My first critique group experience

I’m attending my first official critique group today and I’m nervous. I’ve never understood why people love their critique groups so much—they can’t wait to get to the next one! Perhaps I’ll find out today what the big deal is.
In the meantime, I’ll “go all out” and extend critique day in this blog. I’ve been struggling with a few plot points, so I’ll ask my blogging audience about them too. Keep in mind that the targeted audience is young adults.
1) I have a pug dog in my story and at one point she is left in the care of a boy who has blossomed because of her. Is this a cop out? Should I instead have allowed the dog to go on a dangerous trip into the wilds of Papua New Guinea with the two main characters? It certainly could have made for additional conflict, for no one wants to see a dog endangered. (I think I just talked myself into taking her.)
2) Should the bad guy die … or not? Is redemption or revenge more what young adults like to read about now a days?
3) How can I make the cannibal characters—they are a tribe in PNG—sympathetic yet terrifying? External descriptions certainly help, but does anyone have any ideas on how to make a scary-looking, primitive tribesman act three dimensional and a bit sympathetic? I could show him with his child, but is that concept too clichéd?
4) Should someone nice die? It would be very easy to kill one off, since there are three “good” people, in addition to the main characters, trapped by the cannibals. I can kill off the bad guy here, but is that too boring an ending? I get the feeling that most teenagers today don’t appreciate happy endings the way I used to when I was one.
5) Any ideas on how to—believably—allow a guy to dive into crocodile infested waters and NOT get bitten/eaten?
Wish me luck!!

Lucy Balch, author of Love Trumps Logic
Available through and Second Wind Publishing


Filed under writing

3 responses to “My first critique group experience

  1. Critique group/writers group—one in the same I think. I meet with mine today, too, to discuss my novel, A Retrospect in Death. You get out of them what you wish, Lucy. Go in with an open mind. You’ll hear a host of different opinions. Take what you wish and leave the rest.

    As for your questions:

    Leaving the pug with a boy is not a cop out. Whether you chose to leave her with the boy or send her into the wilds of Papua is up to you. No matter which you choose, I’m sure the story line will be richer because of it.

    Should the bad guy die? Redemption or revenge? Young adults play video games in which they score points for killing prostitutes. Next question.

    Likeable cannibals? Cannibalism is a way of life for a cannibal, a cultural thing. They’re not evil or scary. Just show them in their “natural habitat” doing what they do.

    Kill off anyone you wish, Lucy. Just don’t make it seem contrived. I dislike contrived endings. If it’s natural that one of the characters—good or bad—dies, then make it so. If it’s not natural, then don’t.

    Stranger things in fiction have happened than a guy not getting eaten alive after driving into croc-infested waters. It depends how much disbelief the reader is willing to suspend. As to how you can pull it off … I don’t have clue!

    Good luck!

  2. Lucy

    thanks, J.C!
    It was actually a really fun experience today. I’ve been told I should make the dog something other than a pug, though. I’m considering it…

  3. Pugs are very loyal and lovable, but the fact they struggle to breathe makes me nervous! So, go with the breed that fits best for your story. And good luck with your group!

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