Creative Writing Workshop

I thought this might be fun to do.

Post a portion of a short story, novel, or poem you are working on, and the teeming millions and I will try to give you solid constructive criticism.

I leave it to you to select the size of the piece you post, but bear in mind that exceptional length in this kind of forum is usually counterproductive.

Or, if you like, I’ll give you an assignment.

Anthropomorphize. Write a piece from the perspective of an animal, or where an animal takes on human characteristics.

I’ve thought about writing a short story about a guy who wants to commit suicide, but his religious hang-ups have him believing that he’ll go to Hell if he does. So, instead, he decides to try ridiculous things that are sure to kill him. First, he’ll go to the 'hood and try to goad someone into killing him, by shouting racial slurs and antagonizing passers-by. When that doesn’t work, he’ll try something else… the finer points of his schemes have yet to be worked out in my mind.

Is this a sound idea? I’m also stuck on a resolution. I thought about throwing in some O. Henryian irony-- like, say, he repents of his suicidal tendencies just as he gets killed by some weird coincidence. But that seems a little… too easy.

Any ideas/criticisms?

Sounds good to me. Try writing a section. Don’t worry about setting it up, just write a scene where he tries to get somebody to kill him.

You could have a lot of fun with it.


…I think I see your first problem.

But seriously- it sounds interesting as a conceit- but you’ll have to flesh out this point- if suicide is against your religion, wouldn’t going into the hood to cause someone to kill you be just as bad and maybe even worse, religion-wise?

Maybe he just doesn’t have the fortitude to do the physical deed himeslf, and after several failed attempts (I see a nice opening, as our hero contemplates the feeling of his head in a noose, and then chickens out) resorts to tactics like the one you list. The proposed “easy” resolution I do like, but I seem to have a rather high tolerance for triteness, so YMMV. Good luck!

Scylla, nice thread. I’ll be back.


I think people worry too much about plotlines. Any plot is good if you write it well.

Workshop this thing I just wrote. I’m convinced it could be really cool if I put a lot of revision into it. The basic plot is there, though. Tell me whether or not you understood it, and give me suggestions on how to flesh it out.

I feel like I should be putting more events or more scenes in the storyline, just to show the audience that all the humans are dead except for the one the gods/aliens/spirits/whatever-they-are are watching. I could have the guy wander past some rubble or something. What else could I add?

Also -

I fucking hate these sentences. What could I do to make them less painful?

Thanks y’alls!

I’ve wondered about something along these lines since “Cafe Society” was established. Perhaps Euty or Ike or an admin could clear it up or establish some ground rules regarding posting literary works in this forum.

See, I write a humor column (unpublished) on a fairly regular basis. I’m between websites right now, so there isn’t a place for someone to go and see it.

Anyway, some SDMBers are on my email list, and I wouldn’t mind adding more if anyone is interested. But I would like a larger audience (and feedback, too). At the same time, I wouldn’t want to appear to be cluttering up this forum with my columns every week or two.

If it helps the mods and admins reach a decision re: posting such material here on a regular basis, the columns are rarely more than 800 words, and don’t really contain any inflammatory material (I like to say it’s 100% clean because my Mom reads it!).

If anyone wants to be on my email list, drop me an email and title it “Ravings From Dave.”

Sorry if I hijacked this thread, but I think my concern regarding posting in this manner was legit.


Do one of two things.

Cut those sentences that are bothering you, or:

Instead of saying that he “moaned out platitudes,” give us that in dialogue. Let’s hear what this dying man said, in a few quick lines. Don’t tell us he asked why he was still alive, let’s “hear” him say it himself. Do it quickly and move on.

That’ll help alleviate some concerns about not having an active scene.


I like the tone of your piece. You could flesh things out more- but part of the fun of it may be the discovery that “we” are the gods in question- the first few lines bring to mind a frankenstein-like outcast and the people he terrifies, rather than the actual situation, it’s a nice reversal. Short pieces rise and fall on nice little touches like this. But you must commit to it, and clear up confusion. A lot depends on whether this is a stand-alone, or part of a larger piece. WRT your question:

The feel of this is off because the three sentences are af a similar structure and rhythm, especially the last two. I’ve found that varying sentence lengths makes writing read more naturally for me- otherwise you have what looks like verse in the middle of prose, and it’s a little strange. On preview- I must agree with Blacksheepsmith- what is he saying?


I like it a lot. It reminds me a lot of Roger Zelazny’ writings in the way you invoke archetypes and the extraordinary in a familiar way.

I’d agree with the earlier comment, and take it even a step further. It’s better if you show instead of tell.

Why not “Restlessly we ran up and down the ridge of the cliffs”

See? You do that several times. A trick I like is that if you show several things, you can get away with telling something that’s difficult to show.

I’d love to see an example of this, as well as an example of these beings trying to communicate with the human, and his reaction. I think a powerful example would go a long way.
here’s another one:

I think this works much better as an example. You could have them watch a mountain erode, or watch a star gow through it’s life cycle, and give us this information by implication.

Another thing is I would like to see why these beings found the human and this particular human so fascinating, why he was so special. I suspect it’s not just because he was the last of his kind, but because of his ability to almost communicate with them.

I picture an incident of the man praying or doing something in one of the Holy places and the beings attempts to respond injures or frightens the man.

I like it a lot though.

This came up recently over in ATMB, with this recommendation from Ukulele Ike:

Hope this helps.

An excerpt for review:

I’m wondering about tone here. I’m not sure I have the narrator, or the connection between the narrator and James. Any comments would be welcomed.

Hm. I have a short story that’s a hair under 2,000 words that I’m probably going to start shopping around once I get all my family stuff straightened out.

I could either a) post it here (if the powers that be give me the okay), b) email it to interested parties, or c) post it on my webspace somewhere and link to it (which will probably be best, huh?).

And Dave, not to be self-serving or anything, but I have a website at, and I’d be glad to have your columns be a regular part of the site if you’re interested. The site isn’t exactly “100% safe” itself, as I have rather prurient interests, but if you think you can put up with this, we’d be glad to have you. We have the rather underwhelming number of 13 hits per day, but, well, it’s something. :slight_smile:

Didn’t a Doper do something like this up a few months back? I don’t remember who it was, but he actually created a website for this exact thing. I visited it once… it looked nice but I don’t know if it ever really took off. Anyone else know what I’m talking about?

Here’s a short story I wrote. As a story it’s quite short but as a post, it’s too long.

I wrote it for a creative writing class and the teacher was so thrilled that it wasn’t an entry in the political battles being waged between our homophobic future Marine and angry lesbian environmentalist and their respective friends that I didn’t get as much commentary as I’d like.

I’ve had questions about the conclusion… namely that there’s a reunifying moment with the girlfriend and not the friend. The reasoning behind that is that his friendship is not in any danger in this conflict and his relationship is already extremely fragile; but I’m not sure how well I communicate that in the final paragraphs.

Besides that anything else anyone thinks could use fixed up, from word choice up to major plot events, is welcome.



Dao, I think your piece is very good. It reads like an excerpt or a treatment, so the beginning was a little abrupt. A little more background on this poor last human might be good. A description of clothing, tattered though it may be, or personal effects might give us a better sense of temporal positioning, if you’re so inclined.

As far as your prose goes, it’s pretty strong for the most part and you’ve already IDed the sections you have trouble with, so edit it a bit and let us take another look at it.

One thing you may want to keep in mind is that although prose fiction does not need to utilize only those words used in “every day” situations, you should stick to words that have a more…visual aspect to them. Well, for verbs, anyway. It’s possibly just me, but I have difficulty visualizing what a person looks like when he is “imploring,” and I prefer the sound of “turned their eyes” rather than “averted.” Emphasizes a certain sense of abandonment, IMHO. But these are rather nitpicky things.

As far as the Planet of the Apes-ish fall of society thing…well, I don’t feel as if it’s necessary. I think the last human being is a powerful image, and the lack of temporality lends a certain…desolation to your story. The timelessness of the story also helps focus attention on your characters and your actions, and I honestly believe that any further context (time, place, ruins of the Statue of Liberty) would be to the stories detriment. Besides that, it also helps contribute to the timelessness of your god/spirit beings.

Well, I’m far from lucid at the moment (nothing to do with your story, I assure you), so feel free to take my comments with a block of salt. A good beginning, all said and done, however.

Feh. Let’s pretend I know how to proofread posts.
Anyway, I need a word of advice. Much like Dao’s story snippet, I often have flashes of inspiration that take the form, annoyingly enough, of first or third person monologue or exposition. Almost as if a person were giving a speech, you know?

Well, though these lines sound in my head, they are difficult to integrate into an actual story. I mean, it’s difficult for me to work a transparent (or even workable) transition from one of these chunks of prose to actual character interaction.

Any tips on how to deal with this? Have my characters go into long Kevin Smith style monologues perhaps?

Keep in mind that when I have these little (extremely so) brainstorms while I am actually writing a story, I have little trouble integrating them. When they happen out of the blue, however, independent of either story or characters, I freeze up.

And again, I’m feeling sleep deprived, so please excuse my lack of coherence.

I have the opening to a story I just started working on. I’m not sure if this can get the reader into the story or to make them want to read more. Please let me know what you think.

Please forgive if this is too long.

Thanks for sharing your story. I agree with your CW teacher; it’s very good.

First, you have strong, clean style. Your dialogue is believable and fluid, and the narration has a strong, personal voice. The physical descritions of people, actions and setting are clear and sharply detailed.

I particularly liked the vivid tension you create bewteen the three characters; it’s powerful, genuine, and archetypal. I particulalry liked the conversation between Tim and the Narrator, and the way the Narrator described Anna. The whole “brittle” motif is very strong.

That strength, however, makes the conncetion between her and the narrator unconvincing. I do not really get a sense that he has truly tender feelings towards her, or in fact sees something in her with sufficient affection to balance that very sharp sense of brittleness. As a result, the ending, as you have observed, is flawed. It is clear that he does not know what to do with/about her, but I do not believe that what has shattered between them that afternoon is reparable. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the narrator had looked down at his hand to see blood seeping from where her sharp edges had cut him.

I see two possibilities:

  1. Develop their relationship more, give it a life and depth equivalent to the one the N shares with Tim.

  2. Don’t force such a hopeful ending. If they are really broken, see where that goes.

Thanks again for sharing. I hope this is helpful.

I would collect these snippets, and draw on them later when a more complete storyline or context presents itself to you. Don’t try to integrate them at all; let the characters voices speak to you, and write them down as they are. When the time is right, their stories will become more accessible. Eventually, you may find that these characters may begin speaking to one another. Of course, some will be better sources than others, and as the stories come, the original speeches may change, but that’s ok. Just collect them, and see what happens.