his manner of speaking lending itself to a three-paragraph structure on each page, the paragraphs falling into lengths of eleven lines, nine lines, and nine lines. These stylistic choices weren’t necessarily commented on, but they were new for me, and it was refreshing to try.
I’m often appreciative of written comments on my manuscripts, too, because I intended this story to be a comedy and it’s typically in the written comments where if something made someone laugh, they let me know. It appears I succeeded quite a bit in that department, so if I can couple stronger craft choices in other areas with the comedy, the story will hopefully come out stronger in its third draft.
Going into a workshop, one should always be open to any and all comments. I’m of the mind that one should take everything in during the moment and then deal with it all afterward to decide what to agree with and what doesn’t work. I was hoping for more comments on what worked, both because I think a lot of what’s on the page does work and because hey, who doesn’t write a story and then want it to work? That said, my peer Katie Lacey may have said it best on the way out of workshop: “I don’t think people go into workshop wanting only all positive comments.”
She’s exactly right. Whether comments questioned my writing choices or lauded them, they’re all going to help the story in one way or the other.