Gandhi with the Wind

7 Aug

100 carefully chosen words for Friday Fictioneers based on my two years with the group and, of course, the photo prompt below from Renee Heath. All of the stories can be found here. Sift through them to separate the wheat from the chaff. The bread will taste sweeter for your work.

Gandhi with the Wind

 

The statue stands at the crossroads, unnoticed, unremarked, and considers the stunted landscape of Friday Fictioneers.

The imagination and creativity that originally flourished each weekend still exists but is being buffeted by the winds of change. Constructive criticism has all but disappeared because a few thin skinned folk reacted poorly when well-meaning souls offered suggestions. Speed trumps skill and the dearth of good stories is reflected in the secret language of short comments.

Nevertheless, Gandhi smiles. He knows some writers will ignore the easy allure of the dancer, look deep within themselves, and create new worlds where once Tecumseh walked.

Gandhi with the Wind:Close up

“A no uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ uttered merely to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

-Mahatma Gandhi-

If someone takes the time to offer you constructive criticism, thank them. Do what you want in the end, but acknowledge that they cared enough to try to help.

-DMM-

Gandhi smiles

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

75 Responses to “Gandhi with the Wind”

  1. misskzebra August 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Hey! I’ve seen some pretty good stories about the dancer. While I admit you have a very good point about the lack of constructive criticism, I don’t believe this is a competition to see who can pull the most unexpected storyline from the picture. Originality is good, but this is about the writer finding inspiration. There’s no need to be snobby if someone chooses a more obvious area of the picture to focus on.

    In the end, there are a lot of stories, and people feel pressured to look at all of them and comment. They don’t really have time to post anything more than, “Yeah, that’s good.”

    It would be nice if people made comments that were a little more constructive, but, to be honest, that’s a problem right across WordPress.

    • dmmacilroy August 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Dear MissKZ,

      I agree with you wholeheartedly re the good dancer stories so far. I have enjoyed them, too. I knew that this post was going to be a lightning rod for many reasons but I wanted to be a catalyst for renewed dialog and conversation. I appreciate the devil’s advocate role you’ve taken on. Snobby was not my intention but I freely admit that what I wrote can be taken that way, so I’ll own it. And I hear you, loud and clear.

      None of FF is a contest for anything, but it ought to be fertile ground for imagination and an opportunity to learn the craft. My hope is that people who are offered constructive criticism will simply be less defensive and a little more open to it. It might free things up a bit.

      Chalk this post up as fertilizer from someone who is full of it, but fallow fields benefit from turning some into the soil every other season. If a more robust crop of stories is the result, so much the better.

      Thank you for speaking freely and sharing your thoughts. That’s the gift beyond price I was speaking of.

      Sincerely,

      Doug

      • misskzebra August 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

        I agree with you for the most part, really.

        If people were a little more honest with me, I’d feel more comfortable being honest with them, I think. As it is, nobody wants to be the “nasty” one, even if the comment is tactful and constructive.

  2. bridgesareforburning August 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Hi Doug,
    Thanks for your honesty and for providing a forum for discussion. I think change is inevitable and your are correct that the landscape is shifting. On the other hand, I still like posting stories, reading and writing comments. I’ve reduced the number of stories I read, so I can avoid just cranking out short comments and moving on. I’d rather read fewer stories and give more feedback. I also admit to playing favorites, reading the writers I like. It’s too bad some writers are thin-skinned. Good criticism can make you a better writer, I believe, and bad criticism can just be ignored. Trying to figure out which is which is the hard part. I do find it difficult to turn out quality stories every week. Sometimes I’m more inspired, sometimes I’m less inspired but want to be part of the weekly circus. Enough said, maybe too much about that. On another subject entirely, thanks to the guys in Hawaii who operate the Subaru telescope and found that beautiful pink planet! Ron

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      Dear Ron,

      I try to read all of the stories but have found myself gravitating to my favorite authors first and then getting to the others when and if time is available.

      I like your ‘circus’ description of the weekly FF hugger mugger. Very apt.

      The ‘thin skinned’ writers are too often the ones who could benefit most from a healthy dose of reality. I’ve stopped reading those that continue to be purveyors of dreck. My opinion, of course. Eye of the beholder and all that.

      I spent the evening answering the comments my post has stirred up and have not had time to investigate the ‘pink planet’ you say that Subaru observers have found. Will get to Googling soon and let you know what I find.

      Thanks for joining the discussion. I look forward to reading your story as soon as I dig myself out from under al the fertilizer I’ve been spreading.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  3. summerstommy2 August 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    Excellent point Doug. The whole exercise in writing is to develop your skill and talent. And to do that a process needs to be followed and as your concluding line says ‘lather, rinse, repeat’. Sadly none of us get it right the first time. I like editing. My stories always begin way over the word limit. Honing them back to the required limit makes you look critically at your work. It is the same process I use with my performance writing, the script is constantly changing as a new day brings a new perspective.
    I find not many people offer criticism, I think out of respect for others writing. There are a few who do but I think from my short time here most writers are more encouraging than critical and I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. You want people to write, and write often. I would imagine you would have to be careful of who you picked out for criticism. Like MissK I would be curious of criticism as I see myself as learning everyday.
    I think we strive each time to produce a piece that is readable and enjoyable for ourselves and others. It would be disappointing to write the ultimate story. What’s left after that?
    Thanks Doug, you have generated a great discussion within me. Sorry I appear to have gone on a bit.

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 8, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Dear Summerstommy,

      I know what you mean re writing the ultimate story, but I’ll never have that problem. It’s going to take me several lifetimes to sort out this writing thing.

      Thank you for your observations re the process and the need for self examination of our work. I found your foray into the discussion frank and pertinent and I’m grateful that you dove in. Run on a bit? I think not. Most welcome input.

      Aloha,

      Doug

      • summerstommy2 August 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

        Thank Doug I did observe you generated considerable conversation and I was concerned you may have felt under attack which was never my intention.
        Interestingly my own work has suddenly copped some criticism, which is reasonable even if I don’t agree.

  4. Gabriella August 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    I always appreciate constructive criticism – and appreciated yours today. In fact I even prefer awkward attempt at constructive criticism than writers who never seem to visit back when you have taken the time to comment their posts. I am sorry if you have come across people who did not understand your point.
    I always enjoy stories where the photo is used as a spring board for creativity rather than as ‘real life’; usually the stories are better.
    I like how you were able to spot Gandhi since I had totally missed him.

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      Dear Gabriella,

      Thank you for your kind feedback re Gandhi with the Wind. I’ll add you to my MOSS (made of stern stuff) list and be sure to comment should I see an area in your work that I think you might want to examine. Friday Fictioneers is lucky to have you in the group. I appreciate you joining the discussion and look forward to more exchanges in the future.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  5. Joe Owens August 7, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Doug, i see your point, There is rarely a comment of constructive criticism in what I write. While I would love to think my writing is progressing that much, I know it is not true. Many of you took more time to discover the Gandhi statue. I am not sure what I might have come up with had I identified it.

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Dear Joe,

      Thanks for weighing in on things. I’ll add you to the MOSS (made of stern stuff) list and be sure to comment if I see anything egregious in your work. Mostly I wanted to encourage people to revisit constructive criticism and to restate a long-held opinion that those being offered such a gift ought to aprreciate it instead of being put off by it. I value input from others and I want to see a return to the free exchange of ideas unfettered by fear of adverse reactions.

      Once I saw the statue I was hooked. Researched the town and found some other pics and was off and running when I came up with the title. I don’t think I could have written an acceptable story about the dancing figure so it’s just as well I saw the statue.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  6. sustainabilitea August 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    A Friday Ficitoneers parable, Doug, aptly put. I go back and forth about criticism. I try to leave helpful criticism in a nice way, but I’m always a bit concerned that it will be misconstrued as me feeling that I’m a know-it-all. Sometime I run out of time to do in-depth comments and I try to always find something I like and point it out. Sometimes, I just like a story because it feels good to me, which I say, but isn’t helpful in a direct sense.

    There’s always been discussion about whether the story should come directly from the photo or be more tangential. Who cares? There’s no right or wrong. Sometimes we see the story directly linked to the photo, sometimes not. What does it matter? Of course, we all have our own preferences in stories, but one of the things I most enjoy about FF is the opportunity to read a variety of stories and see what techniques and approaches other writers take. It’s a great way for me to try to improve my writing skills.

    You’ve made me feel guilty, so I’ll try to do better in future. I also feel that I’ve been missing something that’s going on. 😦

    Love your title, BTW.

    janet

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Dear Janet,

      You have been a paragon of virtue re the leaving of helpful comments and I have never once thought you came off sounding like a ‘know it all’. You are knowledgeable and willing to share what you’ve learned. That, to me, is the essence of what constructive criticism is all about. Kudos.

      I am not saying that a given story should be this or that in relation to the prompt, but sometimes it seems that little or no thought goes into the ‘writing’of some of the stories. They appear to be exercises in putting check marks in boxes. I love the stories where the author takes us far afield in a creative way. It’s hard to read the same talking goat story over and over again, never mind encouraging the author with adjectives that clearly do not fit the effort expended or the results. To do so is a disservice to them and those who will be reading more of the same in the future.

      You are right about the opportunities for learning re new and different techniques. I, too, am often pleasantly amazed by one or two stories a week and I make sure to tell the author that their work has moved me.

      I did not intend to make anyone feel guilty, least of all you, so don’t change anything you’re doing. My post was intended for others less aware than you.

      Thanks for liking the title and for reading and commenting so comprehensively.

      Enjoy the wide open spaces.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  7. elmowrites August 7, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Gandhi was hiding away there and I didn’t see him – well-spotted, my friend.
    As far as constructive criticism goes, I agree wholeheartedly that it is a sad loss to FF these days. I try to give some where I think it will be welcomed and when I have time to do so, but I rarely receive any and that makes me sad.

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      Dear Jennifer,

      Karma is a bitch. I got bogged down answering the comments on my ‘story’ and haven’t had time to read yours or many of the other offerings. One of the reasons you receive little criticism is that, by and large, your writing is very tight and well structured. I dare say that most FF’ers could learn much from your stories. You have also offered criticism in a polite and concise way to me and to many others. No, the focus of my story was directed elsewhere and will probably not be heeded by those who most need to understand it. You are one of my favorites, as I mentioned many times before and I always look forward to reading your work. Perhaps my semi-diatribe will prompt a bit of healthy exchange. hard telling, not knowing, but I had to say it and now I’m done.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  8. rgayer55 August 7, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Guilty as charged. There have been times when I’ve read things and cringed. Occasionally, I’ve offered minor suggestions, but most times I try to find something positive about the piece and be a gracious guest commenting on their blog.

    I commend you for having the balls to start this dialogue, and can assure you that I, for one, do not have thin skin. The critique group I attend is not bashful about pointing out weak spots in a story or areas that might cause the reader to stumble. As a result, I feel my writing has gotten stronger, even though you can’t always tell it from my 100 words stories.

    Judging my own FF work, I’d say one out of every four or five is pretty decent and the rest are mediocre. So if you’ve got any suggestions lay ’em on me.

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      You are one of the plank owners on this ship and your comments are always well thought out and detailed. I certainly wasn’t ‘charging’ anyone with anything so you can’t be guilty. Re the cringing, welcome to the club. I don’t know what to do about that except stop reading and commenting on those stories.

      I’ve found that your writing is usually very good and as such you’re not going to get a lot of critique. You do, like all of us, have off days (as you mentioned) but I think some of that comes from trying to fit a square peg into a round hole every now and then.

      You are on the MOSS (made of stern stuff) list and if I ever see anything to critique, I will. My post though, was more about those who receive critiques striving to be more appreciative of the gift. It is a tremendous sign of caring when a writer takes time to offer an opinion on how to craft a better story. My hope is that by raising this issue we may develop stronger bonds as a group and prosper from the exchanges. I know I have.

      Keep on keeping on, Russell. And thanks for the support.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  9. vbholmes August 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Hi Doug,
    I, like you, would welcome constructive criticism, but rarely get any–and I’m with Janet, as well, in that I’m hesitant to correct another’s work, or offer suggestions, as I don’t know how my comments will be received. Perhaps we can figure out a way to flag a piece that we’d particularly like critiqued, and hopefully, some discussion would ensue. Thanks for bringing up the issue, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 7:09 am #

      Dear VB,

      Thank you for respond in such a kind and cogent fashion. Consider my work permanently flagged for input. In writing this piece I am not holding myself up as the end all, be all of FF. Far from it. The things I don’t know about writing would sink the Titanic. My intent was to foster renewed dialog and a kinder, gentler environment for those brave souls that offer constructive criticism for other authors. I want to see a reeturn to the good old days and I want those who most need the critique to realize that posting drivel is a waste of time and space, especially if they have no interest in improving. Here endeth my rant for the day.

      Aloha,

      Doug

      P.S. I put you on my ‘made of stern stuff’ (MOSS) list.

  10. waitingforaname August 8, 2013 at 12:01 am #

    I’m afraid I rarely offer really constructive criticism, except to a few people I’ve “known” for a while, whom I know can handle it. I am guilty of short, semi-bland comments, but as someone said above, it’s usually for the sake of time that I point out something I really liked. Anyhow… I DID like this piece, for it’s brutal honesty and for it’s unique perspective. And as always, clean writing.

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 7:02 am #

      Dear Lisa,

      First things first, in case no one has told you recently; your writing is fantastic and I cannot remember a time when I thought you needed any critique at all. You are on my ‘favorites’ list and are one of the most solid writers to have graced the ‘circus’ as Ron Pruitt calls FF. I have told you this many times and am sure I’ll be doing it long into the future.

      Second things second. Thank you for for weighing in on the subject. A friend shared with me that they thought that those who most needed to read my piece would not see themselves in it. I have to think that they are reading, though, and so might understand that they are not all that and could use some constructive criticism. One can hope. I don’t have to read their stories, true, but I would rather do so and have them be good rather than choose not to because they are consistently bad.

      Please keep gracing FF with your presence.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  11. Adam Ickes August 8, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    I wrote three stories this week before I was satisfied with what I had. The first involved the statue, but I didn’t like it. The second involved the hydrant, but I couldn’t fit it into 100 words. The third involved the people, though I never thought of her as a dancer, only as a Mary. Why a Mary I have no idea, but that’s who she was from the moment I saw the photo. Could I have tried harder to make a better story? Probably, but you can only polish a turd so much.

    For future reference, feel free to criticize my writing in any way you see fit. I can take constructive criticism. I won’t cry myself to sleep or anything, I’ll just never speak to you again… Kidding of course. Technically I’ve never SPOKEN to you in the first place! All our communications have been of the written variety.

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 6:52 am #

      Dear Adam,

      The number of good stories this week about the figure I called ‘the dancer’ has undercut my sentence describing her ‘easy allure’ but that is, to me, a good thing. It means that my fears may not be as well founded as I thought. So be it. That’s good for FF and that makes me happy. I’ve been a huge supporter of the format conceived by Madison Woods and passed on the the capable hands of our current steward, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and only want to see it prosper and grow. I’m glad ‘Mary’ spoke to tyou and that you stuck to your guns in writing it. (I look forward to reading your story later tonight) Thanks for letting me know that you’re made of sterner stuff than most. I’ve noted it and will let you know if I see anything I think you will want to know about. Your stories have not taken up residence in the water closet so I reject your ‘turd polishing’ description with extreme prejudice. Please keep the stories coming.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  12. pattisj August 8, 2013 at 2:19 am #

    Hi, Doug. I was smitten with your title as soon as it popped up. I thank you for your candor. Flash Fiction is new to me, I’ve been hanging out on the nonfiction side of the tracks. I hope to grow as a writer with these exercises, and welcome constructive criticism. How will we know where we’re going if no one takes the time to point us in the right direction? Thanks for making the effort to help us help one another. It’s nice to have found a group of people who take writing seriously. Patti

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 6:41 am #

      Dear Patti,

      Knowing that you welcome input tells me that your growth as a writer will have no bounds. Thanks for thanking me re Gandhi with the Wind and for your kind comment about the title. I thought it a catchy one, too. Though FF has changed, there is still a deep core of solid writers who produce good stories an a regular basis. I hoped with my post to stir the pot and get people talking about reviving the spirit of helping each other and responding politely to those that offer said help. Thanks for writing such a great response.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  13. denmother August 8, 2013 at 2:26 am #

    Fabulous on all counts. Be real, people.

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 6:35 am #

      Dear Denmother,

      Thank you for the vote of confidence. It means a lot to me. More importantly, I loved your concluding exhortation. Brevity is the soul of wit.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  14. kz August 8, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    a great point Doug. thanks for this. i appreciate the honesty and the fact that you care. also, i’d very much appreciate constructive crit specially about grammar, verb tenses, etc. i’m not a native english speaker so these are among my weaknesses.
    as for providing criticism, it’s just that there are times when i’m unsure of whether or not it’d be right for me to point out stuff. after all, i still consider myself a newbie writer..
    sometimes i feel guilty too about not being able to reply to comments; what i do is that i usually try my best to check out others’ stories instead. it’s just a problem of time.
    i always try to see the positive things in other people’s writing. not very helpful, i know. but i’m just like that, polite and quite shy even in person, i guess 🙂 but i found too how powerful kind words can be. i started writing fiction because someone gave me a kind word or two. having said that, i really don’t support dishonesty or mere flattery.
    honestly, though, i love FF; i look forward to the photos each week, wondering how the picture would make me feel and i love that it gives me freedom to experiment on different genres.
    thanks Doug 🙂

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

      Dear Kz,

      Thank you for chiming in on this thread. Consider yourself added to my MOSS (made of stern stuff) list. I will speak up if ever I see the need. I think it is marvelous that you are not a native English writer. One could not tell it from your work.

      I was not saying that everyone should offer consturctive criticism, rather, that if one finds oneself on the receiving end of such a boon, the appropriate response should be gratitude, not the opposite.

      It is nearly impossible to read and comment on every story and you should not feel guilty if you cannot do so. Read your favorite authors and drive on. Re newbie, I know what you mean, but at some point you cross the line. If you’re writing with intent, I think you are a writer. To heck with the ‘newbie’ label. I think your work is perfectly fine.

      Thanks again for commenting so kindly,

      Aloha,

      Doug

  15. Jan Brown August 8, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    People reacted poorly to constructive criticism??? Damn, I always miss the juicy stuff.

    But I must admit to not offering much criticism to others. I will try to do better.

    That said, I am wondering why you felt the need to imply that stories focusing on or using the dancer were somehow less creative. If you intended to encourage us to stretch beyond the obvious, I agree. However, the message was a little heavy-handed and, well, conceited.

    In conclusion, thanks for making us step back and think about what it means to be a writing community.

    Mahalo!

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 7:25 am #

      Dear Jan,

      Thank you for responding. I am openly glad that there have been so many good, creative pieces about the ‘dancer’. It’s heartening in a way to see FF members crush that sentence with a smile and some of the imagination I remember from long ago. Heavy handed? Guilty as charged. Conceited? Yes, I acknowledge that it can (and will, by some) be read that way. So, guilty again, but I did want to provoke a reaction. Something, anything other than the Stepford Wives community I see encroaching. I will sentence myself to exile on Elba or somesuch fitting punishment, unread and unremarked, as it were, after this is over.

      On the flipside, some of the stories each week are just…. Ah, well, who am I to say?

      I’ll turn my baleful eye onto me and try to practice what I’ve preached by saying, Thank you, Jan, for the constructive criticism. I’ll take it to heart and try to get better.

      Please mark me down as one receptive to any and all input. I look forward to reading your story tonight.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  16. neenslewy August 8, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    You got it off your chest there Doug – I doubt any of us want the ‘Stepford Wives community I see encroaching.’ < this to happen.
    The points raised have strength. Writer's find it hard to remove themselves from the 'preciousness' of their words. I have received constructive criticism on a FF before – at first I must admit I was disappointed and then I re-read my flash with the comments in mind and realised I had left too much of the detail in my mind and I saw how I had confused some readers. This was a week when I SLASHED the edit and ended up with just 57 words.

    I agree that we can't always produce the same calibre of work each week and sometimes the pictures don't inspire us – although I like to embrace that challenge and see what I can write outside the motivated write.

    I tend to keep my comments short as time is limited. I struggle to leave constructive criticism that I deem would be helpful to the writer and think it a pointless task to leave a comment they are likely to ignore.

    I agree that a writing community owes it to itself not to centre on polishing egos. However, I like that this challenge is FUN and I know many bloggers who approach it that way.

    Maybe if someone made an icon (like a heart with a knife through it!) 😉 we could add that to our posts if we are open to criticism.

    Aloha – how I miss Hawaii…

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      Dear Neenslewy,

      I love that the challenge is FUN. There is something very satisfying in writing a good story from the prompt each week. I don’t normally tilt against windmills but felt the need this time, as you noted, to get this off my chest. Short comments don’t bother me, but writer’s leaving them instead of what they’re really thinking only encourages more of the same re some of the offerings each week. Things were getting homogenized.

      Thanks for reading and commenting and being gentle.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  17. Locomente August 8, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Amazing post…
    And Nationalistic feelings is creeping within me…
    After all, I am breathing air of freedom cz of him..

    Thanks… 🙂

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      Dear Locomente,

      He was an amazing man, wasn’t he. Imagine a town in middle America erecting a statue of him. He was and is compared with Tecumseh, whose name graces the town in question. Thank you for commenting.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  18. helenmidgley August 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    As a newbie to FF I’m not yet worthy to enter the fray, but just wanted to say that I love the critique of my stuff. My writing may not be clever, its not what I’m aiming for, but I do want to know if there are things that I could do better and I have a very thick skin. I really appreciate the honesty in your post and I’ll still keep practicing, lol

    • helenmidgley August 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      I could start with practising my spelling!!!

      • Douglas MacIlroy August 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

        Dear Helen,

        Mark Twain is noted for saying, “I have no use for any man who cannot spell a word at least two different ways.”

        Thank you for joining the discussion. i’ll add you to my MOSS (made of stern stuff) list. As for being a newbie, persih the thought. You’re here, we’re here. Your input is just as pertinent and valuable, perhaps more so, than the yammerings of this old hand.

        Aloha,

        Doug

  19. sandraconner August 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Well, I always knew you were the “deep one,” and now you’ve proven it — digging deeply enough into this picture to find the statue of Ghandi. I couldn’t recognize him even when I enlarged the picture to about 3 times the original size. Good work, Doug! And several of the things you said are good as well, but I have to say that my favorite line in the whole piece is “Lather, rinse, repeat.” I laughed so hard — appreciated your talent and sense of humor more than I think I ever have —– and that was a whole lot to start with.

    Sorry … I just can’t think of anything critical to say to you!!!!!

    I can add that in my professional writing, I have been blessed two different times (and concerning two different novels) when an individual who really knew nothing at all about writing – per se – spoke up and told me clearly that I needed to make some changes in a scene. One of them — a very dignified, slow-speaking, undemonstrative man — actually got up in the middle of his business office and acted out the scene the way he thought it should go — playing all the parts. In both cases, I made the suggested changes and had much, much, much better stories in the end.

    (Hope you don’t mind: I took advantage of not being restricted to 100 words to allow myself to say “much” as many times as I wanted.)

    Sandra

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      Dear Sandra,

      You appear to have mastered the fine art of listening and that skill will pay dividends (or already has) in your craft. I thank you for your kind words and support. I was, as others have noted, a little heavy handed re those who chose the ‘dancer’ for the subject of their story. That certainly was not my intent. I was trying to make a point about looking deep into every prompt. Ham handed award goes to me.

      Lather, Rinse, Repeat does encompass writing in general and the subject of this post in specific. Thanks for noticing it.

      I deeply appreciate your detailed comments and support. Friday Fictioneers is lucky to have you on board.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  20. Craig Towsley August 8, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Hello Doug,

    I appreciate the way you have stirred the pot. The point you bring up is one of the reasons I hardly ever get around to writing for FF anymore. That and there are just too many stories to read.

    And of course, laziness.

    I felt like most comments (“Oh, nice!”) left by people were baited hooks, set out only so I would be compelled to visit and leave a comment on their story. Because the number of comments counts more than the quality of criticism, right?

    However, thinking back, if I ever managed to leave something constructive. people appeared to be accepting. But, like I said, I haven’t been around in awhile.

    • dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Dear Craig,

      I sooooo know what you mean. I have been tempted to just chuck it more than once. Took a sabbatical two months ago and found that I wanted to keep writing for the pleasure of crafting a good story. Your Owl and Raccoon stories were always unique and packed with substance. i miss them but I understand the pressures you mentioned.

      So now I wrestle with the reading and the commenting. If I am too pressed for time I’ll read only the writers who have moved me in the past. I try to comment on all of the better stories, but have found myself just not saying anything on those ‘stories’ that, in their turn, don’t say anything. Time is precious, right? I wish there was a way to do it all, but there isn’t. Let me know if you figure out how to do it.

      I’d try to twist your arm if I thought that would work to have you write more stories to read (i’m selfish that way) but I know that I’ll just have to take what I can get. You’re not forgotten, Craig. Best of luck with your writing. Don’t be a stranger for too long. I think you’ll find people miss you more than you realize.

      Thanks for chiming in here.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  21. David Stewart August 9, 2013 at 12:32 am #

    Doug,
    thanks for your great story, if only for the flood on interesting comments it evoked. 🙂 It seems you struck a chord with a lot of people. I can see you did your research as well; I had barely even noticed the statue and definitely didn’t know who it was. Every week, I’m interested to see what part of the picture people will use. For this one, I’m still waiting for someone to write a story all about Boost Mobile.
    take care,
    -David

    • dmmacilroy August 9, 2013 at 8:32 am #

      Dear David,

      I was fascinated by the feel of the intersection and buildings. If places could talk, what lessons we’d learn, eh?

      I probably should have written about the dancer, but the statue grabbed hold and would not let go until I’d figured out who the subject was and why it had been placed there.

      I wonder what Tecumseh would think of the town named after him?

      Thanks for writing.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  22. Swirling Turnip August 9, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    I can’t grow, and improve if others don’t point out typos, grammar errors, lame story lines or continuity. Just today I had a grammar error brought to my attention. I was thankful,as this is what we are here for. Having worked with two editors, I learned that writers rarely make good editors or critics. We need others outside of the creative process to point out errors, grammar, continuity or plot weakness. I would like to see more comments about how I could have worded something, or how I could have better described a character. But I take it for what it is now, a kick in the pants to write and I feed off the creativity of others. If we can read like editors and not fans, we can learn more. I think I learn a little something each time I read someone’s story. I pick up on a style or theme. I may admire the way you turn a phrase or be envious of an original story line.

    You brought up a good point and one worth looking into. Being critical at times can be helpful and I will try harder to do so.But, it is just so darn easy to read the stories and enjoy them! LOL.

    • dmmacilroy August 9, 2013 at 8:25 am #

      Dear Ms. Turnip,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. My real point was that those receiving critique offered by fellow FF’ers (or anyone else) ought to be more receptive, or, at the very least, more appreciative of the effort. It would also help if they realized they needed it, but I haven’t figured out how to make that happen other than by not commenting on their ‘work’.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly about the writer being a less than ideal editor and have trained myself to stop and listen carefully when others are telling me their thoughts re anything I’ve written.

      What is too easy is for me to just blow off reading all but the consistently good authors in the group. I keep trying to get all of the stories read before a week goes by but I hate wasting my time on trying to find a way to acknowledge their effort, especially if it appears there was none.

      My cross to bear, i guess.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  23. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) August 9, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    I must say I’m no good at giving constructive critisism, but I have seen less of it even during the 9 months I have written here. I do not mind constructive critisism at all… sometimes I think it’s even better to point out the good part of the story…. and leave the rest uncommented. But I try to visit every one of the stories every week (but some weeks it’s getting a little bit to much).

    • dmmacilroy August 9, 2013 at 8:28 am #

      Dear Bjorn,

      All I want is for those being critiqued to be civil and grateful, whether they agree with the critique or not. It takes a great deal of care and effort to offer advice or simply to try to shed light on ways another writer might improve. Politeness is the social lubricant that keeps the wheels of communication spinning.

      Thanks for diving in to the discussion.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  24. unspywriter August 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Leave it to your brilliance to spot something the rest of us missed, and thank you for that.

    Here’s mine, and, well, yes, I went for the dancer: http://unexpectedpaths.com/friday-fictioneers/prima-ballerina/

    • dmmacilroy August 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      Dear Maggie,

      You are welcome. I tripped over Mr. Gandhi and bruised my toe. had to write about him. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  25. Perry Block (@PerryBlock) August 10, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    On the issue of constructive criticism, here’s my take: it is difficult to always be honest, but if I comment on a post, I mention what I liked about it. If there is something I didn’t like, I usually don’t mention it. So my approach is to try to point out what I think is good, but only mention what I think may be improved if I feel it really mars the piece.

    If I really don’t like a particular post (as happens), I just don’t comment. Of course, there are always many I don’t get to read, so my lack of a comment on a particular post more often means I didn’t have the opportunity to read rather than it wasn’t my cup of tea. (coffee,in my case)

    So if I say something nice, I mean it. But there is sometimes more to the story.

    I agree it would be better if we felt more open to mention the areas for improvement along with what we think works, but it is touchy especially in front of all the others. I wonder if there would be a way to send private messages to someone when we feel we have constructive criticism to share prefer to keep it confidential so it does not appear we are taking shots at each other in front of the others.

    Thanks, Doug and all!

    • dmmacilroy August 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      Dear Perry,

      Thanks for responding. Time is definitely an issue, but so too, is lack of courtesy from those being offered criticism. I have taken to saying nothing on the stories that do not move me and on those that do, I will again try to point out glaring instances of questionable writing, whether thematic, mechanical or grammatical. Will be landing my shot up plane soon.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  26. lingeringvisions by Dawn August 10, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Wow, you don’t mince words, do you?

    • Douglas Macilroy August 10, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

      Dear Dawn,

      Lightning rod I am. Do you want an ‘n’ with that mouse? (I’m giving you one.) Thanks for writing.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  27. The Bumble Files August 10, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    Wow, you generated quite a lot of discussion. I saw the statue, although I admit I didn’t know who it was. I gravitated toward the tutu as I used to dance. I couldn’t help myself! I suppose writers in this group all have different goals, but I would assume all would like to improve their writing. It might be quite a different group if giving/receiving criticism were part of the package. I’ll admit it’s nice to read nice comments, but they can be kind of hollow and give me an inflated ego! Ultimately, it doesn’t help me grow. Maybe if there was some way people could indicate they would like criticism, and then there may need to be a set of rules/best practices for offering criticism. Those that don’t want it can indicate they would rather not receive it. Hmmm…that said, I can see it being problematic! Thanks for your honesty and the discussion.
    Aloha,
    Amy

    • Douglas Macilroy August 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

      Dear Amy,

      You’re now on the MOSS (made of stern stuff) list. I don’t mind the dancer stories, especially the good ones. I just wanted to remind people to look deep and use their imaginations. Sometimes it seems that people spend ten minutes on a so so story and hit ‘publish’. I don’t get it and I’ll bet no one else does either. As you read, i also was lobbying for politeness on the part of people being offered criticism. I hope we see more of it.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ll go back to my quiet self next week.

      Aloha,

      Doug

      • The Bumble Files August 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

        I think a discussion was a good thing, Doug. Obviously, others wanted to talk about it, too!

  28. troy P. August 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Newer to FF myself Doug, it does sometimes feel like a “rush” to get the prompt responded to. But I feel that that is an idea washing across WordPress in general, as fickle readers lose patience in reading anything past the first five. And as to the image itself, I was sort of blown away that not one response (of the ones I read so far), have made any Tonya Harding references – it was thew first thought I had, and as such – the first thought discarded =)

    • Douglas Macilroy August 12, 2013 at 12:21 am #

      Dear Troy,

      I know what you mean re ‘first discarded’. Have to laugh though as it probably would have been a knee slapper.

      I love your work so far. Looking forward to what’s next.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  29. Lyn August 12, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Critiquing someone’s baby can be fraught with danger…even a baby as small as 100 words can cause heartache if you tell the parent their baby isn’t as pretty as it could be. I’ve read some brilliant Friday Fictioneer offering and they’re usually very good, but I’ve read some fizzers where I had no idea what was happening.
    Personally, I like constructive criticism…how else are you going to grow as a writer? Imagine what would happen if any of your best selling authors threw a tizzy because their editor red inked their work, and they refused to listen. There would be one (or more) less books on the shelves – mind you, in some cases that may not be such a bad idea 😉

  30. EmmaMc August 12, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Hi Doug

    Thank you for raising this issue and wholeheartedly agree with the point you made. Over the past six months I have retreated from Friday Fictioneers with some regret. However partly this is because I agreed with myself to only write when I have something worth sharing. Otherwise it turns into a ‘tick in the box’ exercise and a superficial boost to your ego rather than something that is actually helping you become a better writer. After all, that is why I started taking part in FF in the first place. I guess for some, FF is where you go for good fun and a cuddle rather than tough love. And that’s fine too, we all need a cuddle from time to time and why shouldn’t we have fun?

    As for giving criticism, it is something that I struggle with and need to improve on. Due to time constraints I don’t usually get to read a vast amount of stories. I try and comment where I can but do gravitate towards the stories that impress or move me. In these cases I find writing a critique daunting because I feel I don’t have the guts or validity to criticise other peoples work. Especially when it’s far more superior than my own. However I recognise this in itself is a very important part of the writing process and there are some blogging sites where you are only allowed to post if you offer up valuable and helpful critiques. I think even these are rated. In time this helps you critically analyse your own work and recognise what works and what doesn’t.

    Writing is fun but my ambitions mean that I also have to take it seriously. I want and need constructive criticism else I fear I will never improve. So for when I do take part, please add me to your ‘made of sterner stuff’ list and feel free to red pen my work and I promise to do the same when I can.

    Aloha, Emma

    P.S. Sorry for rambling on!

  31. Sandra August 12, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Hi Doug,

    I missed last week’s FF and hence this debate, so I’m late getting to the party. I’ve been reflecting on my own reactions to concrit and I find I’ve got mixed feelings on this issue. I could be accused at times of being thin-skinned, (who knows, maybe I’m the person you’re talking about here 😉 ) but here’s a case to consider:

    After tiring of having my Anglo-English spelling and terminology repeatedly, and at times loftily, corrected to American-English week after week, I eventually began to dread seeing this person’s comments appear in my in-box. My repeated responses (I hesitate to use the word ‘defences’ about my nationality and my preferred language), appeared to fall on deaf ears, which was infuriating.

    I didn’t see these corrections as ‘caring to help’ – I saw it as a blinkered indifference on the part of the critic to any perception other than his own. I saw him as being wrapped up in a red-pencil kind of approach, and with time it devalued my judgement of his general critical contribution. For all the wrong reasons.

    My simmering resentment resulted in my challenging a perfectly valid comment he made on a later piece. My responses were delivered in a polite (liberally dotted with thank you’s) but arguably icy manner. Incidentally, though it was a valid observation it was a comment I still don’t agree with – but hey, I’m not one of those to have the last word.) 

    I suppose what I’m saying here is that there’s an equal responsibility on the critic. You can’t just read a piece and say “oh I wouldn’t do it that way…” Well not if you expect your comments to be received in the way you’d hoped.

    A newcomer once submitted to a FF prompt. A critic rewrote his entire piece and resubmitted it in the comments section. A perusal of the newcomer’s site would have indicated that he was quite an accomplished author with a track record of published work. You don’t do this… in my book. It’s rude. That writer never submitted again.

    We’re not professional critics, and we’re not teachers, marking other people’s work. We’re writers who may proffer an opinion or share a view and it is incumbent on us, when we do so, to do it with due consideration for the writer and their background.

    Striking the balance between a ‘mutual congratulation society’ and a ‘writers’ workshop’ is never going to be easy, but the responsibility to maintain that balance rests on both sides. We can’t expect the recipient to simply grin and bear criticism…or to let it go unchallenged.

    Of my soapbox now… 🙂

    • Douglas Macilroy August 12, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Dear Sandra,

      I know (or think I do) who you’re talking about (or is it whom?).

      May I cut and paste your response into a blog post, please? (this is the best response thus far in a conversation I never thought would result from my lament.

      I am familiar with most of the ways that Americans butcher the spelling of the English language and have never understood why some people have to go noisily nuts over the variations. Mark Twain said, “I have no use for any man who cannot spell a word at least two different ways.” To paraphrase him, “I have no use for any man who cannot tolerate any man who spells a word two different ways.” Americans mispronounce the word ‘Himalayas’ and don’t even know it. I have learned from going there and now cannot say it any other way except the correctly, but tilting against the ‘American’ windmill is kind of a waste of time. Please don’t despair.

      When I offer concrit I go out of my way to say that I am ‘probably wrong in my assumptions’ and to please forgive me if this is so, but….’ so I agree with your assertion that it is incumbent upon those ‘offering’ concrit to be very polite. Do unto others…

      You are not in any way remotely close to being the subject of any part of my ‘story’, GWTW. The discussion has turned into a lot of talk about concrit, which was not even the main thrust of my piece.

      I’ve seen a lot of good writers decide to quietly fade away and I know you have as well. I miss them. Some excellent writers soldier on (you are one of them) and I’d hate to contemplate a ‘Friday’ without you. There are others, and I know you could write all of their names, who I read right away and who inspire me to keep pushing every week. Someone told me that the people who most need to read what I wrote, won’t, and would not get it if they did.

      If there is a value to our little group it is that we can entertained by the good stories and learn from all of them. The downside is the separating the wheat from the chaff, as I mentioned somewhere last Thursday. I wonder now whether I should have just shut my cake hole. Hard tellin’, not knowin’.

      I missed you last week and hope that if you ever do move on to greener pastures that you do so one week after I do.

      (I’m going to haunt the canals of France and stand on a bridge as your home passes under it and heckle you if you do.)

      Aloha,

      Doug

      • Sandra August 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

        Awww, thanks Doug. I was feeling a bit paranoid about that comment, so I’m glad you’ve reassured me. Of course, you can do whatever you like with my response… you can even show it to ‘whom’ if you like! 🙂 I don’t have a problem with the way English is spelt in America, I do have a problem in people assuming there’s only one way that’s correct.
        I’m glad you raised the topic of responses to criticisms – it’s definitely worth an airing. And you’re right, the increasing numbers of entries has brought out a lot of work that needs improving. But I got the brush off a few weeks ago so my concrits are now the exception rather than the rule – I tend to reserve them for stories with real potential that are slightly flawed. In my humble opinion, of course.
        I will be back next week, I was simply bereft of inspiration last week … and besides which, the prospects of what you might be planning to do as we cruise underneath that bridge… too dreadful to imagine. 😦 xx

  32. Helena Hann-Basquiat August 12, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Hi Doug,

    This week aside, I do my best to read all the stories. It’s time consuming, and it’s not easy to give every one a critique — if I did, why, people would really hate me! I’m the type to re-write something I find lackluster, and I’ve found that people REALLY don’t like that. I give honest, expansive praise only when I find it’s due — and quite frankly, out of 70 or so stories every week, I find that 5 to 10 are exceptional (and it’s not always the same 5 or 10) — not that the others aren’t good, but when you read variations of the same story over and over again, well, it gets a bit repetitive. Like trying to pick out the perfect shade of white for bathroom tiles, after a while you can’t tell the difference, and so how do you give a proper evaluation after a half-dozen or more that all look/sound the same — but that’s the nature of the beast, I suppose. Everybody has different criteria for excellence, and everyone values different things — I gravitate to the stories that tell something off-kilter, or unexpected. I appreciate a story that tells something so complete in 100 words that you aren’t left feeling like you’ve just walked in on the middle of something only to have it end abruptly, and you have no idea what it is you’ve just seen.
    I neither invite or refuse critiques or criticisms. The few times I’ve received them I’ve responded graciously, whether I agreed with them or not.
    I think you are expressing an incredibly valid frustration, darling… I will endeavour to offer more than just a nod and a smile more often.

    • Douglas Macilroy August 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Dear Helena,

      I’m not saying everyone should critique everything, no less read all the stories. Getting to every one of them is sometimes akin to Sadomasochism. I try, but, as it is with you and others, I find it more difficult every week. I am simply saying that when critique is proffered politely, it ought to be met with civility and graciousness.

      I am fortunate that I know the good writers who remain in FF. I read them first, comment and then proceed to explore the work of the newer authors, many of whom are very good on a consistent basis. I’ve learned where the dead ends are, too, and avoid them, just as I try my damnedest not to become one myself. I’m happy to say that your taste in stories matches mine. I’m going to encourage where I can and try to help those I think may be receptive to it. The rest are going to have to write their way into my heart.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Your fresh perspective and articulate voice have me smiling.

      Mahalo and Aloha,

      Doug

  33. annisik51 August 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    I understand where you’re coming from Doug. It’s a bit of a minefield. Personally I PREFER honest criticism – it’s a way of improving my writing. Isn’t that the point? I’ve been stung too – and quite badly sometimes – by being constructively honest, not just on FF. I suppose you have to learn to know who really wants constructive criticism and to grow as a writer. (I’m also an artist and find the same problem with arts groups). Then some people are just plain nasty! It’s a minefield! Ann

  34. rheath40 August 13, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Dear Doug,

    I am happy to take criticism. You said my story was good but then I was talking foolishly and rambling afterward.

    Please criticize me. Tell me my grammar sucks. I want to be better at this thing. As I’ve told Rochelle, the last English class I took was in 9th grade. And I’ve never taken a creative writing class.

    I love your story. I’m glad you told it about Gandhi. I’m sorry that I didn’t highlight him more in the picture. I should have. Here’s a little bit of silliness. Whenever my husband and I would drive by it, we’d yell ‘hey, there’s Ben Kingsley!’

    Love, Renee

  35. Parul August 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    I miss reading your stories Doug.
    This is beautiful, poetic and captures the undercurrents of our group in a way only you could. But it scares me too… Makes me wonder if I too am the chaff the readers need to sift through to make their bread taste sweeter? Hmm… Not sure if I want you to answer that! 🙂
    Or maybe I do, cos I know you would be worth listening and even heeding to.

    I just wanted to share a little tidbit about the tidings at my end. I got engaged recently, and will be getting married soon. Just something I wanted to share 🙂

    Hope all’s good at your end too!

    Parul

  36. dmmacilroy August 8, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Dear Kent,

    Thanks for the support. It means a great deal.

    Aloha,

    Doug

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