Thursday, May 19, 2011

Critiquing Pointers: Part Deux

(Or, Writing Crits with Zing)

In this post, we reviewed how a beginning critiquer can pull off a helpful review by focusing on character, plot, and sensory details. However, sometimes a writer asks for feedback on specific areas of concern. 

No problem. We’ll take a look at a few more pieces of the critiquing pie today, just so we’re prepared to comment on these areas: dialogue, emotional reaction, and getting pulled out of the story.

1. Dialogue
~Are the dialogue tags subtle (he/she said) or somewhat distracting (he spat, she huffed)?
~Is the dialogue limited to an interaction necessary to the story without getting too realistic (e.g., “Nice weather we’re having, eh?” sits more on the too realistic rather than necessary side of dialogue)?
~Does the dialogue not only maintain the personality of the characters, but perhaps also reveal deeper aspects of these characters?
~Do the characters words ring true, in general?
~Is the writer attempting to convey too much exposition in the dialogue (e.g., a huge Q&A dialogue scene with major plot reveals)?

2. Emotional Reactions
~Do the character’s actions, thoughts, and desires make you feel close to him/her, and want what he/she wants?
~Do you know what the character’s thoughts and desires are at all times?
~Can you point to each scene and find a conflict, resolved or not?
~Can you point to each scene and find the overriding emotion felt by the MC?
~Are you having an emotional reaction different from what the writer intended (e.g., the MC displays too much of a flaw to the point that they are not likeable)?

3. Getting Pulled Out of the Story
You may have already experienced this phenomenon, where you’re reading along and feeling absorbed in the story, but then something trips you up, and for a few moments, you try to reconcile whatever it is. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t, but the fact is…you were pulled away from the magic, the illusion that the story has transcended reality. As a critiquer, you’ll have to be aware of when this happens, and then try to figure out what caused it. Some common “pulling out of story” trip-ups may be:
~Too many details, rather than a focus on the action/characters
~Odd descriptions or vague word choices, making you wonder what the writer means
~Not understanding a character’s motives at any point
~A passage that is too heavy on a character’s introspection/internal dialogue
~Breaking the fourth barrier (when it seems that the narrator/character is too aware that he/she has an audience, a la Groucho Marx/Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

If you feel up to a bit of practice on the above critiquing points, hop over to Miss Snark’s Secret Agent posts for May. There are 48 aspiring authors, each with 250-word excerpts from the beginning of their MS. Perhaps you can look for several with fewer comments than others, and see if you can provide them some helpful feedback.

Because? Practicing critiquing is as important as practicing writing.


Anita said...

What a great idea, Mary! PRACTICING critting on excerpts online. Dang, girl. Seriously, I never would've thought of that. :) I'm totally tweeting this little gem.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, my friend!

Marybk said...

Thanks, Anita. You have a great one, too.

Michael A Tate said...

I stumbled onto this from the link you posted on Twitter, but well said I have to say.

And I'll probably be subbing my first 250 to Miss. Snark one of these days when I get the courage :)

Marewolf said...

OMG this is such a great list!

And you are so right that critiquing helps your writing.

I'm experiencing this phenomenon at my day job - I'm mentoring a newbie - and let me tell ya, it really makes me think about the things I do in my job more.

Same with writing. Seeing errors in other people's work will help you recognize it in your own.

Now, my problem is finding the time to crit other people!


Marybk said...

Michael, I'm glad you stumbled this way. You should try out one of Miss Snark's critique rounds. Authoress is a fantastic blog host, and the comments are so helpful.

Marewolf: I'm glad you like the list! I love your analogy of writing/critiquing to training a newbie at work. So true.

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