Friday, February 18, 2011

Fiction Workshops: The Fifty-Point Scale

Here's the 50-pt scale I use for your fiction workshops.  Before worrying too much about the numbers, make sure to read How I Use the Scale.

The 50-pt Writing Scale (Fiction):

50 - Excellent Work. Practically no grammatical, syntax, or spelling mistakes. Each scene transitions smoothly to the next. Character thoughts, setting descriptions, actions, and dialogue are so smoothly intertwined that we can share a complete sensory and emotional experience with characters of the story.  Basically, we feel the narrator's pain.

45 - Very Good Work.  Very few style or syntax errors. The transitions are very smooth overall. There might be a bit too much description or maybe not enough dialogue or some similar situation in the writing style, but nothing that would prevent us from understanding the story and its characters.  The thoughts, details, and dialogue are all believable with maybe one or two exceptions.  We still feel the narrator's pain.

40 - Good Work.  Few style or syntax errors. The transitions are generally smooth, but there might be one or two places where we're uncertain of the story's current direction.  The character's thoughts, actions, and dialogue are all good, and we're "in the story" when it comes to setting, but these aspects might not be working together in order to maximize tension.  We may still feel the narrator's pain, but not as much.

35 - Good Foundation.  There are just enough style and syntax errors that we're a bit distracted from the narrative, but not enough that we'd stop reading.  The transitions feel a bit choppy.  We have dialogue, setting, and description, but these components aren't being used together.  Or one of these elements is missing.  We know what pain the narrator feels, but it's not quite our own pain.  But we see where the story is going, and improvement is more a question of refinement than reorganization.

30 - The Work Is In-Progress.  The style and syntax errors make it difficult to focus on the story.  We aren't sure where the character is going from one scene to the next.  We may be missing one of the components of dialogue, setting, character thoughts, or description.  We know what pain the narrator should be feeling, but we're not sure that the feeling is real.  Correcting this may require some restructuring of the plot.

25 - Rough Draft.  The style and syntax of the piece makes the meaning of some of the sentences unclear.  We don't have a clear idea of where the main character is in the story.  The story may be missing two of the major components of narrative, or it may be so dependent on a single component that the others are pretty much left out (e.g. a story told entirely through dialogue with only snippets of setting or character thoughts).  The story might tell us what pain the characters feel, but we have serious doubts - the characters might say or do things which are at odds with the pain they should be feeling.  This represents a story with a solid concept, but the necessary structure hasn't been worked out just yet.

20 - Planning Stages.  The style and syntax causes significant confusion in the piece, and we see a few paragraphs which are unclear.  The story may be told entirely through dialogue or entirely through exposition or entirely through action, with little or no attention to the needs or motives of the characters.  The characters do things which we don't believe would be likely to happen in the universe of the story.  This is essentially a good idea for a story - we see a character and perhaps the life inhabited by this character - but more thought and planning is required in order to reveal where the true conflict lies.

15 - Early Planning Stages.  It's rare that I give a grade in this range or below.  If I do, it is usually due to issues in syntax, characterization, and/or plotting in past assignments which have gone uncorrected.  Please read my comments carefully.  And please let me know a good time that we can meet to discuss your work.  My own early stories were in this range, and sometimes you just really need an outside perspective to help you see where your stories need to go.  At this level of the work, we may only be working with the idea for a setting, or for a single character, or for a single conflict, but it's unclear how this idea will be expressed.


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