What is a Critique Partner?

A critique partner is a writer with whom one shares and critiques work on a regular basis. This process isn’t the same as co-write stories, because the manuscript isn’t written by both writers, but they should have overlapping ideas and motifs.  A critique partner often influences one’s writing in ways beyond the feedback shared because they can be a person one springboards ideas or troubled areas off of.  They have an inherent understanding of the writing process, which makes them able to offer specialized insights others may lack.

It’s common for writers to become each other’s critique partners, where the two writers exchange manuscripts for feedback.  Because the writer is often both the person receiving feedback as well as providing it, this series attempts to cover both sides of the giving/responding to feedback process.

Alternating Perspective

I think most writers believe if they plan to head hop, it should happen every other chapter.  And I think that’s a soothing concept.  People like patterns.  The problem comes in when as a writer you have multiple scenes that don’t lend themselves to alternating equally.  

Like in the beginning of the book, a writer might want to set up the protagonist and his or her normal life.  That could be 2-7 chapters (or more, it’s a random number) of scenes all from his or her perspective.  And yes, you can flash to unrelated nefarious scenes from the antagonist, but I think this may open its own well of problems.  Do you want readers to know “all is not well” or even what that something is so early into your work?  Does knowing something the main character doesn’t create tension or does it create frustration?  Is the jump between two different tones too jarring?  Has the author established why she should care about both narratives?  What happens if your antagonist isn’t active yet?  Like if the big bad is a construction mogul, I don’t want to hear about the details of their business stuff (even if it is shady) until they try to buy the main character’s farm—because that other stuff doesn’t matter to the story the writer is telling (maybe), it’s just filler they’re giving me so they can write in a pattern with how the perspectives changes between the two characters.  If I’m working my way through the main character’s struggle to keep their farm relevant, a bunch of legal back-and-forth claims of land or bad building practices is jarring and may tell me way too much about the second act.  

And there’s a case for my problem in the Numia series.  Did the pressure for an alternating perspective drive Holmberg to share Rone’s view?  Would those books be better without his perspective?  There’s no way to know.  

, I finished the series “The Kingmakers War” by Kate Avery Ellison.  The first three books are written in a limited third person perspective where we follow Briand.  Book 4 sets up a far broader continent sweeping story and we get a lot of chapters on palace intrigue and on “enemies” movements/perceptions.  And I discovered I might be one of those readers you can’t please because I didn’t like how she changed the focus from mostly Briand to a more “Game of Thrones” style story.  While the expansion of the narrative was a little jarring, I found I didn’t care about the head hopping because often the characters were involved in stories I didn’t care about OR their story was too much about Briand but from a different perspective.  Briand telling her own story and discovering these differing view points on her own would have made a better (in my opinion) story.

I felt significant pressure to make my novel alternate perspective every other chapter.  It halted my creative flow on the second draft for a good eight months.  And I can give you a million reasons why the perspectives don’t alternate following a set pattern but my conclusion is from a story telling vantage, alternating perspectives every other chapter would give Roxi’s take and then Gerry’s take on the same event, but it would become monotonous.  Sometimes not telling a reader how or why characters do things is better.  It leaves interpretation open.  

I think the age of your audience matters.  Both Ellison and Holmberg are working in a young adult audience.  Their works may NEED to spell out certain elements more definitively because teens need that little extra push towards reflection.  As a teen, I read the “Animorphs” series and it’s told from an alternating first person perspective.  As a teen, I loved that gimmick, and I loved rehashing each and every single detail from someone else’s perspective.  As an adult reader, I still enjoy different takes on the same story, but the perspective has to be distinct and have a larger purpose in the narrative.  I think it’s just an evolution and refinement of the parts I enjoyed in close narratives.  So my “complaints” in how Ellison and Holmberg share their stories may be perfect introductory primers for teen readers.

I hope in my own writing I’ve first actually made more space for readers to speculate, but second that readers of my books enjoy that instead of looking for a more definitive answer.  Personally, I think it’s part of differentiating between young adult and new adult literature.  Less is spelled out for rehashed.  But I don’t know for sure and won’t know until some reviews roll in on my book.  

What do you think about head hopping?  Do you like to relive the same scene from different perspectives?  Do you prefer a pattern to how perspectives jump or do you just want to vary perspectives when the story calls for it?

Writing Prompts for Matralia

Vector illustration public domain licence. Found at publicdomainvectors.org

Introduction: 


This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas.  For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.  


Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.

History

The ancient Roman festival of Matralia takes place on June 11th.  


Matralia is a lesser-known holiday honoring Mater Matuta.  Free women who were single or in their first marriage would bring offerings of cakes or earthen cookware to the temple.  Their sisters’ children sometimes accompanied them (but never their own). 


While at the temple, the matron may lure a slave in, whom she would abuse (slap and drive from the temple), then she would place a garland around Mater Matuta’s statue and all the women there would pray for the safety and health of their sisters’ children.  

 
Mater Matuta is an indigenous Latin goddess the Romans considered like or the same as Aurora (Goddess of the Dawn) and/or Eos (Greek Titaness of Dawn).  Over time Mater Matuta also became associated sea harbors and ports.  She was sometimes confused with Leucothea (Greek sea goddess).  Considering both Aurora and Eos rise from Oceanus each morning to herald the coming day, it is easy to see how she could become connected to the watery realm. 


Sources:

Wikipedia

Britanica

Prompts: 
-Mater Matuta’s celebration centers on asking for favors for others, but the ritual includes cruelty to the most vulnerable in Roman society, what does this imply?  


-Write a slave’s perspective on this celebration.  

Do they have a supernatural experience or is it more cruelty they endure?  

Does this day stand apart from other treatments they’ve received or is this another day in their life?


-Scene: Two sisters who’ve always gone together to Mater Matuta’s temple and brought each other’s children, this past year one of the sister’s husband died in battle and she remarried.  The other sister must go alone to the temple, leave her children behind, and take her sister’s children. 

Write either sister’s perspectiveWrite from the perspective of one child.

Write from the perspective of one husband.

Write from the perspective of Mater Matuta, why the one sister is lost to her now and how the other sister’s children suffer for it.

 
-Explore Mater Matuta’s motivation for calling on only single or first marriage women to worshipIs this a purity issue?

Is Mater Matuta looking out for the women and killing husbands (perhaps at sea) who mistreat their wives but she can only intervene once.

Both Aurora and Eos are known for sexual liaisons with mortals, maybe they use these festivals as an opportunity to scout out new bed mates? 


-Why does Mater Matuta take in her sister’s children?  Is she a patron for the motherless?

 
-Does Mater Matuta answer all the women asking after their sisters’ children? What does she want for the children she blesses?  


-When does Mater Matuta hear these prayers or bless these children?  What is the festival like from her perspective?


-Do we have a similar custom in today’s society?  While many values family ties, is there a day where you seek only your niece or nephew’s wellbeing and what does that day look like?  What would the supernatural force look like?


-If people were to celebrate Matralia today, what is the desired outcome and what are the rules you’d follow?  

Do your characters omit cruelty to slaves or substitute it?

Do your characters maintain a temple or do they create a makeshift one? 

Do your characters keep the old rules and only allow single women or women in their first marriage to participate?

Do it involve any of the traditional elements of the day or do they transform the practice?

Choosing Non-Violence in Writing

image from open clipart.org by studio_hades

I write all kinds of stories, but my favorite ones are where my character is presented with an opportunity for violence and rejects it.  It’s where my real life persona bleeds into my writing.  

 It’s difficult as a writer to create stories centered in nonviolence.  A death, fight, or even the threat of violence creates stakes in a work that keeps readers interested.  If no one is going to die or be harmed, then what drives investment?  

  1. Build interesting Characters.  Characters a reader wants to learn about benefit ALL works, but building a curiosity about “what will happen next” when a reader is confident the character is “safe” is crucial if you aren’t going to hold anyone’s life at gunpoint.  Readers have to invest because these your characters are funny, charming, quirky, intelligent, or determined.  
  2. Build Relationships.  Core to the soap opera genre is the “will they won’t they” “What will happen when Susie finds out?!” kind of drama. While soap operas also offer violence, often because serials have gone on soooo long, every relationship twist has been picked clean.  If you create deep complicated characters with established relationships, they you can hold interest with their interactions a long time, without ever threatening anyone’s life.
  3. Have a lot of characters.  People are social animals, and we like social interactions.  Instead of two main characters.  Have ten.  Let them have their own side plots, spread them out in your world.  Let them argue, separate, go their own ways and meet back up.  Conflicted goals and ideas can create a rat race to see who achieves their ends firsts.  Watch the “good people” get lost in less than moral means to their ends and the “bad people” gain humanity as they see all the harm created from theft x.  
  4. Add Mystery.  If people aren’t going around stabbing each other and shooting up schools, then there needs to be something else happening.  A quest, a pilgrimage, a strange ritual, or an action element that’s out of place.  Something curious or suspicious that makes readers wonder “what’s really going on?”
  5. Add Movement.  Violence is often equated with action, but it doesn’t have to be.  Dance, chases, cooking/cafes/restaurants/hotels all incorporate motion by design.  Giving the reader little actions to focus on