Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sex, Violence, Racism and Child Abuse: The value of critiquing

I belong to a few critique groups and I get more out of them than just having other people look over my work. I learn a lot from seeing other people's mistakes. This makes me look for those mistakes in my own work, and I find them often.

In my latest work MIND THIEF, I had painted myself in to corner as far as starting it. I needed something to hook the reader but the main character was going into see a psychologist, so I was thinking he couldn't have thoughts that would make him a danger to himself or others as that would get him locked away.

I was critiquing someone else's novel and noticed that one of the characters blissfully told the psychologist abouts thoughts of murdering people, which she would have learned not to tell the psychologist. That kind of information would need to slowly pulled out of her in an interview, it wouldn't be volunteered.

As I thought about this I realized my main character would also know not to tell a psychologist about thoughts that would make him a danger to himself or others. Because of that he could think about just about anything and simply not mention it to the shrink.

That makes for a much more exciting start:

Mind Thief
Chapter 1

Howie walked down the street from the parking lot and had a strange sense that there was something wrong. He looked around, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the wide concrete sideway. There were a few more hybird cars parked on the street than he would see back on the college campus, but since he was in front of a medical professional office building their presence wasn't surprising.

In a flash Howie had a memory of this street, it was different. The sidewalk was brick, not concrete and the street was made from cobblestone instead of asphalt. A few Model A's were parked in the street but otherwise the area was deserted. He could hear a bike coming down the sidewalk behind him. A quick glance told him the rider was a red headed boy in his late teens.

As the rider started to pass him, Howie stuck out his arm and clotheslined the boy, knocking him off the bike. Howie stood over the boy who was holding onto his left shoulder in pain. Looking down he screamed, “You micks need to learn your place. The sidewalk is for people walking, you dumb hooligan.”

Howie kicked the injured boy in the ribs. Satisfied that he had done his good deed for the day he continued walking down the street.

Coming back into the real world, Howie stopped dead in his tracks and took a deep breath. Don't tell Dr. Randolph about this day-dream. It might be enough to get you labeled as danger to yourself or others.

Howie tried to push the ugly images out of his mind as he went into the office building for his appointment with the psychologist. Although he couldn't stop wondering, What the hell is a Mick?

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE


Stephanie Barr said...

OK, that's cool though I would not use the line "It might be enough to get you labeled as danger to yourself or others." and just say "No sense getting labeled dangerous."

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Project Savior said...

That would go along with his pretty flippant attitude. He could save the correct term for when he meets with the shrink, which I wanted to express that he was aware of.
The more I think about it the more I like it.