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Writers' Workshop #1 - Writing from the other gender's POV

 
 
jespah
 
Reply Mon 2 Jun, 2003 09:40 am
I am not a writing teacher, and this is not school. The idea here is that we can all teach each other to be better writers. Constructive criticism (e. g. the scene was well-written, but I could not follow who Miss Jones was) is always welcomed. Destructive criticism (e. g. you stink!) is never welcomed. Vague criticisms and/or praise (e. g. that was amazing!) is lovely but it's a lot more helpful if there are some specifics.

Everyone is welcome to write, and everyone is welcome to critique. Anyone wishing to suggest a workshop topic should send me a Private Message. Workshop topics will be opened pretty much whenever I have the time. Feel free to remind me if it's been a while between Workshop topics.

Thank You!

Now for the current challenge:

Some of us on Able2Know reveal our genders in our profiles or elsewhere in our writings. Others wish to keep this fact private.

The idea here is to write specifically in the style of a particular gender, preferably the one that you aren't (for me, that would be male). But the trick is, don't reveal which one it is. It doesn't have to be a guessing game, but you shouldn't be saying "And I'm the man and that's what I say!" or anything like that. The reader should be able to figure out gender without you spelling it out or revealing it with the use of names and the like.

Characters are, of course, important in all writing, and it's very rare to write something which is 100% composed of one gender, so it's vital to be able to write in either voice.


I'll post a sample below. Feel free to critique or add samples on this thread. If you're critiquing someone, please use the quote function and quote the first line or so of their piece so that we can keep everything straight. Pieces should be less than about 500 words long. Thanks!
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 3,457 • Replies: 21
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Jun, 2003 09:41 am
I got up that morning and it was cold. So cold, in fact, that as I stood up and stretched I could practically feel my bones creaking and scraping together, like some demonic ice orchestra.

I staggered to the mirror and looked at myself out of one barely opened brown eye. God. I looked like hell. Then, for the real test, I opened my mouth, and what I'd felt with my tongue was confirmed: both front teeth were chipped. Stupid fight. Stupid all-day drunk. Stupid stupid stupid.

My breath fogged the mirror, which I half-expected to crack from the strength of my breath. I opened the medicine chest and a small avalanche of medications fell into the sink. Zudovidine. Zoloft. Everything with Zs, like the drug companies couldn't think of another letter, as if they all wanted to crowd together at the end of some sort of alphabetical pharmacy line.

I grabbed each bottle and took out my dose for the morning, placing them in line like little round and oblong soldiers, all in candy colors, along the sides of the sink. Three. Seven. Thirteen. Yeah. Thirteen. That would work for before eating. Then another one after eating. Then another two in the afternoon. Another four at dinner. Another three at night. Pill after pill after pill. Bottle after bottle after bottle. I swigged them all down in one swallow, with a cupful of water that vaguely tasted like Listerine.

A shape stirred in the bedroom. Oh yeah. Forgot about that. I looked back at the mirror and noticed my sunken eyes and chest. My frame was collapsing into me. I was shrinking into myself, almost disappearing. My eyes. Yeah, my eyes. Looking larger than ever as I got thinner and smaller. I was once big. Once strong. At one time I had power. I was a swaggering mass of hormones and raw muscle power.

Somewhere in that vast wilderness that was my face I searched for myself but I was obscured behind nerves and greying, wiry hairs and chipped teeth and premature worry lines and bad breath and too much to drink and too many pharmaceuticals and and and and that's what HIV will do to you.
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Asherman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jun, 2003 11:44 am
I did around 550 words of a story that should have gone about 1200 words this morning. Hit a snag, and was diverted into fixing a ceiling fan that needed work. Came back and found that this blankety-blank machine had lost the whole works. Still haven't found the solution I need to make this little story work, but it's out there I know. The title is Betrayal, and a new draft is intended. Damn, I hate losing all that work. Experience softens the blow, since usually later drafts are better than early ones. Hope I've whetted your appetite.

Jess, you may want to PM Edgarblythe, he's also a serious composer of short prose.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jun, 2003 02:18 pm
Excellent, thanks, I've just PM'd him.

Argh, isn't it a pain in the patoot when the PC does that? Looking forward to seeing a new version of Betrayal whenever you're ready.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jun, 2003 08:41 pm
small puff of white smoke from the distant mesa...the lone ranger quickly pages through his Webster's Translator, head bobbing as he checks the illustrations against the distant visual...finds it!

"bookmark"
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jun, 2003 09:59 pm
Ok, I know I am going to love this topic once it starts to cook.

To digress, one of my favorite threads on a website I remember had a bunch of us talking about what happened to a duck. The key writers were Jespah and Sozobe and I and a few other people, possibly Cavfancier?, put in posts to keep the story going..........
what I remember, and why I mention it now, here, is that the wit was fast flowing. That isn't easy to do. Might even be why writers over history have felt they need to be on something, usually but not always alcohol, in order to write with such insouciance.

Part of why many people write is to capture those moments of flight.

Jespah can fly in writing, so I am glad to be here and hope to participate. Perhaps I will even tackle the beginning posts. Stay tuned, as Sargeant Preston of the Yukon....
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jun, 2003 11:05 pm
deleted
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jun, 2003 11:17 pm
But wait. We need to go back to Jespah's sample post and sample critique.
This topic is about writing for writers, but is meant to deal with the hows and whys that happen as we fly. So we should go back and look at Jespah's first, or was it second post and work on it. We need to learn to talk to each other in at least reasonable terms about structure and many other matters.
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Anneofnorway
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jun, 2003 01:14 am
Critique
jespah wrote:
I got up that morning and it was cold. So cold, in fact,

I like this, Jespah! You have obviously worked on your writing since the Abuzz workshops, and you are getting very good. Varied language, vivid imagery, good alliterations etc. I like it.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jun, 2003 01:26 am
jespah wrote:
So cold, in fact, that


Forget the in fact. I often throw in in fact or its equal myself.
But this particular one (and many of my own) isn't useful to advance the work.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jun, 2003 04:56 am
Hey Anne, welcome! :-D

ossobuco, you're right, the "in fact" isn't necessary. My High School writing teacher used to always tell us to edit until the piece would bleed if we cut it any more. So I should have dropped that out. Hmm. I'm not terribly happy with the ending and there are other loose ends. The guy is a mess - he's an alcoholic, he's gotten into a fight, he's had sex with ... someone (the maleness or femaleness isn't specified, by design) and then I give him HIV on top of that. Hmm. I guess that's a reasonable consequence of that sort of lifestyle but I just kind of drop it once I make that revelation. Hmm.

(Okay, too many hmms Laughing Hey, I'm making this all up as I go along. :-D)
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the prince
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jun, 2003 04:58 am
This promises to be interesting !! But since my sex is known almost to all (and my avtar leaves no room for doubts) - I shall watch this with interest, and join in the next challenge
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jun, 2003 06:54 am
Well, Jes, like Gautam, everyone here knows that I am female, so I, too, will just watch.

AnneofNorway. Great to see you again.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jun, 2003 07:06 am
Hmm, Ossobuco, I don't recall a duck thread....maybe it wasn't me. I am looking forward to posting something here though...I like the idea and it's been a long long time since I have attempted any original writing. My brother is getting married in July, and wants me to write them a song. I am working on it, and maybe posting a little prose here will help me focus.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jun, 2003 07:21 pm
I will have to reread Jespah's sample writing post. I don't follow why what sex any of us are or have matters for our making comments on the composition.

Jespah, on the AIDS, I was ahead of the curve on that when I read the Sample, and did see that as a sort of punch line as a little unsmoothly worked out. Maybe it should be more than a line, will think about it.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Jun, 2003 04:17 am
osso's right - us knowing your gender doesn't matter. The idea is to write in the voice of a gender that isn't your own, to get a feel for that. It's very limiting if all you want to do is write as your own gender; you're left with extremely limited scenarios (prisons, sororities, the army). Plus, this isn't just a writing workshop for me - it's for everyone.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Jun, 2003 07:56 am
I am fascinated by the talk of a "duck post." Where might I find such a post? I love ducks.

http://nytimes.abuzz.com/interaction/s.255010/discussion_in_list/ci/4/
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Asherman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jun, 2003 08:58 pm
Betrayal
O.K. here it is. I've cut it to 956 words, and I'm not sure that this version is as good as the incomplete lost draft.
Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Arrow

Betrayal is a terrible thing. You come into the world trusting, but everything is a lie. Santa Clause, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. I trusted my parents, I believed them and in them. What a fool I was. I can still remember the other children laughing at me. I thought they loved me. They told me that they would always be there for me, but that wasn't true either. Just as I was getting ready to go off to college, they died.

At the funeral everyone was so mournful, but that was a lie as well. None of those people knew my parents, really knew them. They didn't hear the fights over money, or Momma's "little drinking" problem. The night they died, they fought. Fought and went off on a rainy night to kill themselves in some stupid automobile accident. As their friends came up to me to offer condolences, I could see the hypocrisy in their faces. They didn't care a bit. All of my friends went off to school, but I couldn't afford it.

Daddy left a little insurance policy, and I sold the house. It turned out that it wasn't even really our house. After paying the mortgages there wasn't even ten thousand dollars left. I came to the City hoping that I might find someone to trust out of the hundreds of thousands. My money quickly ran out, but I found a job as a clerk in a bookstore. The pay was terrible, but the owner was nice and I enjoyed helping people who came looking for books. The work wasn't hard and in a month I could tell that the owner was pleased with me. That meant a lot, because I wasn't finding any more friends in the City than I had in our little old town. I got up in the morning and took the bus to work, had lunch in a little café around the corner, and came home on the bus. It wasn't much of a life, but it pleased me that I was needed.

There was Sandra, who lived across the hall from me. Sandra was beautiful, but couldn't seem to hold a job. We met on the stairs, and over a few weeks we became friends. We went shopping together, and on one weekend spent an entire day at the City Art Museum looking at pictures. Sandra liked to go out in the evening and tried to get me to go with her, but I'm too much a homebody. I had her over for dinner, and she really seemed to like it. Sandra was, I thought, a true friend and companion. She was someone that I could trust and depend on.

A couple of months ago, Mrs. Olson who worked as a cashier at The Book Ends didn't show up for work. The owner became worried, that's the kind of guy he is, so he had her landlady check to see if she was all right. They found her sitting in an easy chair with the latest Daniel Steele novel open on her lap. She was dead. She was a nice lady. The owner promoted me to the cashier's position and I got a fifty cent an hour raise in pay. I caught on fast, and never once made a mistake in making change. Mr. Brown was pleased; I could see it in his eyes.

When Sandra learned of my good fortune she asked if anyone had applied for my old job. No one had, so like any friend might do, I recommended her to Mr. Brown. Sandra came to work, and for a few days really tried to learn how the shelves were arranged. Soon however, she was taking too many cigarette breaks and I began to worry that Mr. Brown would blame me for her lack of effort. I told Sandra at lunch that she needed to take the job more seriously, but she just laughed and said that I was being silly. A few days later I saw Sandra flirting with Mr. Brown, and he seemed a little embarrassed. After all, he was a married man. Sandra began taking even longer breaks, but Mr. Brown said nothing.

Then I saw them in the convex mirror that we use to prevent people from stealing books from the shelves in the back of the store. They were standing close, too close. I could see the exchange of tender glances. At the end of the day, Mr. Brown asked to talk with me after closing. After what I'd seen, I knew he wouldn't blame me for Sandra's poor work habits. What I hoped for was a consolation prize, a word of appreciation for the way I was handling the cashier's job, maybe even a small raise. What I got instead was the sack. Mr. Brown told me that business wasn't doing so well and that he had to let me go. What a crock! He wanted me out of the way so that he could give my job to Sandra. Sandra! My so-called friend had been angling for my job, and Mr. Brown.

"Come on inside where we can talk about this. You know it isn't easy hanging out a window to talk with you out on that ledge. I know it seems terrible to you now, but in the morning things will look different. No matter what has gone wrong in the past, you have a long life ahead where wonderful things can happen. Nothing bad is going to happen to you; trust me."

She looked beyond the outstretched hand to the fireman's broad open face. She looked deep into his clear blue eyes and saw the lie, the coming betrayal.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2003 04:57 am
Oh, man. Good kick in the gut at the end.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Jun, 2003 08:40 am
Workshop #2: http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8404
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