The Short Story & Critique
November 3, 2014Posted by on
You may find it easier to put your critiques into the headings below, and give your views on each topic. Some members prefer to break the story down into parts and refer to each element in the story that they feel needs further work.
What can be problematic is when a member writes about how the story has affected them personally and/or offers praise. Although praise and sentiment are very worthwhile they are not what a writer needs most when trying to “polish” their work to perfection. In the end, it is ultimately whatever you are most comfortable with, but at all times consider what would you most want for feedback on your writing.
Do the characters seem real with depth and emotion, or are they recognizable stereotypes? Are the motives of the characters understandable and logical to the story? Are the good guy(s) likeable and the bad guy(s) really bad?
The characters are very important to any story and they must be believable. There is room in any critique for characterization.
Does the dialogue seem realistic? Can the reader imagine real people talking as the characters do?
If the story is, for example, about the rich and famous, details of wealth must be included. If about poor people, the reader has to see that they are poor. Is there atmosphere in the story allowing the reader to experience what the characters experience? Can the reader imagine the location around the characters clearly?
POINT OF VIEW:
Is the POV first or third person? If it is third person, is the narrator able to see into the heads of the characters? Is the POV consistent throughout the piece?
Does the story develop logically, so that the reader can follow the specific changes which occur in the story, or does the story make sudden leaps which cause the reader to lose the direction of the narration? Is the progression of characters and events logical, or is the whole story too confusing?
Pacing is a key to appeal; how well does the reader get involved in the story? Does the action progress slowly or quickly? How long does it take for the story to be set up? Is the reader drawn into the story from the beginning? Is it non-stop action or character development? Different readers prefer different paces in what they read.
A beginning writer often has trouble with mechanics and needs help. Sentence structure, verb agreement, and aspects of basic style are considered here. If a reader feels that there are problems with mechanics, s/he will specify the problems seen, rather than simply stating that they are there.
Readers react to what they read. Sometimes the gut reaction to the story is more important than anything mentioned above–especially when the writer is more experienced. Gut reaction can negate nearly anything, with the exception of flaming another writer.
BEING A GOOD CRITIQUE GROUP PARTNER
Here are some general rules to being a good critique group partner. You will get out of this experience what you put in, so do your best to follow the rules below.
1. BE HONEST
Now is not the time to lie. Be gentle, but tell the truth. If the submitter’s story doesn’t have enough plot, or the characterization needs work, tell them so! Editors don’t have time to tell you what they think–critique partners do.
2. BE THICK-SKINNED
The first time you have a story critiqued by a group of writers might be difficult for you. If some critiques are somewhat negative to your material, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It’s sometimes hard to separate our writing from ourselves, but it is absolutely necessary that you learn to do so. Nothing is personal in a group such as ours, comments are made on the words that are submitted only. Even after you’re published, editors will want to change things. And you may well gather a heap of rejections before that time. Buck up and get used to it.
3. CONSIDER COMMENTS CAREFULLY
Not every comment a critique partner makes will apply to your story. It could be just a personal preference. You are the final judge of what to change and what to keep. However, don’t blow off a comment because it hurts your feelings. If possible, let it be for a while, and look at it again later. Often you’ll find at least a shred of wisdom in the critique.
4. BE KIND
This is important, treat others as you have them treat unto you. Honesty doesn’t mean brutality. A writer’s story is his/her baby–and you don’t want to tell someone their baby is ugly!!! Word your critiques carefully, as you would have others critique your work.
5. BE ENCOURAGING
One of the biggest benefits to having critique partners is having others who understand what you are going through as you sweat blood trying to get work published. Encourage one another to your best writing, and help one another when you face a nasty case of writer’s block or rejection. Hang in there together!
6. BE FRIENDLY
Get to know each other. Become friends. Writing a story in today’s market is a harrowing experience, best shared with others. The more you know about each other, the more you’ll be able to help.
7. BE PROMPT
When you send something out to be critiqued, you are probably on pins and needles to know what others think. Remember, your partners feel the same way about their material!!! Do your best to get back to them within a reasonable amount of time.
8. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
Often the first thing you’ll be tempted to do as a critique partner (especially if you have strong grammar skills) is to start nit-picking commas, etc. While this is helpful on a FINAL DRAFT, what you should be looking for in the early stages is the overall picture. Is the plot sound? Do the characters do and say things that are out of character for them? Do they depend too much on adverbs, rather than choosing strong verbs?
On the final draft, of course, you’ll want to make sure what they are sending to the publishers is picture perfect. Now you get to edit out all those commas!
More than likely, your critique partners will be the ones who laugh with you when you get the go-ahead to send a manuscript, cry with you when you face rejection, and rejoice with you when you sell that story. Best of luck!!!