The Final Grade (and a sample!)

I learned quite a few things over the past few weeks doing the Creative Writing Course through the Sydney Writer’s Centre. I would have possibly preferred doing the one week intensive course face to face so I could have workshopped a little bit more with other aspiring writers. I’m not sure what happened to them all, but I swear there were a good 15 of us or so in the first week and only a handful submitting assignments by the end. There wasn’t a great deal of interaction with each beyond submitting assignments either, which was a little disappointing. I wonder whether it was finding time to set aside for online learning? I know it can be difficult, especially with life getting in the way all the time, but I guess I’m just used to it – I’ve been an external uni student for the last 6 years. Maybe it was the criticism? Who knows.

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t particularly happy with my last piece of assessment. I felt I could have done better, but I was tired and I rushed through it. Since this is supposed to be a writing blog and all, I’ll post what I wrote and the response I received.

Background:

Seth, Tory and Roxy are all characters from a WIP (not the one that this blog is focusing on, however). Roxy is a journalist with an overactive imagination, Tory is her rude, rally driver sister, and Seth is an overly smart guy with a shady past who runs a bar. His shady past isn’t from being a sinister character, just a dude who gets bored easily and makes out like he’s MacGyver.

Week 2: The Personal Ad

Part 1: Write a personal ad for a character.
Part 2: Someone has found out – using only that character’s voice, explain their decision.

Part 1:
28yo, tall, well built male seeks similar minded female for friendship with view to relationship. Must be well read, able to converse on anything from philosophy to politics, be interested in puzzles (not the jigsaw kind) and challenges, have a sarcastic sense of humour and a career. Am not interested in women in transitional jobs, but studying OK. You are smart and sassy, know who you are and what you want out of life. Most importantly – please know how to spell.

Part 2:
“Do you realise how difficult it is to meet the kind of woman I’m interested in? Sure, I meet plenty of women at the bar – some are hot, some are cute, some are fun and adventurous, but most of them wouldn’t have two brain cells to rub together if they tried and are the type of woman who need men to feel confident. Those chicks are only interested in me for two things – free drinks or a bit of sex to bolster their self esteem. I’ve seen them in there, time after time, desperately clawing at any bit of male attention to make themselves feel attractive – that’s definitely NOT attractive.

I like smart women, Tory, and I’m not going to find one running a nightclub. I wouldn’t even know where to begin trying to look for one and I just don’t have the time during the day, even if I did. I figure this way I might stand a chance – you never know, right? Besides, I’m not too worried about attracting any crazies, I tried to make myself sound like a bit of an intellectual snob. Hopefully if anyone replies they’ll at least know the difference between Plato and Pluto.”

Response:
PART 1: We learn much about your character here, but wonder if he is being entirely truthful. You create an intriguing character.
PART 2: Your character has a strong voice and there is a good pace and rhythm to his speech, although there is something slightly formal in his speech. He’s interesting, and his approach is different, so the reader cares about him and the girl he hopes to meet. Good.

Week 5: Scene

Write a scene where you hear from the two characters.

Tory picked up her straw and stabbed at the lemon in the bottom of her glass. “So, smart women, ey?”.
Seth reached under the bar and grabbed a cloth, wiping away the mess Tory was making splashing her drink all over the counter. “Simply put, yes”.
Tory arched her eyebrows. “So, well read and interested in a variety of things? That’s the perfect chick?” she asked as he was grabbing various coloured bottles from the mirrored shelf in front of her.
“We’ve been over this, Tory. I’m not interested in discussing it further with you”.

Tory watched, fascinated, as he mixed the contents of the tall skinny yellow bottle with the bottle of Bailey’s into a shot glass, before finishing it with a dash of something red, which curdled in the glass. “Dude, what the hell is that? It looks disgusting!”

Seth handed the glass to the tattooed woman standing next to Tory who was giving him an appreciative eye. “It’s a brain haemorrhage” she said, wrapping her brightly painted lips around the rim of the glass and sucking it down. She twirled the glass on the bar around her slender finger and leaned forward, arching her back out so her breasts were nearly resting on the counter.

Tory shot the woman a dirty look and continued. “So, would you consider someone like, oh I dunno… a journalist, to be well read?”
“I would assume that to be a journalist one would be well read, yes”.

Seth sneaked a glance at the tattooed woman’s breasts, peeking above her corset top like frosting on a cupcake, as he poured himself a beer. She caught him looking and smiled, twirling a piece of her hair around her finger. “You know, I’m studying Literature at uni. What interests you?”
He took a sip of his beer and licked the foam from his lips while thinking. “Literature-wise, I’m rather fond of the Jacobean period, but I’ll read mostly anything these days”.
“Interesting choice,” Tory fumed as the woman sat taller and pushed her breasts out even further. “I’m rather inclined towards..”

“You’re going to be rather inclined towards an actual brain haemorrhage if you don’t piss off!”. Tory grabbed the woman’s shot glass out of her hand and glared at her.
“Excuse me?” The other woman’s hands went straight to her hips.
Tory waggled her finger. “I should think not, bitch. You interrupted our conversation. I’d thank you to kindly bugger off now – he’s not interested, no matter how much boob you shove in his face!”
The woman grabbed her bag and stormed off, muttering under her breath.

“Tory, that was really rude”.
“Jesus, Seth. Do you not get what I’m trying to tell you here?”
He leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms, sighing. “Apart from you being a crazy bitch, no, not really”.
Tory shook her head. “How can you be so stupid?”
Seth took another mouthful of beer and shrugged. “Oh, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy telling me”.
“Roxy”.
Seth straightened up and looked around. “Is she here?”
“No, you moron. You’re in love with her!”

Response:
I like the layers and undercurrents you have permeating the scene. The characters are strong and believable, and their language convincing. The scene is well-structured with a good pace and emotion. The piece may be a little stronger if the woman with the breasts were more of a genuine threat, and to actually have her mention an author or something, even “Portnoy’s Complaint”.
I suspect there is a moment where the light dawns for Tory and she realises that Roxy is “the one”. It would be good to give a hint of this moment to the reader. The way the tension builds to the climax is effective and the piece works well overall. Good.

I didn’t share this backstory when I submitted these for assessment so the criticism is fair, particularly in regards to Tory realising Seth’s into Roxy. That was supposed to be the personal ad. I didn’t make that very clear though, even though this is supposed to follow from Seth’s monologue.

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “The Final Grade (and a sample!)

    • Thanks Billie, that means a lot! Now that’s out of the way I may try my hand at a few short stories to cement everything I’ve learned before I go back over my WIP.

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