Category Critique Technique

Critique Technique Table of Contents

Here’s a Table of Contents of all of the Critique Technique posts to make it easier to go directly to the post you want to read.

Introductory Posts

Part 1 of Many

Part 4: Series Preview

Reader Response

Part 2: How Do You Feel?

Part 3: Authorial Intentions and Tracking Your Own Responses

Beginnings and Endings

Part 5: Weak or Missing Hook

Part 6: The Wrong Beginning

Part 7: Scene and Chapter Endings

Part 7b: More on Scene and Chapter Endings

Part 8: Story Endings

Characterization

Part 9: Characters and Conflict

Part 10: Poor Characterization

Part 11: Lack of Character Development

Part 12: Showing and Telling in Character Development

Part 13: Timing the Reveal

Part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior

Part 15: Unclear Character Goals

Part 16: Unclear or Insufficient Obstacles

Part 17: Dialect...

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Critique Technique, part 8: story endings

The End on dice

Photo by hisks via RGBStock.com

This post was originally posted on the Cochise Writers blog in May of 2013. Somehow in the process of transferring all of the Critique Technique articles from there to here, this one got skipped. So, without further ado….

To quote from Ogden Nash’s puckish poetry accompanying Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, “Now we reach the grand finale / Animale Carnivale…”

The story you’ve been reviewing has reached and passed its climax, its moment of greatest tension and conflict. The good guys have won—or not. The protagonist has survived, achieved whatever she set out to achieve (or maybe something different), or gained some new understanding—or not...

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Critique Technique, Part 60 — The End

The End on dice

Photo by hisks via RGBStock.com

By Ross B. Lampert

I’m not sure whether I should be hearing Jim Morrison’s dark, “this is the end, my friend,” or Ogden Nash’s, “And now we reach the grand finale / Animale Carnivale.” Somehow, neither Morrison’s song “The End” nor Nash’s verse for Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Carnival of the Animals” seems right.

This post does mark the end of the Critique Technique series, at least for now. But like a good ending to a short story or novel, it should feel like it wraps up the series well.

Or maybe not!

You see, endings can take many forms—happy or sad, satisfying or unsatisfying, completing or dangling—as the author chooses. There’s no single “right” kind of ending except the one that’s right (appropriate) for its story...

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Critique Technique, Part 59 — Ending a Scene or Chapter Well

saying on shirt

photo credit: Harpersbizarre via photopin cc

By Ross B. Lampert

When a writer ends a scene or chapter, he wants to do two things. He wants to leave the scene’s or chapter’s protagonist worse off than they were before. (Except at the very end of the book. More on that next time.) And because of that, he wants to leave the reader wanting to read more. Needing to read more.

The end of every scene or chapter should in some way launch the reader into the next one. That launch doesn’t have to be the equivalent of a giant rocket blasting off for deep space. It could be a gentle shove. But gentle or gigantic, it needs to be undeniable: the reader can’t say no to it.

There are lots of ways to do this, of course. The writer can:

  • Employ the classic “cliffhanger,” in which the protagonist o...
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Critique Technique, Part 58 — Magic Middles

Woman reading a book

Image courtesy of Marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Ross B. Lampert

Once a writer has convinced their reader with a great, or at least good, beginning that this is a story she wants to read, his next task is to keep her reading. That means the middle of each scene or chapter has to keep holding the reader’s interest. She has to want to keep reading.

There are lots of writing books that discuss the techniques for creating rising tension: plot twists, character revelations, obstacles revealed and overcome or worked around (or not), turning points, and so on. The purpose of this article isn’t to repeat them—there isn’t space!—but to remind you, the reviewer, that when a writer does this well, especially when they’d been struggling with this, it’s your job to point it out.

As I no...

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Critique Technique, Part 57 — Great Start!

Young woman reding a book on a lawn

Photo by lusi/RGBstock photos.

By Ross B. Lampert

Experienced writers understand that the most important chapter of a book isn’t the last one, but the first one. And that the first paragraph is the most important paragraph. And that the first sentence is the most important sentence. And that the first word… well, let’s not get carried away here.

But that understanding about the first sentence, paragraph, and chapter makes sense. The purpose, after all, of each of these firsts is to get the reader to read the one that follows: the second sentence, the second paragraph, the second chapter. Why? Because the writer wants the reader to keep reading, to keep going, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter...

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Critique Technique, Part 56—Good Job!

Image courtesy of Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Ross B. Lampert

One of the real pleasures of being a critiquer, especially if you’re part of a writers’ group, is seeing new writers develop, watching their work get better and better with each revision or new chapter or story. When and as that happens, it’s important to not only acknowledge those improvements, but reinforce them by telling the writer what they did well and how it’s better than their previous work. This final series of Critique Technique posts is going to address that requirement, starting with specific details and growing to larger-scale successes.

There are many, many things a writer can succeed at that deserve attention and praise, especially when they’re things that the writer struggled with before...

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Critique Technique, Part 55 — Manuscript Format

By Ross B. Lampert

Almost since this series began, I’ve been writing about things that writers, especially new ones, have trouble with. This post is the last of that string. Next time I’ll begin a short series on how critiquers should respond to things a writer did well. Positive critiques are at least as important as corrective ones, so that’s a set of subjects we can’t and shouldn’t avoid.

MS Word's paragraph format controlsFormatting a manuscript is a simple and almost purely mechanical process, yet it’s one new writers may not have had any training on, or they were trained on formats that aren’t appropriate for fiction manuscripts.

This might seem like a minor point, yet if an author intends to follow the traditional publishing route and submit their work to literary agents or directly to publishing house ...

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Critique Technique, Part 54 — Grammar Errors

Four professors in cap and gown

photo credit: peyri via photopin cc

By Ross B. Lampert

Like the rules of spelling and punctuation, the rules of grammar are meant to help make a writer’s meaning clear to the reader. Unfortunately, there are probably even more grammar rules than there are spelling and punctuation rules, which means that many more opportunities for a writer to mess things up.

Whole books, college classes, and web sites are devoted to these rules, so there’s no way I’m going to try to replicate even a tiny fraction of that material here. Instead, visit Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips web site. It will tell you everything you wanted to know about English grammar, and more besides.

The thing is, as a reviewer, you don’t need to know down to the micro-level detail every single rule, c...

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Critique Technique, Part 53 — Punctuation

Humanoid image surrounded by question marks

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Ross B. Lampert

Perhaps as much as spelling, punctuation can be a wonder and a mystery to a lot of novice writers. School teachers try to teach their students all sorts of rules—if you really dig into it, there are hundreds of them—and of course they all have their exceptions and caveats. After a while, many students just give up, and it shows.

I thought I had a good workable handle on what to use, when, and how until I went to one of my friend Harvey Stanbrough’s seminars, and then the light bulb really came on.

Harvey’s take on punctuation is simple: punctuation exists simply to help the reader understand what she’s reading. Try this and you’ll see what I mean:

I dont understand why punctuation is so importa...

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