Monthly Archives September 2013

Critique Technique part 23.5: read-out-loud tools

We’re going to take a break today from the regular Critique Technique posts to explore some very cool tools.

If you’ve been writing for any time at all, you’ve probably heard the advice that you should read your work out loud, or have it read to you. The reason is that you’ll hear (literally) the things that go bump or clank in the text that you might not have discovered otherwise. Your brain processes information through different channels when in comes in through your ears versus your eyes and that can be truly eye- (or should that be “ear-“?) opening.

Up until recently, using this technique required one or more of the following things:

  • A place where you could talk to yourself without getting funny looks.
  • A reduced sense of self-consciousness.
  • An understanding or–even better–helpful sp...
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Critique Technique, Part 23—Confused Storyline

Green die with past, present, and future on faces

Photo credit: Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

I was originally going to title this article “Confused Timeline” but as I put my notes together I realized time isn’t the problem (other than me not having enough of it). Of course it’s important that a story flow in a logical sequence of events from its beginning to its end (with some exceptions I’ll get to in a moment), but that sequence doesn’t have to follow a time-linear order.

In fact, more than likely, it won’t. Consider:

  • If there’s even one flashback, flash-forward, or instance of a character remembering something, the perfect time sequence is broken.
  • Same thing if there are multiple plot lines or point of view characters. A story in which every POV shift also moved forward in time would be unusual.
  • Authors w...
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Critique Technique, part 22—Overly Complex Plot

Knotted rope on a black background

Photo credit: Boaz Yiftach via freedigitalphotos.net

In a way it’s hard to say that a story’s plot is overly complex. Many stories have multiple plot lines, each with their own subplots, and yet the story “works”: the reader can understand what’s going on, the plot lines all make sense (eventually, anyway), and things come together at the end. Maybe the conclusion doesn’t tie everything together in a pretty bow, but the story doesn’t end in a Gordian knot, either.

So the question isn’t whether a story’s plot is too complex, but whether it’s too complex for the space allotted to it. Is there time and length for the various plot elements to be explored in enough depth and detail for them to all make sense?

If you’re reviewing a stand-alone piece—a short story or non-ficti...

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