“Workshop Notes on ‘The Universe,'” by Katie Burgess

Nov 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Dear God,

First of all, thank You for sharing Your work with us. I think it has a lot of potential; there’s some interesting imagery, and it flows well. There are a few things, though, that I think are working against it right now.

Like, when we start off, it’s 13.7 billion years ago, and stuff is all hot and dense, so it starts expanding, and the rapid expansion cools everything off, resulting in a continuously expanding state. (Or everything is created from nothing six thousand years ago? There seems to be a discrepancy here.) Your descriptions are really good, but I’m left wondering why any of this is happening in the first place. What’s it all for? You need to ask Yourself, “Why today?”

You’re taking a risk by changing points of view so much. I mean, You’ve got Judaism, Buddhism, the one with that turtle carrying the world on its back—whose story is it? Maybe pick one POV and keep it in first person, so that readers won’t get lost. I liked Scientology personally, but then again I’m into genre fiction. Go with whatever works for You.

So much of what You’ve put in is just going to waste. For instance, the Andromeda Galaxy doesn’t seem to have much to do here. And Pluto—is it even a planet or not? Maybe You should save some of these ideas for another project? (There’s also a lot of extra space—if You’re using MS Word, You can fix this by going into “Change Styles.”) I liked how in your first draft everything revolved around Earth. That makes a lot more sense if the people there are going to be important.

A lot of these characters feel over-the-top and cartoony. Like this Donald Trump guy—I don’t think anyone’s going to find him believable. I assume he’s supposed to be a parody of some sort, but the way he’s rendered is still too mean-spirited. He ought to have at least one redeeming feature.

My main concern is that You’re piling on the conflict to the point that it seems like overkill. These characters You’ve created, they have war, genocide, poverty, injustice, domestic abuse, rape, murder, gang violence, bullying, drugs, hate crimes, pollution, global warming, torture—it’s already a lot. And then You add disease, drought, famine, birth defects, mental illness, tsunamis, mudslides, earthquakes, wildfires, blizzards, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. It’s like, we get it—it’s a dark comedy. You don’t have to hit us over the head.

Cockroaches—what’s up with them? Were You going for absurdism?

Finally, I’d really love to see more of Your voice in here. We start off with this great narrative presence, and You even directly address the reader at times, which I hearted, but then You seem to get more distant around the eighteenth century. Keep it consistent.

So those are my major concerns. I didn’t notice a whole lot of grammatical stuff, other than some lay/lie confusion, but I’m bad about that, too! Anyway, I thought you did a really great job overall.



P.S. I notice You took the unicorns out of this draft. I miss them!


Katie says, “I’m originally from South Carolina. I have a BFA in painting from the University of Georgia and an MFA in fiction from Florida State. My novel, The Promethean Hour, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1983. I live in a haunted shoe factory. I’m making some of this up. My other writing can be found on bathroom walls throughout North America and parts of Europe.”

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