I like to believe that writing groups are an all-around good thing. Why else would you dedicate your Saturday mornings to near-perfect strangers, if not for the chance to give and glean some honest, thoughtful advice on writing? After you’ve attended a few groups, however, you begin to realize there are certain personality types that are not exactly conducive to a productive and stimulating discussion.
The Tragic One-Upper
It doesn’t matter how sad your story is; theirs will always be sadder. In fact, forget the peaks and troughs of life; they’re all about wallowing in the pit of despair because, after all, it’s oh-so-trendy to be oh-so-sad. With a twisted marriage of grief and pride, he ends his reading with, “And the worst part is, it’s all true.” This is a strategic move, leaving everyone else no choice but to spout praise for fear of seeming insensitive to the author’s personal suffering.
Apparently no one ever told the tragic one-upper that a true story does not always make a well-written one.
In a misguided attempt to be clever, this individual reduces each member of the group to an archetype, and then inserts those archetypes surreptitiously into her stories. The setting usually bears an odd resemblance to the library in which the group meets. Somehow, we’re not supposed to recognize that the mouse-haired girl with a falcon’s nose is really Suzy, or that the ruddy, blue-eyed bear of man is really Tom. And we’re certainly not supposed to realize that this author envisions Suzy and Tom having steamy editing sessions in the broom closet.
The (Insert Hoity-Toity School Here) Grad
I have nothing against super schools. Like you, I’m a book nerd, so of course I appreciate the pursuit of scholarly greatness. Snide, elitist commentary, on the other hand, is grossly objectionable. Truth be told, no one really cares what Ivy League school graces the top of a diploma if the recipient isn’t even capable of communicating like a decent human being. This person is sure to eloquently manipulate his way to dominance, and turns each conversation into pretentious cerebral masturbation.
Yes, we all speak Sesquipedalian, too. The rest of us just aren’t as obsessed with image as that guy is.
The Fable Enforcer
We love literature because it forces us reflect on our world, our relationships, and the inner workings of our own minds. Many of the best stories raise more questions than they answer—but the Fable Enforcer just can’t seem to get her pontificating head around that concept. To her, everything can and must be reduced to a simple black-and-white moral. Unfortunately for her, often the most striking nuggets of wisdom are hidden within the questions she so adamantly avoids.
The Free Therapy Seeker
A close relation to the Tragic One-Upper, this type is not attending group meetings to improve his writing skills. He rarely reads his work aloud—in fact, he rarely brings his work—and he uses feedback time to recall personal reminiscences that may, or may not, have anything to do with the story under discussion.