Ask Questions

I’ve never really done a lot of critiquing, outside the stuff you do in school. Its the flabby muscle in my writer education, if you will.

I’m not a very critical thinker. I can work through a thought if someone gives me the starting point, but generally speaking I’ll take it all at face value. I’m probably not going to catch the implications of every decision made in a book; I’ll miss parallels even when they’re painfully obvious. (And when they are obvious, I’ll generally disappointed by the lack of surprise.)

So, we’ll say — I critique poorly. I ask questions, and let the writer figure out what I’m trying to say.

I try not to critique as a writer, because I generally feel pretty inadequate for the task. The chick who gave me this story has an English degree — she can figure that stuff out on her own.

I’ll instead focus on how I feel as a reader. Did this sentence/passage/concept feel strange to me? Did this make me feel? And I just note that. I don’t say You should do X, but rather, This made me feel Y. I’m wary of giving advice for the risk of coming from a place of opinion, rather than fact. Its a fact to say, That’s spelled wrong versus That doesn’t work, do this.

Usually, if we’re dealing with fanfiction — and in the case of critiquing, its pretty much all I’ve got here — we talk about characterization a lot. Is this authentic for his character? Can I see her doing this? It works just as well in original fiction, but its not as clean cut. In original fiction, that canon is being established with each word. Characterization is fluid, and may not make sense until we know the whole story.

But mostly, I make note of the things that bored me. The obvious. The contrived. The dull. Its true that what I find dull may work for another reader, but I assume that the writer is going to take all their reader opinions as a whole. If one person says, “Boooooored,” then that might be a reader problem. If five readers are bored by the same thing, well — that’s looking like a writer problem.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.