Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Part 3 on Critique Pointers

(Or, Newbie Tips for Critiques with Badda Bing)

There are a few ways for new critiquers to begin their beta-reading, advice-hurling, critiquerly journey. One way is to read critiques that other people do (highly recommended). This post gives some ideas on critiquing dialogue, emotion, and areas where the reader might be pulled out of the story. This one contains some tips on critiquing characters, plot, and sensory details. And now? We’ll go in for the kill. The badda bing. We’ll talk about world building, pacing, and Intern’s favorite topic: scenes.

Find your inner mobster.*
: the best definition of badda boom, badda bing left in the comments wins…my undying respect.

1.    World Building: Whether the setting is imaginary/alternate universe, historical, contemporary/realistic, there is a specific time and place where the MC resides, and it sets the tone for the entire story. To help your crit partner with this part of story craft, ask yourself the following.

~Do you find yourself drowning in descriptions and metaphors or wishing for more?
~Can you see the setting/world in your mind?
~Do you have enough background to understand the rules of the world, especially when rules are broken?
~Have you entered the world and do you feel like the story is possible within that reality?

2.    Pacing: This part of story craft is difficult to explain, but pacing can be seen as the manipulation of time in a story to maximize the impact; or, the rhythm/beat of tension (badda bing), actions, and emotions. Your crit partner may benefit if you ask yourself these questions.

~Do the short, tense moments take up more space than longer, not-as-tense spots? (They should.)
~Is high tension paired with SHOWING, while less tension is paired with TELLING (yes, it’s okay to tell in these places)?
~Do they have spots of tension that appears at regular intervals (e.g., new information/realization, change or deepening of emotion, action/reaction)?
~Do you, as the reader, always want to know what happens next?

3.    Scenes: It is the sequence of scenes that lead to the rise of tension, climax, and resolution of the plot. Every one must be essential. Consider these questions (also see INTERN’s 10 reasons to rewrite a scene).

~Does their scene move the plot forward or keep it at a standstill?
~Does their scene reveal something about the character(s) that cannot be revealed in a different place/scene?
~If the writer is forced to give up the scene, would it leave a huge hole in the story/plot?
~Does their scene strengthen the theme or introduce a crucial symbol in a way that no other scene can?

Remember that the more you critique for specific things, like world building, pacing, and scenes, the easier it is for you to find opportunities to improve your own work. Happy critiquing, writerly friends!

Upcoming post: Thursday’s critiquerly interview is a full scene of awesome sauce. Bring chocolate.

*Posting this image does not constitute a book recommendation. And we should all take care not to kill our CP’s writerly spirit.


Anita Grace Howard said...

Awesome tips as always, miss Queen of all Critiques. ;) You should wear that crown proudly, you know.

Marybk said...

Awww, thanks, Anita. Muah. How do I look with my tiara (I much prefer tiaras to crowns).

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