What Stace had to say on Thursday, August 27th, 2009
On Critiques 11: Bad Crit 10

Oooh! Your responses to our last Bad Crit were awesome. Why? Because you didn’t always agree with the ones I agreed with, but you generally seemed to have reasons for it. This is what’s most important; it’s about knowing for yourself what to go with and what not to.

For me, several of the “Show don’t tell”s were gratuitous. We need to know dinner was served, for example, but it really wouldn’t add much to the story to have a full description of it. It would have been fine to add another sentence or two, but not necessary. The fact is, the writer has to choose what really needs showing and what can just be told; most things need to be shown, but there are times when exposition works just fine. As another example, the “It was meant to disturb her. It worked,” was, to me, an excellent line; I thought it worked very well.

The serious lines were the ones about removing extraneous phrases, like “she thought resentfully” or “understood and” or the first time I mentioned commas. Also the one about spitting out the wine after she’d swallowed it.

So, this last Bad Crit is kind of a cheat. I debated whether or not to do this but thought, well, I’m going to do good crits of all of them anyway, and this really does need to be shown. It’s the worst kind of critique, in my opinion. So here’s the last one (I think I got everyone’s submission. If you sent one in and it hasn’t been up, please email me).

Kate hated baseball – yet here she was on her way to an Oakland A’s game with two co-workers, Cassie and Jan. She looked out the crowded Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train’s window, clutching the vertical rail meant to keep unseated riders from being thrown to the floor at every stop and start. Naturally, tonight’s entertainment featured a fireworks show after the game meaning Kate would return home around midnight. Already picturing herself jostled around walking from the BART station to the Oakland Coliseum Kate took a deep breath, silently cursing herself for letting Cassie sell this night of boredom to her as fun.

“Hey, Creepy.” Cassie leaned toward Kate to be heard over the train noise and other passengers. “You aren’t already retreating into your black hole anti-social silence are you?”

“Who me?” Kate immediately perked up in exaggerated alertness, batting her eyes rapidly with accompanying ear to ear smile. “I love this. I’m so happy. I…”

“Bitch!” Jan reached around Cassie to give Kate a push. “Don’t screw tonight up for us. I told you not to invite her, Cassie. She sucks the fun out of an evening like some kind of Psychic Vampire.”

“Yeah but with her she just wants to keep sucking,” Cassie joined in enthusiastically. “She’s not satisfied with sucking the life right out of us. Creepy’s insatiable. Too bad you aren’t as passionate in bed, Creepy.”

In answer to her friends’ kidding, Kate lifted one hand up in clawing form. She bared her teeth in a vampire like grimace. Making hissing noises through clenched teeth, Kate breathed in and out rapidly, leaning toward her friends in threatening vampire like form. As Cassie and Jan huddled backward in pretended fear Kate glanced up to see she was being watched with amusement by a tall hulk of a man standing on the opposite side of the aisle a few feet away.

When something like this happened to Kate in the past she always hurriedly looked away, knowing anything resembling a come-on could result in an evening spent avoiding a night stalker. Kate’s long red hair and jade green eyes were eye-catching. Coupled with being nearly five feet, ten inches tall and formed well enough to compete in any beauty pageant, Kate was stunning. She avoided public events like this one. From her early teen years to the present at twenty-three, Kate’s battle with self-consciousness reared up in crowded places despite all logic.

Now, locked into the man’s smiling gaze, Kate could not look away. Kate’s hands fell limply at her sides. She lost the vampire persona so quickly her friends looked up at her worriedly. The BART train braked into the Coliseum station. The jolting stop propelled her away from the vertical stanchion, leaving Kate clutching for a handhold on one of the seatbacks and missing. In horror Kate knew she was going down as first Jan reached for her and then Cassie.

Instead of ending up in a sprawl on the BART train floor, Kate’s fall ended abruptly. In a split second before anyone but Cassie and Jan noticed her plight, Kate was again upright next to her still groping friends. So powerful had been the intervention, Kate had barely felt what eclipsed her fall.

“Wow, Vampira, you almost ended up taking a header into the next car,” Jan remarked, holding onto Kate’s arm as the train came to a complete halt.

“Good thing that young scarred up guy over there caught you,” Cassie whispered, nudging Kate. “He’s kind of cute in a World Wrestling type way. He’s smiling at you. At least give him a wave you ungrateful jerk.”

Kate twisted slowly around, unnerved. The man had righted her and moved back to his initial stance instantly. Their eyes locked once again before the train exit doors hissed open. Passengers surged between them to disembark. Kate knew from the warmth shooting through her she was blushing.

“Look at the size of that guy,” Jan noted as the three women were herded out past the man and through the train exit door. “Calm down, Creepy. Your face has the color of a ripe tomato.”

“Shut up, Jan,” Cassie ordered. “Kate’s in love.”

“Hi,” a gruff voice, baritone in tenor, rasped out from behind Kate. “Are you okay?”

Kate pulled her friends over to the side of the platform out of the streaming crowd of people. She turned to face the man who Kate thought must be well over six feet tall. Cassie and Jan looked at their friend questioningly. Kate stuck her hand out in greeting.

“Hi, I’m Kate Langley. These are my friends, Cassie Owens and Jan Gilbert. Thanks for keeping me from a floor facial.”

“You’re welcome, Kate,” the man acknowledged with a smile, grasping her outstretched hand gently while nodding amiably at Cassie and Jan. “My name’s Cole… Cole Johnston. Are you and your friends going to the game?”

“Nice meeting you, Cole.” Cassie looked up at the man’s bulk with some trepidation, pulling at Kate’s jacket. “C’mon, we don’t want to be late.”

Where Cole held her hand, Kate’s consciousness focused on the tingling touch of his rough hand on hers. She smiled up at Cole without hearing Cassie, content to remain in the stranger’s grasp until Jan reached up and yanked on her ear impatiently.

“Hey, earth to Kate. It’s time to go. Say goodbye to your little friend and let’s get movin’.”

“You two go ahead.” Kate pulled away from Jan. She kept hold of Cole’s hand. “I’ll meet you two at our seats. I have my ticket.”

Cassie and Jan exchanged disbelieving glances.

“Are you out of your mind, girl?” Cassie asked. “No offense to Mr. Johnston here, but we ain’t leaving you with a total stranger. What the hell’s gotten into you?”

“I…I don’t know,” Kate admitted. Cole released her hand at Cassie’s words of caution. “I’ll be right behind you two. What’s the big deal? You two ditch me all the time at the club.”

“True, but you’re about as streetwise as a new born puppy,” Jan replied sarcastically.

“I’m going to the game too,” Cole inserted, more surprised at Kate’s interest than her friends’ reservations about his intentions. He fished around for his ticket. “See, I’m in Field Level on the first base side.”

“Well, I guess we can walk along together,” Jan allowed. “Are you putting the make on my friend, big guy?”

Kate gasped in embarrassment, giving Jan a shove, while Cole laughed appreciatively.

“She is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” Cole clasped Kate’s hand in his as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “I know I don’t look like Brad Pitt but I’m not Ted Bundy either.”

“Says you.” Cassie shrugged at Jan. “C’mon Jan, we’ll send out a search party if we don’t see Kate by the third inning. Let me see your driver’s license, Cole.”

“Cassie!” Kate exclaimed. Cole immediately reached for his wallet.

“That’s a great idea, Cassie.” Cole extracted his ID and handed it to Cassie. “You can’t ever be too careful.”

“Is this your current address, Cole?” Jan asked in mock suspicion as Cassie jotted down Cole’s address. “This says you’re twenty-four. You look older, mister.”

Cole laughed. He patted Jan’s shoulder. “It’s actually my folk’s address. I’m home on leave. My duty station is at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.”

“Oh shit, a Marine.” Cassie slapped her forehead comically. “I should have known with that buzz cut black stubble on your head.”

“I guess she’ll be safe.” Jan looked at Cole differently.

“You…you’re in the service?” Kate failed to hide the disappointment in her voice.

“Well… yeah.” Cole retrieved his ID from Jan. “If that’s a problem, Kate, maybe you’d better go on ahead with your friends. No hard feelings, right?”

Cole walked away with a little wave. He mingled into the crowd moving down the station stairs.

“I…I didn’t mean it like that,” Kate said defensively. Cassie and Jan pretended outrage at her.

“Ahhhhh… two ships passing in the night,” Cassie commented dramatically. “Let’s go. No use hanging around on the platform. We’ll buy you a beer to cry in when we get to the stadium, Creepy.”

“Stop calling me Creepy.” Kate allowed Jan to tug her along toward the stairs.

“It’s for the best,” Jan said. “Did you see those scars on his neck and jaw? Cole’s probably damaged goods. He’ll be going away again anyhow. No one picks up dates on BART trains.”

“He did.” Kate hurried ahead of her friends toward the turnstile, ticket in hand. This is great! OMG I LOVE IT!!

5 comments to “On Critiques 11: Bad Crit 10”

  1. driftsmoke
    · August 27th, 2009 at 2:53 pm · Link

    You crack me up, Stacia! :mrgreen:

    The only critique that is equal to this one in terms of badness is the one where they have marked *one* comma splice or *one* homophone in a 1000 word writing sample.

  2. BernardL
    · August 28th, 2009 at 8:59 am · Link

    LOL! I knew I should have put a zombie werewolf in this. :)

  3. Justin
    · August 28th, 2009 at 2:48 pm · Link

    Man, it’s never a short guy . . . 😎

  4. writtenwyrdd
    · August 29th, 2009 at 6:19 am · Link

    Yes, this is the worst sort of critique, because it says *nothing* useful. Telling someone you loved it is nice, but it doesn’t help; they need to know when there are things that need to be fixed (like missing punctuation and grammar issues) or common flaws like lack of clarity, confusion, showing vs telling,etc.

    A critique like this gives me the writer the sense of futility and “Why bother?”

  5. Tom Gallier
    · August 29th, 2009 at 7:00 pm · Link

    Where is the gratuitous sex and violence? You know sex and violence sells, and making it gratuitous is like giving an Olympic runner steroids. Yep, makes it BETTER.

    Yes, that is my standard critique.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe without commenting