Critical Analysis of Your Own Writing
This is a guest post by Alice Peterson . If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here.
So you think you have something to say? How do you get past the stymieing effect of self-analysis? Is this good enough? Will your target audience be provoked to the point of discomfort? Are you “okay with that?”
American literature today is in danger of being hampered by the three-minute attention span. Educators are being taught that that there is a “generational culture” (isn’t that an oxymoron? I’ll save that for a later article) wherein our audience no longer has the abstract-thinking ability to solve a complex problem. Our literary contributions are bound to suffer. How can we sidestep this problem and improve our critical thinking skills for writing?
Here is I challenge I have for you: attempt to read the passage below and answer the following questions in four minutes. Are the characters consistent with their time and place? Is the dialogue appropriate to both the audience of the writer and the character? Is the writing original and thought-provoking?
Some might call Big J a megalomaniac. Although a tradesman by day, he threw lavish outdoor parties on weekends in his fishing village of Golly Me for anyone who would listen to his bombastic diatribes against the status quo. He was known for preparing local cuisine with few calories but full satiety, for this strategy ever-expanded his circle of close friends.
Tonight, with a full belly and the feeling of being in an exclusive club, I felt a sense of purpose and renewed energy in my middle age. I was ready to hear Big J’s pronouncements for the week. “I am the alpha and the omega,” he broadcast to 5,000 of us with only a megaphone to help his voice carry. Heads in the crowd restlessly turned right-to-left and left-to-right. Confused faces repeated the words in their native English. Sure, Big J is the smartest guy in the room. Few of us had been to college and studied foreign languages. What was he talking about? It was Greek to me.
1. “Why here, why now?” This is the simplest tool of critical thinking. Why did I have the character suddenly speak in a language foreign to his fictional audience? No one in my story was well-travelled, or had been to college yet. They might not even read well or at all. Perhaps it was to establish J as “the smartest guy in the room,” well-travelled and culturally astute. I have to determine if this anachronism detracts from the scene, or if it is worth it so I can later sell simple fish trinkets that are coincidentally shaped like the Greek letter alpha.
2. What about the first paragraph? Is it realistic to say low-calorie, highly satisfying food is a crowd pleaser? We are in a fishing village, so the local cuisine is fish. We know most fish contains protein and healthy fats which do produce a full feeling for fewer calories than meals heavy in carbohydrates.
3. What about the megaphone? Have I ever been at an outdoor event at the back of a crowd of 5,000 and heard the entertainment clearly over a megaphone? Personally, I am not a fan of the outdoor concerts with sophisticated electronic s and speakers. Just a few hundred people or so between myself and the stage will greatly reduce my acoustical enjoyment.
Although we all look for time-savers throughout our day, practice is truly the best way to improve skills. This exercise probably took you between four and five minutes to complete. Keep applying this tool to everything you read and write, and you will be rewarded with expert skills, and maybe a little discomfort.
Alice Peterson serves on the editorial review board for the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing.
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