Critiquing a Colleague’s Work, Part II

In the ongoing challenge to do justice to a colleague’s work by giving feedback, fiction writer and professor, Scott Hoshida, illuminates us with his method:

Usually when I look at a story, I look for its center or soul and then begin to shape my comments from there. Of course no story completely revolves around one moment, but it helps me figure out how to build my comments out from the one or more moments that I find compelling. Often this center is shown through some dynamic action, a particular revelation or epiphany (there’s a great article against epiphanies by Baxter), or some internal shift inside a character of which the reader becomes acutely aware. A second reading will reveal how other sections work or don’t work in relationship to that moment or, as I often find, I’ve missed the point completely and revise my comments from there.

Finding the hot spots to a narrative are critical. Many times, we might be unaware of the true moments of conflict. More akin to archeologists, we outline a specific site and start digging away at our subconscious trying to see what we come up with for story.  Lacy Crawford, the senior editor at Narrative during her visit to Saint Mary’s College of CA advised MFA fiction writers to actively and consistently pinpoint the “hot spots” in story. Those hot spots are the key to strong narrative and fleshing out character. Once these moments or hot spots are identified, they need to be amplified and exploited to their full potential. In critiquing each other’s work,  we would do well to relay where we find the hot spots or moments of soul and core. Especially if the writer seems focused on other passages, which happens more often than we care to think. Our colleagues will thank us for this.

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Born on California’s central coast and raised in its valley, Scott Hoshida often writes about the people who live outside the major cities of northern and southern California: Santa Maria, Port Hueneme, and Lincoln. A graduate of the creative writing program at Mills College, he works as an English instructor at Berkeley City and retreats to China Hill in Oakland for rest and writing.

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