This past Wednesday I was working at Tribeca Productions. It was slow all day long, mostly due to the writers strike. No submissions, no rewrites, and very little we, as a production company, could do. It got to a point where the director of development was tossing a water bottle up and down into the air out of boredom, and joking that he soon might also need to get a job at Starbucks. Having little to do myself I hopped on Triggerstreet to read other amateur writers material and write reviews/constructive criticism to help them improve their writing. I have some material posted and reviews I have received have helped me write better drafts. I read a short story and this is the review that I posted for a story entitled BEING DUMB:
I can't tell if this story is trying to be ironic or if it's supposed to be read straight forward. At first I thought the story was being told from an eleven year old's perspective but then even though the story had a bit of a child like voice the character got older.
Then I thought that perhaps the narrator was actually supposed to be as dumb as he claimed, only every so often he would say mildly ironic things leading me to believe he isn't supposed to be that dumb after all. The bit about the college degree in the end was pretty confusing, not unto itself but when juxtaposed with the tone.
the bit about the abusive step-father came out of left field, then was dropped almost as soon as it came. Either the guy is really dumb and it's inconsequential to him, or he just pretends to be dumb, but then why doesn't he make this a bigger issue, or lead up to it a bit better? It was another moment where I couldn't tell exactly the intent of the story.
the story, I think, was also a few pages too long. It's a bit repetitive, at least in the telling of all the different girls, and if you took one or two girls out near the end you could shave a few pages without losing anything.
I know this seems like a disparaging review, but I did like the story. It was very cute and at moments the narrators voice really resonated with the storytelling. It was a good read that I think can use a little more work.
Arguably, the writing in this review could have been better. I wrote it pretty quick after I read the short story in question. I didn't much care for the story and I tried to write my concerns and straightforward as I could. I wasn't trying to be mean, just honest, tempered with some compassion in the end. I mean it's difficult to write a glowing review if one thinks the piece in question is sub par. And that's the point of the reviews on Triggerstreet, for writers to get feedback about their stories, both the good and the bad.
The next day this is the e-mail I received from the writer of BEING DUMB (which apparently was a biography, though not mentioned anywhere for me to know that, unless I am supposed to assume that all stories written in first person are biographical):
You know, instantly, I guessed a lot about you. Even where you’re from, your age (actually I thought you were a few years younger) and your heritage. That obnoxious rudeness and lack of any common sense gave you away.
Not understanding the story or who the narrator is, is okay. I can except that from someone like you.
It’s those dumb remarks, asshole. I bet you got your ass kicked quite a bit when you were a kid.
I’m sure you won’t (and incapable of) back up anything you wrote with examples.
This piece was clearly autobiographical to anyone with a little reading comprehension. As children we sometimes do stupid things (you probably still do). If you could have understood what I wrote (I doubt you actually read it, because I can’t believe you can be that stupid.), the actions of the adults were actually more senseless than anything the main child did. But of course, you’re incapable of seeing that. Actually I’m sure you can’t understand what I wrote so far.
You make this asinine remark about the step-father. That can be expected from someone who isn’t too bright (and doesn’t realize it). I won’t attempt to explain it to you simply because you wouldn’t understand it.
You question my degree? How did you make it through high school?
Which girls do you suggest I remove? It’s part of a constructive review to give examples and why. But since I’ve had the displeasure of getting several of your verbal attacks without one iota of constructive criticism, I realize that’s not your style.
The stories involving the girls all led to something else. Maybe you didn’t comprehend that part (that’s if you read it).
I’m confident being honest wasn’t a part of your upbringing. But I’ll ask the boy, clearly lacking in credibility, did you actually read this story (I know 19 pages is a lot)? What is it: incapable of understanding simple things or you didn’t actually read the whole thing?
I don’t really expect any kind of intelligent response (fuck you is probably your definition of an intelligent response, much like the mind of a ten year old).
All I was trying to do is be helpful, show what I found to be the weaker points of his story. That's the whole point of Triggerstreet. I want to write him back but I know it's pointless. It's just really fucking me up.
And this is why, people suck.