A question about offering a critique.

Have you ever tried offering advice to a fellow writer, only to have them treat your suggestion like it was as welcomed as a severe case of STD’s?

I am involved with some online writing groups, and if I think I can offer some advice or useful observations, I try to offer offer said advice as frankly but politely as I can. So, one day, a writer comes on asking for help staging a scene between his two main protagonist characters. I probably should have known the writer wasn’t interested in advice that didn’t praise them when I read the thumbnail character descriptions: two people with ‘hero’ practically written on their foreheads. Then they describe the scene: Earth has been invaded by an all-conquering alien species, and the heroes are going into orbit to visit an ancient spacecraft.

I could get past the part where the heroes are a bit too perfect, but expecting a species that has crossed interstellar space to overlook an orbiting spacecraft that the much-less-technically-advanced humans know about….that’s not asking me to suspend my disbelief, that’s asking me to lobotomize myself.

So I offered the observation that such an occurrence was unlikely, pointing out politely that it was a fairly obvious plot device that the author might want to address.

The author’s response? Well, I won’t do a direct word-for-word quote, but it was effectively ‘I’m well into the novel, and I’m not interested in changing what I’ve written.’

I’ve thrown whole scenes out of stories, then gone through the rest of the manuscript covering the holes created by that event no longer having occurred, so I can’t understand this sort of thinking. But what about you?

If you saw something so obviously wrong with a story that you couldn’t ignore it, would you say something?


Dan felt alive.

The noise of the cheering crowd as he strutted to the podium was intoxicating. Better than screwing some hooker. Better than screwing over a business partner. Almost better than remembering these people were cheering him because he’d pulling off the biggest scam of his life. He stopped beside the plain wooden podium and wondered why his advanced team hadn’t done as he’d told them. It should be his trademark gold-covered podium, not this drab piece of shit. Who cares if other presidents and dignitaries had stood behind it and addressed crowds, they weren’t him. Dan knew he was special, and it was time to fire a few of the people who hadn’t done as they were told to remind the rest of that.

Time to get on with the show.

Ignoring the ugliness of his surroundings was something Dan knew how to do, even if he didn’t like doing it. After all, the White House was ugly, inside and out. Those stupid formal gardens with their smelly roses. The stiff, drab exterior of the building. Hell, every fucking room in the place was ugly except for the small space he slept in. Nothing but stupid antiques and old furniture everyone told him was ‘historic’.

Who cared about history anyway?

The only thing that was important was what was happening now. He was in charge. He and he alone gave the orders, and everyone had to listen to him. Just remembering the way he’d finally been able to tell off that idiot Congressman who’d always been getting in his way made Dan want to smile, so he did. He let the joy he felt in this moment, the pleasure of the crowd’s complete adulation, fill him.

“Isn’t this great? Seeing Americans come out to support the greatest president of all time…it makes me proud to see the patriotism being exhibited here tonight.”

The tiny microphone on his lapel caught his words and sent them booming out, a wave of sound that filled the space. But that was nothing compared to the roar of the crowd’s reply. It rolled over Dan like a physical thing and lifted him even higher. Tonight, oh tonight, I’ll give them a show they won’t forget.

Dan opened his mouth to continue, but a deep, booming voice stunned both the crowd and Dan into inaction.

“So now you think they’re patriots? That’s not what you said earlier.”

Then Dan heard his own voice, except it wasn’t the patter he’d prepared for the crowd, it was him talking to Fred McFee, his campaign manager.

“Fuck, Fred, would you look at the bunch of rubes we’ve got tonight? I mean what do these losers do for a living, fuck sheep or something? I mean look at this bunch of idiots! Especially that fat fuck in the front row holding the sign up praising me….what the fuck does he think he’s doing, trying to look like me? Mind you, I’d screw that little piece of ass next to him. What do you think, is that his daughter? How could some ugly slug like that produce a hot little piece like her? Who knows, out here in the sticks, he’s probably screwing her.

Dan could see the people he’d been talking about. Both the fat father and his slender blond daughter stood, crimson-faced, not sixty feet from him. But Dan’s backstage conversation kept booming out over the crowd.

“Whatever the fuck. It’s about time to go out and feed the monkeys their nightly dose of shit. I can’t believe these morons believe the shit I’m tellin’ them! Hell, seeing how easy it is to clip rubes out here in Nowheresville, I can understand how those traveling preachers can go from town to town fleecing the fools for every cent they have. Oh well, as long as these idiot support me in the next election, I’ll tell them their cow’s shit doesn’t stink. Who knows, they might even be dumb…”

Silence. Dan knew he’d kept talking well past that point, but someone on his security detail must have finally found out where, in this backwater auditorium, the sound booth was. And I’ll find out why it took them so long later, oh yes I will, and then someone’s head is gonna roll! But that silence gave even morons like this a chance to think, and giving them a chance to think was never a good idea.

“Can you believe that? Someone thought you’d be dumb enough to believe such an obvious fake imitation of me talking! I mean nobody here is that stupid, are they?”

And it never hurts to praise a moron, any moron, when it makes them believe you.

The crowd roared out their support for Dan, knowing their president would never say something like that about them.

An object lesson: Don’t be stupid like me!

Well, it’s officially dead.
Yesterday, I had my laptop out, intent on doing some writing after far too long away from it. So, I’ve got the machine up and running, grab myself my favorite for of caffeine (diet Pepsi) and am getting ready to plug my thumb drive in….the thumb drive that’s on the table *next to* the glass full of pop.
Yeah, you can see where this is going, can’t you?
I managed to do an emergency shut-down of the laptop before liquids could come into contact with electrical currents and did what I could to get said liquids to drain out of the machine, then moved to my desktop machine in hopes that after drying out, the machine would work today.
Usually when I connect it to it’s ‘wall wart’, there’s a little blue light that comes on to show it’s drawing power from the charger instead of the battery. No blue light when I do it this morning, but hey, like I said, it *usually* shows that sign of life. So,time for the ‘smoke test’, to see if something goes catastrophically wrong when I push the “On” switch.
*Nothing* happens.
Not a light, no sound of the cooling fan on the processor starting, nothing, not one thing that usually happens when the laptop usually starts up happens.
So, folks, I guess the moral of the story is a simple and obvious one: keep your work area free of *ANYTHING* you might spill on your machine. In other words, don’t be an over-confident idiot like me.