Well, the critique is in and despite all my avoidant tactics, it wasn't bad when I came to it. My fellow student had written something that was sufficiently ripe for improvement for me to come up with a few ideas. The one thing he didn't do was identify a main protagonist early on. Now the course talks about Tobias Wolff's story Bullet in the Brain, and it's clear from the first word who the story is about. I think that helps you identify with the character, are more willing to suspend disbelief and go into that world when you care about (or in Anders case, are interested in his fate). I was surprised by the exercise, it did make me think about the role of courses and writing books in the development of my own writing. Sometimes, you feel like you're out on a limb doing something creatively different because that's where it took you, but often you find that, actually, you've stuck to the basic format. You've internalised all those 'rules' and 'suggestions' that books and courses provide, and that makes it more accessible to the reader. By the way, I liked the story and the second half was excellent, once I was involved with a character.
Meantime I've been left with nothing apart from the novel to write and a long list of books to read. I did a bit on the novel, that was fun, and have read White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. It's a gruesome Gothic horror for kids that takes three points of view - in different fonts no less. One, a 1790's cleric, a new girl in a seaside village, and her contemporary, a strange little character. I loved it, though the head swapping is a bit much between the girls sometimes, especially at the end. It does say something about how complex we can get with the more sophisticated young audience. It's really dark, but not gratuitous though I did get a bit spooked out in the dark with Rebecca, in the horrible mansion with all the deaths. What can I say, I'm easily spooked - I worried myself writing bits of Borrowed Time.