Monthly Archives January 2014

Critique Technique, Part 38—The Pieces of Pace

By Ross B. Lampert

The pace of a story is how quickly or slowly it seems to pass for the reader. It may flash by like a fighter jet at an airshow, crawl along at a speed that makes glaciers seem quick, or do something in between.

You already have a sense of pace as a reader, even though you might not be thinking about it. This post and the next one will help you be more aware so you can evaluate it as you critique someone’s work.

photo credit: peasap via photopin ccWhile we can make some general statements about pace in different genres in fiction and types of work in non-fiction, at best they’re poor guidelines. That means that selecting the proper pace for a story can be tricky for a writer, if she even thinks about it at all. What’s right for one story will be wrong for another.

Pace isn’t a one-speed-fits-all kind ...

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Critique Technique, Part 37—As You Know, Bob

By Ross B. Lampert

Businessman and woman arguing

Photo by Ambro, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whenever characters speak, they’re transmitting information, to one or more other characters and/or to the reader. That information can be truth, lies, or something in-between; it can be emotional (a state of being or feeling) rather than factual; it can be directive (an order or warning) or informational; it can be direct or indirect; it can be any combination of these. This is nowhere near a complete list.

It can also be boring as hell.

What happens is that sometimes, with the best of intentions (or maybe just not knowing any better), an author will use a character to dump information on the reader, rather than doing it himself through narrative. No matter how it’s done, info-dumping isn’t a good technique.

This prob...

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Published!

The cover image for The Eternity PlagueI am thrilled to announce that The Eternity Plague has been published! Here’s the blurb:

In 2035, Dr. Janet Hogan makes a stunning discovery: infected by five species of naturally-mutated viruses, every one of earth’s nine billion inhabitants has become immortal.

Or have they? By the time Janet learns that this immortality is an illusion, it’s too late to change people’s beliefs. Some love her for creating this miracle and the coming paradise they long for. Others hate her for what they see ahead: immoral behavior without consequence, overpopulation, famine, and worse. Zealots demand that she save people’s souls, humanity, the earth… or the viruses. Or else.

Janet realizes this awful truth: no matter what she does, no matter what anyone else wants, sooner or later, billions will ...

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Critique Technique, Part 36—Name-Calling

Women pointing at board with names on it

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Ross B. Lampert

This post and the next one will focus on problems that are specific to dialog.

Sometimes characters addressing each other by name is a problem, sometimes it isn’t. It’s important to be able to tell the difference. It’s more likely to be a problem in fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction than in other kinds of non-fiction, because reportorial non-fiction generally uses direct quotes in a non-conversational context. Name-calling can become a problem when character talk to each other.

Let’s begin by identifying the kinds of situations where one character calling another by name IS appropriate.

  • One character needs to get another’s attention, such as:
    • In a moment of danger: “Bob! Run!” Alice shouted.
    • I...
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Critique Technique, Part 35—The Critiquer’s Mind

By Ross B. Lampert

I thought I’d take a break from the regular material of the series to talk about something that is central to your success as a reviewer: your mind. To an extent, this means your memory, but it also has to do with your attitude about and approach to critiquing, and your level of commitment to the task.

MEMORY

Pages of book shaped like a heart

Image courtesy of Winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s important that you have a good but specialized memory. You can’t let the words just flow in one eye and out the other. They have to stop and make your acquaintance, or to put the focus in the right place, you have to make theirs.

You need to be able to recall specific kinds of details—about what a character did or said before, for example, or how the author described something—even if it’s been weeks or...

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