Monday, August 5, 2013

Sanity Patrol Critique Partner Insists on Conflict

Yesterday I had a work meeting with my CP (Critique Partner). I came away from our 3-hour session filled with insight on how she perceived what happens in my screenplay, and also a little miffed.

For one, as an American she "reads" stories that take place in my home country in a different way than people who have grown up on the same soil. History connects country folk and creates a natural bond. People close to me lived through one or two World Wars. My peers and I grew up in the aftermath of WWII. If you weren't there, if your folks weren't there, or even if they were, but became Americans, who chose not to share, you won't have the same kind of understanding as my country men and women.

On top of that, apart from non-fiction and philosophical works, and the Bourne Identity etc. series, my CP doesn't care much for the kind of novels I read, or movies I watch, and therefore the kind of writing I do. Not really. Meaning, even if she appreciates my voice, the way I write, and the stories I tell, she prefers to read, write and watch what I consider weird fantasy stuff, whereas I'm into realism.

Notwithstanding our differences in taste, the woman knows how to critique, and to ask questions. This makes me think —I beg your pardon for going off on a tangent— of the time that I worked as an assistant buyer for a small, classy department store in Amsterdam. I learned about craftsmanship, quality of materials and design, and that none of those elements needed to have anything to do with my personal taste. I learned to judge an item for the way it was made, how well the object worked, and not whether I liked to give the thing a place in my home.

My CP saw an extended metaphor in the liquids shared by characters in my screenplay, where I had recognized only the solid food as such. No, this is not a metaphor in itself. So, in a way we agreed. She reinforced what I already knew, but needed to hear from someone else. Nutrition or in other words food, is important in this screenplay, and let's face it, in all of the books I hope to deliver in the near future.

Talking to folks who write —fiction from life— I always stress, "don't get too stuck on how something really happened." So imagine my surprise when my CP shakes her head and says: "Oh, you and your, 'this is how it happened'."

"What? Really? I'm stuck on that?"

And yet I immediately knew she was right on the mark, and that I've been waiting for the sign that I can go beyond the reconstruction of what I've perceived as the truth. My attempt to recreate the lives of people I knew, knew partially, or could not have known, has landed me with a good jumping board. I've got the scenes of the story in place the way I think they occurred, and now it's time to give the folks something to sink their teeth in. The characters that is. Trouble, they've got, but they need to show some serious emotion, they need to express that serious, underlying itch that they want to scratch real bad.

This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.