1.) If your classmates say they are confused by your story, they are confused by your story. One tenet of “reader response criticism” was there are no misreadings. Note: there is a difference between confusion and ambiguity. A story is ambiguous when there are more than one possible interpretations. A story is confusing when there is no way to interpret it.
Three possible reasons why your classmates are confused, and the likelihood of each according to my own very exacting research. Your classmates are confused by your story because:
a. You intentionally made the story confusing: 0.1%
b. Everyone in the class is an idiot: 0.1%
c. You thought your story was clear, but it is not: 99.8%
2.) Written critiques are essential for three reasons:
a. Writers should be able to articulate their reactions to a piece of writing--and everything else in the world. That’s kind of what we do.
b. Some students are too quiet or too polite to blurt out their thoughts in a noisy workshop discussion--especially when a really overbearing instructor like, say, ME, for example, doesn’t shut up for the whole class. The author of the manuscript will not get to hear that shy person’s response if not for the written critique.
c. While the discussion is going on the author of a piece may be far too emotional to benefit from the responses. It can be helpful to read the critiques quietly in private when the author’s head is not spinning around like Beetlejuice’s.
3.) You will learn more discussing the work of your fellow students than you will from the class discussion of your own work. See above, head-spinning.
4.) “When someone tells you something is wrong (with your story), they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” (Neil Gaiman) Notice he said almost always. The more workshops you live through, the better you get at telling what advice to take.
5.) There are over six billion people on our planet. Of that number, the ten students in your workshop are the only people on earth who are required to read your story to the end. Treat them accordingly.
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