Don’t read other words like a critic looking for the good, bad, and ugly. Read to discover what the author did well and how they did it.
This is reading like a writer, like a wordsmith.
Atwood says she will only review something if she likes it. She is not a critic and won’t write a bad review.
One of my friends told me he won’t even write a bad yelp review. He says, I praise those who deserve it, but it’s not my place to criticize.
I thought this was a great idea.
If you feel you must say something to alert other readers, then be honest and specific, but do add at least one good thing about the book, story, movie, service etc.
Plath was one of the original “confessional poets,” and her poetry, at first, was not well received. Her poetry, however, spoke to many. Much love for the Plath!
Neil Gaiman says lies are what fiction is made of. Well, yes, but….
He says, we make up people and places and put them in circumstances which aren’t true. Yes, well, but…
But we tell some sort of universal truth with these lies and that’s what makes it good fiction.
Gaiman is all about honesty, so I’m surprised he calls what we do lies. I don’t consider fiction lies. But I can see how people think it is. But then, do we call writers liars? I would hope not.
There’s a difference, isn’t there? I, personally, keep my life honest. I appreciate honesty from everyone in my circle and will not continue to be around people who are known to have lied.
Plato believed fiction was dangerous to society. He wrote in “dialogues” to teach philosophy or what he believed philosophical truths.
He was fictionalizing these dialogues. And if fictions, like philosophy, seek truth and honesty, aren’t they important?
Gaiman says the magic of fiction is the big, important truth.
I guess, if the fiction doesn’t tell us a truth, it has been a waste of our time, of our words, and is, therefore, a lie.
Many years ago, I was taking two classes simultaneously: Feminism and Fairy Tales and Women Writers.
I feel that it was these two classes, taken nearly at the same time, that subverted my point of view about stories I’ve known all my life. And I began to question things.
In one of the original tales of Snow White, she was already dead, lying in a casket, when the Prince, on his white horse, happened by….
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
…the woods where the dwarfs mourned her.
He offered them money to bring the dead body and the casket to his kingdom. (Of course, no, no, they couldn’t take money. Then he promised he would take care of her/the casket – that they agreed to).
WHY DOES THE PRINCE WANT THE DEAD BODY OF A WOMAN?????
Part of being a writer is to question the world around you. Question what you believe to be true. This will give you fodder for stories.
Did you know that in The Three Little Pigs the wolf was framed? You can see the how – the only witnesses were the little pigs themselves, but why??? Why would they have wanted the wolf off the the land?
There’s nothing more helpful than having someone read your work and give you the fresh perspective needed to improve.
Recently, my writing partner found a tiny mistake, despite having others read it, reading it aloud, and checking, rechecking, and re-editing it a thousand times. So helpful! I would have been embarrassed had it gone out with that small spelling errors that even spellcheck didn’t catch.
HOWEVER, there’s one thing that’s troublesome about critique groups or partners. The one who does not actually want the advice. I’ve worked with people who, every time I commented on their work, responded by explaining what they’d planned, meant, thought they wrote. They felt they accomplished what they wanted to do and didn’t plan on changing a thing. In other words, they’re weren’t listening. Why they even brought the story to the group, I have no idea. Perhaps they thought the story would be endlessly praised.
Ladies and gentlemen, some praise is necessary and warranted. You may have heard the sandwich method of response. First, say something positive about the work. Next, suggest and improvement. Finally, end with a positive.
In my classes, I actually students to say at least three positive things about any piece of work before we launch into the “room for improvement.”
Showing others their work is exceptionally hard for some people.And there are always good things to be said about any attempt.
But a good critique is learning to be open to hearing what is being said. Respond not with denial and deflection, but consideration of the comments received.
When I’m reading or editing, I ask the writer’s purpose and hopes for the piece. This helps me focus the response a little better. I also discuss the critique so I can be more specific with their desired outcome. Therefore, I do try hard to take into consideration the writer’s ideas.
After the last group with the writer who spent the whole time denying and explaining rather than listening, I avoided responding to that writer. A good critique is work. Not listing to other’s ideas will not win you friends and improve your work.