During the break, I steeled myself with a short, balanced pep-talk to not be surprised if it got just as blasted as my excerpt did two days before. This time my writing would only be blasted in front of 16 people.
The guy to my right started and I scribbled down everything everyone said for about an hour and a half. Transcripts available. The short version: they liked it. Make no mistake, each one had many good suggestions about what was wrong with it. But in general, they all were very encouraging about it. Several of their comments I plan to use in the rewrite. Card’s Summary: In response to the others recommending more foreshadowing, he said it could use foreshadowing, but I had to be careful using that, otherwise it would be like the scary music added to a horror movie. He said the story had several problems. The protagonist was formless. Card felt like the first part was dull. It seemed like I was floundering, trying to find the character. It was only when my protagonist met up with a second character on the second page that the main character emerged. He thought that my third primary character was pushed on the reader. He then defended several things that other people had not liked, arguing rather in favor of what I had written. Since the story took place in South America, he had comments as far as cultural details. He made some excellent suggestions on how to improve the plot in general. He mentioned one decision that I had made in the story that he initially disagreed with, but then after thinking about it, changed his mind and agreed with me. In the story, one of the main characters is supposed to be smart. Card said that I pulled off actually making the character smart and he liked that. He added that the ending was dark and didn’t seem to accomplish anything. He said that it was a standard ending for this kind of story, but he was hoping for something different. He added that the ending would not be a publication problem. Card pointed out one spot in particular in the story and said that while he was reading it, he thought, “Wow, this is powerful writing.” But he is a stickler about the writer not drawing attention to himself. He didn’t slam that particular spot, in fact he emphasized that it was really good, but he was torn, since it “pulled him out of the story.” He said to not necessarily change it, but that there is a price for writing like that. He finished by saying that it was really good writing, especially when the good writing wasn’t noticeable. Final comment: clean up the beginning and it's not even one radical draft away from publication, no need to restructure.
When it was my turn to speak, I said, “Thank you very much. Same time next week?” Card said, “As long as you’re willing to pay for everybody’s airfare.” During the break, two or three people told me they liked my story. One woman said she was creeped-out by my story because of what was going on at her hotel.
I should say at this point, that Card never gave any indication to any of us that we should just shoot him our story when we’re done. This was all about just becoming better at writing. But it was very encouraging to hear that he thought I might even be in the running.
After the break, we looked at a story called, “ Vessel of the Gods.” It was about a young man in a tribe that required him to become the new medicine man, in essence being spiritually associated with a leopard. Then we talked about a story called “Monster.” This, hands down, was the best story of the bunch. It blew us all out of the water and even Card called it a “jewel.” It's about a Goth-girl at Disneyland desperately trying to find her bag which has her normal clothes in it, so she can change before her boyfriend picks her up, because he has no idea that she’s a Goth. It was a straightforward story. It was funny, quotable, touching, and had a brilliant ending. One of the men commenting on it, got choked up. The girl who wrote it was very quiet and surprised that it was such a hit. That made us hate her a little less.
Then we jumped up and the non-car people caught rides with car-people and we drove to P.F. Chang’s. I rode with Duncan, who happens to be from Boulder. Two of us rode with him. At the restaurant, we were joined by Card, along with his wife and daughter. His daughter is fifteen and is going to be working on a Manga with her dad.
I ended up talking quite a bit with one of the bootcampers who turned out to be a Hollywood editor. He was the editor for the movie, Stepbrothers. So that was pretty cool. I talked with him quite a while and learned a lot about that world. We ate and yelled our conversations for about an hour and a half. Mainly we talked books and writing. Then Duncan and I drove one of the bootcampers to her house. Then he and I, a little uneasily, tried to find our way back to the hotel. We made it.
We still had five stories to finish, so we had decided to start one hour earlier at 9:00 a.m. I went back to my room and read everyone’s comments on all sixteen copies of my story.