He Said, She Said

This month was the first time I entered Miss Snark’s First Victim Secret Agent Contest.

You submit your first 250 words, and snooping agents/other submitting authors/blog followers etc. leave you a critique. An agent reads through the submissions and makes their selections. They then read the whole MS of the ones they have chosen.

So… imagine my horror when I realised that the auto correct and code on the submission form had ruined my selection!


My 250 words should have looked like this:



Sod this.
Yes, dear reader, I know that is not the introduction to this historical text that you were expecting. The truth is, I’m not happy about having to copy this one out at all. In fact, I fully intend to illuminate a giant penis in the margin halfway through.
            Like this text’s hero Zachary and his nemesis, I am of the race of Donwights. I too am the mortal descendant of fallen angels. I have the potential for greatness, like our renowned hero, or infinite darkness and corruption, like his insane foe. Yet all I do is copy out their stories and never leave these wretched walls. After this copy is finally done with, this scribe is going to have fun.
Thisis the beginninnng o—-______________________
                        Nicodemus, wake up! You are Chosen.
That’s better.
                     You passed out in the middle of the sentence you were writing, and I see you have trailed ink all over your vellum page. You also spelt ‘beginning’ incorrectly. I trust that since you are a scribe by occupation you will record this vision better than that.
Look down – do you see yourself? Your hand is writing of its own accord.
Yes, really. Your body is seated there recording everything you see and hear, while you – your soul, Nicodemus – is with Me, hovering above your desk and quill, your shelves of books, your gold leaf and coloured inks, the fluttering stray pages lying in the unswept corners…

However, the autocorrect thought that “beginning” should be spelt correctly, and that the underscores were a mistake. So it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

I’ve got some mixed reviews, from:


The unexpectedness of the beginning grabs the attention brilliantly. I love the conflict which has developed in just a few paragraphs.


Yeah, I had to read this one a couple of times, and I’m not sure if I like it or hate it. It’s definitely a different approach. I’m just not sure from this first 250 what’s happening, and who is narrating.


I may be a little biased, since I’ve journeyed with good ole Nic to far away places, and seen many incredible sights through his writings, (which I truly feel should be on the big screen, I enjoyed so much) but to try to get an idea of the tale in 2 or 3 paragraphs is like trying to become a nuclear physicist by studying Betty Crocker…Long Live Nicodemus!


The first couple of paragraphs seem like a forward or prologue and I’m not sure that moves the story forward. Otherwise, interesting premise. I’d start it with “Nicodemus”.

The conclusion so far – this is a marmite story. You either love it, or you hate it. You may have to try it a few times to make sure.

Those who love it really seem to love it. Those who don’t just leave it alone in confusion, but, having had a look at my comments again, I’ve realised that the vast majority of my beta readers’ comments are in the “positive” category.



Attitudes to Story Construction

So, using my own work as a case study of story construction, it seems that what people want to read is, as ever, all about personal taste. One person (one of my more unsuccessful attempts at securing a beta reader) said they had to skip over the gory parts, and that the multiple story lines were confusing.

Another said they had no problem following it at all, and that they had no issues with the narration.

The fact is, people just have different tastes!

I once read a customer review of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl which said the plot dragged when focused on the fairies, and they would have preferred more on the title character. Beneath this was another customer review which said the fairies were the best part of the book, and the plot dragged when focused on Artemis Fowl.


The most recent customer reviews of the book – the reprint – also vary widely. The majority of the reviews are 4 and 5 stars, but the vehemence of the few that dislike it is quite stark in comparison.

The fact is, no matter what you write, someone will hate what the next person loves. Ultimately, every reader has their own decision to make. And so they should! Long live diversity of opinion!



What Happens Now?

I’m going to start a mini-series of posts on Story Construction, as requested on my facebook page, so this simple observation is a good introduction to the topic. How a reader perceives the story we as authors (or aspiring authors!) have constructed is ultimately out of our hands – there is nothing we can do about that. We just need to stay faithful to the characters that live in our heads, and let the story be told. We have to craft it, mould it, shape it and etch in the finer details. We have to make each story as good as we can, not only because we’ll never get published if we can’t spin a decent yarn, but because the story and all its components demand that much from us. Otherwise, why write at all?

>> But what about the ideas we have in the first place?

>> Where do they come from?

>> What do you do with them when you have them?

How do you go about getting the idea into a story, and the story into the finished product?


7 thoughts on “He Said, She Said”

  1. Hmmm, reading your post, I guess my own writing is of the marmite kind, then. But then, I've learnt long ago that we can't please everyone. Hence my decision to please myself first with my writing, and then improve, of course—but never to cater to conflicting tastes.As to how I go about getting an idea into a story… I've never really reflected upon this. Mostly I go with a few plots ideas and characters, develop the latter's motivations and personalities, think hard about what conflicts (of any kind) there will be, and then try to come up with a good pacing, which I find difficult. Too many things happening is confusing; too little is boring.I need to think about this some more myself. It's definitely an interesting topic, and I'm curious about how it goes for other writers.


  2. hi rosie, if you are asking for my perspective, well let's say I am a little conceited enough, it may be history, a novel or day to day event for the moment to think what i would have done? no, rather how i would have made it right and believe me I have enough imagination to be goddess, demigod, or president of whichever country i like for a moment i live it.2nd answer would be affiliated with the first, with one's character, belief and perspective, as authors we generally try to encompass different emotion, but i feel the author will always leave at least a subtle hint of themselves in their creation.3rd after the story is arranged in my head i narrate my version with help of the characters with all their failing and strengths.hope you like my answer – vidhu25


  3. Thanks Ysabel! Agreed – you shouldn't try to change just because a few people have different opinions.I hope my future posts will help… it's not going to be definitive, but hopefully will be fun and a little bit useful! Looking forward to your future insights! 🙂


  4. I love the idea of being able to change events with the power of your imagination… even if it's only fiction, it's still a good exercise. And the spark of a plot!Great answers! Hope the other posts are helpful, look forward to reading your work and comments! 🙂


  5. I am at a total loss when it comes to story construction! I can write a riveting enough passage, but then I find I have little idea how to proceed in any direction whatsoever.For the last few years I have had a fairly good idea for a story, even decided on how each part of the tale would come to be narrated as one of the main characters tells the story in snippets, prompted by objects she has collected over the years.I think I am overwhelmed by the process of plot construction, worried about my ability to construct personalities that readers will truly grow attached to and care for, and generally lacking in ability to write physical conflicts in a way that plays out a perilous encounter like a movie reel in the reader's head.I am convinced that you've mastered these things and delighted that you've decided to oblige my request in creating a miniseries of posts that will give a peek at your creative process.Your first advice was well chosen. It's important to know “your” audience and write what feels right. I think that's the ticket to keeping the interest of those who appreciate the style that is uniquely yours. That's how one holds an audience captive. ;)Can't wait for the next in this series (as usual)!


  6. Thanks for the comment! Glad I can be helpful 🙂 I hope you like the next one too. It's about focusing on your premise, not your identity – I'll go into that in more detail later. Putting up some guest blog posts so that there's a range of experiences and voices for you! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s