Ladies, Please

Back in March, a story appeared over on Life @ 160 titled The Worst Thing 160 Has Ever Done, in which he describes black mailing a girlfriend into having sex with him.

Then, a little while ago, Ben Corman of discussed the story on his radio show with Dr. Rob.  During the discussion, Corman contrasted 160′s story with the writing of Tucker Max.  Corman said that 160′s piece lacked the sort of self-aware remorse that Tucker has.  While Tucker does a lot of really terrible stuff, he is sure to convey that he’s aware of just how rotten it is.  160′s story lacks this self awareness.

But, in another post at Life at 160, 160 defends his story, noting that while the story isn’t self aware of its depravity, 160 himself is, and that he thought that the self aware writing style would have taken away from the piece.  And then Corman responded on his blog.

So, expert on everything that I am, I decided I’m going to weigh in.

In my senior year of undergrad I took an upper level fiction writing seminar.  Throughout the semester everyone wrote three short stories, and would be in the hot seat on three separate occasions.  When in the hot seat, everyone else in the class (who had read yourself earlier) would discuss it for about 30-45 minutes.

And you were expected to sit there and shut up.

You could answer basic factual questions.  Is the character named St. John supposed to be an allusion to Jane Eyre?  What does “contrariwise” mean?  What you could not do was defend your work against your classmate’s opinion.

Someone thinks the story drags at times, don’t respond.  Someone doesn’t like your word choice, keep quiet.  Someone thinks the story is pointless drivel that should be relegated to nothing more than a footnote in a Candace Bushnell novel, make a note of that.

Not only is it unseemly to defend your writing style, but it’s also a sign that your writing isn’t very good.  If you have to make an argument for why your writing is good, that means that the argument isn’t contained within the writing itself.  Your writing should speak for itself, and shouldn’t rely on having you following it around explaining it or defending it to critics.

Also, the first line in the “About” section of your blog should not be:

Life at 160 is a strange lifestyle-ish blog with a very slight legal slant. If we had a counter, it would read in the millions (seriously).

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18 Responses to “Ladies, Please”

  1. Donika Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. In most of my writing classes, it was a solid rule that you couldn’t respond to your criticism. Not only does it deflect worthwhile feedback, it means (as you said) that you’re making your points in response, not in your text, where it should be. It’s the weaker approach to writing. The hack approach. Nice piece.

  2. bl1y Says:

    Couldn’t agree more? I think you’re just not trying hard enough.

    Also, where’s the new freaking episode of Here’s What to Think?

  3. Life at 160 Says:

    It’s easy to stand back and absorb the criticism when you write fiction, but Corman didn’t criticize the work, he criticized me. If you remove your blinders and pay attention, that post was far more a defense of myself than a defense of the work.

    And even so, I don’t buy into this “don’t respond to criticism” rule. When someone asks me why I write a story the way I write, I’ll be frank and honest. It’s no secret that I’m untrained and unrestrained. If I took writing seriously, it wouldn’t be any fun.

    Quite obviously, given my goals for the story, it was a resounding success. If you would like to speak about this article or writing in general, email me at

  4. Life at 160 Says:

    Oh and I modified the About page slightly. I’d forgotten about that factual though unnecessary boast.

  5. bl1y Says:

    There’s a good chance I’m just misremembering what Corman said, maybe he was criticizing you and not just the work.

    But, I think even when you’re writing about yourself and it’s a non-fiction piece, there’s still a difference between the author and the character in the story. With non-fiction writing, there’s a choice of what makes it in to the story and what gets cut, and because of that, the person in the story is an entirely different animal than the author, and so I think you can criticize the character without necessarily criticizing the author.

    As for not responding to criticism, there’s a big difference in explaining why you write the way you write, and defending that choice. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with explaining the way you go about choosing the style you write in or why you made certain choices. But, I think defending those choices is a pretty bad idea and usually just highlights a weakness in the writing.

  6. Life at 160 Says:

    And of the ~20,000 readers of the story, not one has complained about the actual writing or story telling. The complaints are about the content and my lack of remorse.

    The writing stands on its own. My ability to cope with the personal criticism, which was inevitable, does not.

  7. bl1y Says:

    Do you really care if other people know about your ability to cope with criticism?

  8. Life at 160 Says:

    No – hence the whiny post about Corman being mean.

  9. bl1y Says:

    Honestly, I figured the only reason for the little slap fight was to generate cross traffic between the sites, sort of like how a parent company of two TV networks will manufacture a little tiff between various newscasters or other television personalities.

  10. Life at 160 Says:

    Well I did it to generate traffic, though Corman had no idea it was coming.

  11. bl1y Says:

    All’s fair in love and blog pimpin’

  12. Marie Says:

    A bunch of wimps!

  13. bl1y | Attention Crash Says:

    [...] you like the drama going on around here recently, then you’ll like this take from bl1y So, expert on everything that I am, I decided I’m going to weigh [...]

  14. Griffin Says:

    I don’t understand how any of these writers are taken seriously when their sites includes exactly zero MSPaint cartoons.



  15. bl1y Says:

    I do all my cartoons by hand. Gotta keep it old school.

  16. Marie Says:

    Don’t glorify this sexist pig, BL1Y, it makes you look even WORST.

  17. Joy Alfred Says:

    I agree with Marie. This is not something I want my children to grow up and become.

  18. Marie Says:

    Thank you. So there.

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