Tuesday, August 30

The Writing Personalities As Crit Partners

By Bonnie Randall 

Part of the How They Do It Series (Monthly Contributor)

Critique groups are a funky set of monkeys, are they not? They can buoy a writer or bury them, create conflict off the page instead of upon it, and are simultaneously a writer’s worst nightmare and a writer’s best friend all at once.

I’ve been in and out of crit groups for years and have had some partners whose compatibility was lacking, others who outright infuriated me, and still others with whom I’ve formed what are now decades-plus friendships with, and I think, after a long spate of reflecting, (and definitely some maturing as a writer and as a person), I’ve reached a place where I can see how each of the three most dominant writing personalities has a useful, and perhaps even crucial place in a crit circle. Here’s how:

Type One, The Hot Plotter

Hot Plotter has got it goin’ on in terms of storyline, outline, research, segues, transitions, and sequels, baby! Not a single solitary plot point dares to sneak past Hot Plotter, ’cause she’s got logic, research (and perhaps a few dozen detailed spreadsheets) backing her up—so much that even the most wandering manuscript will fall into step like a foot soldier when she’s around, barking “Yes Ma’am!” or “No Sir!” accordingly.

Hot Plotter’s prose isn’t the type that will see a single breach in consistency; not once will you say “Hey! He drove home? I thought he got there on the bus?” or “Whaddaya mean she took off her dress? She had pants on.”

Hot Plotter does all the details, and her stories will be logical to a fault.

And that’s why Hot Plotter will be the critter who makes you want to tear your ever-lovin’ hair out. Why?

Because she will call you on your bullshit, that’s why. So don’t be trying to pull a fast one and skate your protag out of a tricky situation using resources your reader has never seen before. Hot Plotter will catch this. And don’t even think about backtracking and suddenly the peril your hero was facing wasn’t that bad after all (remember when Annie Wilkes called Paul out on that ‘cockadoodie cheat’ in Misery? Yeah. Hot Plotter will go all Annie Wilkes on your ass if you do that while under her tutelage too).

And that’s precisely why you need Hot Plotter perusing your work. Yes, she’s uptight and a pain and a task-master. Your manuscript will be a heck of a lot better for her thoroughness.

But then there’s

Type Two, The Passionate Pen

Get the hankies out and fan yourself like Scarlett O’Hara with a hot flash. Passionate Pen is Grey’s Anatomy on steroids, kids. She’s got all the feels. She loves da romance and the tummy flutters and all those delicious come-hither internalizations. She wrings tears out of her own Kleenex while she writes. Her characters don’t just walk and talk. They love, hate, desire, hunger, ache, moan, and emotionally bleed.

Passionate Pen has been known to fall in love with all her own heroes. (Ahem. Who, me?!)

She can make the damnedest connection between an inanimate object and how it will pull an emotional trigger for her character—and you’ll feel it, vicariously, right down to the tips of your toes.

And yet…Passionate Pen is an insufferable critter. Why? Because rather than being bowled over by your stellar pacing and tightly bullet-proof plot, she’ll be all up your bumper wanting to know how the characters feel. And what’s more, she wants you to show her, not tell her. (She’s SUCH a voyeur. It’s sick really).

And that’s why you should listen when she tells you how your characters do—or don’t—make her feel. Passionate Pen is an expert on human emotion. She gets things that other people don’t, and intuitively knows how people will feel in certain situations. She’ll be the critter who wants to know your character’s backstory, all the way down to childhood. Tell her. She’ll direct the feels in your piece far better than you can—and your fiction will sing.

And don’t forget

Type Three, The Kitchen Sink

I think Kitchen Sinks must all be Aquarius. Or at least have Aquarius rising on their charts. Why? ‘Cause they are just non-stop thinkers and imaginers. They invent the most compelling situations and solutions. They’re like McGyvers with pens. If there’s a plot hole with no possible way out, you can bet your sweet tush Kitchen Sink will think of something phenomenal and brilliant that saves the day. Got a saggy middle goin’ on? Kitchen Sink will fill it with bullets. Or ninjas. Perhaps bullets fired at ninjas. Kitchen Sinks invented the term ‘plot twist’ and let me tell you, they twist so good they put Chubby Checker to shame.

But…Kitchen Sinks can wear ya out with the element of surprise, they are easily bored, and they won’t put up with no mundane dialogue, setting, or character for that matter. Don’t be thinking you can squeak any unexciting scene past a Kitchen Sink. They will unleash their Gods of Invention upon you and suddenly you’ll have murderous Swedish pole-vaulters, transsexual showgirls, and possibly even a few talking cats (all of which will make inexplicable sense) added to a manuscript that now makes your head spin.

In short? You need a critter like a Kitchen Sink because our pieces all get saggy in certain places sometimes. We all get stuck when no ideas fall out of our heads no matter how hard we try to shake ‘em outta there. Kitchen Sinks are like walking encyclopedias of inventiveness and cool stuff to do. Listen when they come a –callin’ (even if their enthusiasm knocks you flat on your rear. It’ll be worth picking yourself up for. I promise).

So…all that said—which one are you? Which one(s) are your crit partners? Do you see yourself? See any others?

Peace out, friends!

Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.

Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls.

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About Divinity and the Python

The Python is the hottest nightclub in freezing Edmonton: all skin, no substance, and definitely no spirituality. Bartender Shaynie Gavin knows better—all things have a soul, and on an evening she’s come to call Hellnight, The Python left a dark stain on hers. Now Shaynie’s moving into another place that’s more than what it seems—Divinity, the old morgue she’s refurbished into a Tarot lounge. With all her passion focused on launching the venture, Shaynie is rattled when Divinity appears to orchestrate a connection between her and superstitious hockey star Cameron Weste.

Shaynie’s reaction is nothing compared to The Python’s. Vandalism, violence, an omniscient stalker—the parallels to her lost, bloody Hellnight in the club are unmistakable. But equally undeniable is the protection emanating from her old morgue.

All things have a soul, and Divinity’s seems aligned with Shaynie’s own—but whose is twinned with The Python? As Shaynie starts hunting her stalker, it’s clear only one soul will survive.


  1. Loved the post, Bonnie! Pretty sure I'm a Hot Plotter. My spreadsheets have spreadsheets. *sigh* I really wish I was a Kitchen Sink, though. Murderous Swedish pole-vaulters... Darn it! Why didn't I think of that? :P

    1. LOL - I'd like a little Kitchen Sink-ishness myself. Here I am with all da feels, all da time....

  2. Being an Aquarius, ah-hem! Sounds like my ms could use the other 2. Interesting article, thanks.

    1. I love Aquariuses (or is it Aquarii? Hmmm.) You guys have more ingenuity in one day than I'll have in a whole year!

  3. Kitchen sink! Had a gal in a crit group years ago who showed up in workout clothes and rollers in her hair. Knew exactly how far it was to the Pleiades System (I didn't) and that there was no way my heroine could get from the bridge of the ship to the engine room in a minute because the ship had lost power. Mary, you have a new nickname. Thanks for the article.

    1. Ha! Glad you found a little gold to mine here :)

  4. Replies
    1. Cow Pasture Chronicles?! I grew up on the prairie! This sounds like something I MUST read!

  5. I'm a kitchen sink! What to do with the bugbear pup I intoduced a few chapters before the middle? Make ot into a he and now a pov.

    Also works nicely on makeing antognists don't go near the rug in that room you won't like it. Bubble, bubble.


    I've got lots ideas but realy have to force them to stay just with this book, no new ones until it's done.

    I love to help if you need ideas or are stuck message me. I'm on Wattpad the most (darkocean). I need help with getting the plot to go were it needs to.