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: Critique, Technique, and Procedure

Part 1A: The Critiquer’s Mind

Part 1B: Life on the Other Side of the Critique

Part 2: Series Overview

Reader Response

Part 3: How Do You Feel?

Part 3.5: 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 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

Pa...

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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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“Creating Fiction” Review

3-star rating

My first contact with Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway, was in one of my “Writing the Novel” classes while I was earning my master’s degree in English. As so often happens in an academic setting, we did not read all of the essays in the book, so I thought that, over 10 years later, it would be a good idea to reread the ones I had read before and read the rest for the first time.

While I’m not sorry I did, some things became clear as I read it.

The most important point is that the book is not really written for the working writer. The nearly two dozen essays were written by writers who also teach at colleges or universities around the country, all of which are members of the Associated Writing Programs...

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“The Lady of the Lake” Review

3-star rating

“The Lady of the Lake” is Sir Walter Scott’s epic poetic tale of two, or possibly three, men who seek the hand of Ellen Douglas, the beautiful daughter of a Scottish nobleman (?). She lives with her father and retainers on a remote island on Loch Katrine, a lake in southwestern Scotland. One of the men, Malcolm Graeme, has been wooing her for a while; the second, James Fitz-James, is presented as a hunter who discovers Ellen and the isle after getting lost while chasing a deer; and the possible third suitor, Roderick Dhu, is the chief of a rebellious Scottish clan.

Conflict ensues between the men, of course, while at the same time Dhu is making trouble for the English king at Stirling Castle, not far away...

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“Seven Arrows” Review

4.5 star rating
Seven Arrows book cover

Hyemeyohsts Storm’s 1972 book Seven Arrows is a very unusual work, a cross between historical fiction and an exegesis of the religious beliefs of the Native American people we now think of as being the tribes of the northern high plains of the United States, specifically the Cheyenne, the Sioux, and the Crow. Storm takes pains at the beginning to provide the names these tribes used for themselves: the Painted Arrow, the Brother People, and the Little Black Eagle. (These names may not be in the same order as the first list.) The only book in my experience that similarly combines a historical record with religious philosophy is the Judeo-Christian Bible. However, Seven Arrows weaves the two together, while the Bible’s historical parts are largely in the Old Testament.

Seven A...

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Critique Technique, Part 52 — Capitalization

A twisted, two-ended red pencil
Image courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Capitalization is another one of those “mechanical” writing areas where I see a lot of problems. New writers aren’t the only ones who struggle with it either.

Most writers get the very most basic things right: capitalizing the first word of each sentence, the names of people and places, and so on. Word processors’ grammar checkers will often look for capitalization errors, too, if that functionality is turned on, and there are online tools like Grammarly and web sites where writers can check the rules. A few are the Catalyst capitalization page from McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Grammarly’s blog page on the topic, and “A Little Help with Capitals” from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab.

Fiction Flubs

These resource...

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“The Big Schnitzel” Review

3-star rating

The Big Schnitzel is the final installment of Steve Smith’s 3-part autobiography of his 22 months “in” the U.S. Army in the late 1950s. I put that first “in” in quotes because, as I’ve noted in my reviews of the first two books, while Smith was in the Army, he was never really a part of it, a reality he wore with more than a little pride.

But Book 3 is lacking something that Book 1 (Single Striper) and Book 2 (Close Enough for Jazz) had. That something is conflict, specifically conflict that involves Smith.

Let’s step back for a minute. In Book 1, Smith resists and avoids the Army’s best efforts to turn him into a soldier and then into a radio operator. He and his fellow junior enlistees then face and largely frustrate petty tyrant Staff Sergeant Billie C...

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Russka Review

3.5 star rating

I have mixed feelings about this book. Certainly, Edward Rutherfurd’s 760 page doorstop of a novel has its good points, but ultimately I came away unsatisfied.

“Ambitious” is a good way to describe the effort. After all, in order to tell “The Novel of Russia,” as the book is subtitled, Rutherfurd chose to cover the period from 180 A.D. to 1990. To make this Michener-esque task manageable, he follows generations of the Bobrov family (and a few others) through each major historical period of this vast country. Of course, that means that he also ends up with a vast, Game of Thrones-size cast. Generally, he handles this well: the major characters are all well developed and distinctive, which is no small task. More on the characters later.

The book starts slowly, and by...

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TusCon 46 Downloads

Here are the links to use to download my Logline Development Worksheet and a PDF version of the presentation on developing your logline at TusCon 46.

Click here to download your copy of the Logline Development Worksheet.

Click here to download a copy of the Create Your Logline! presentation.

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“Close Enough for Jazz” Review

4 star rating
"Close Enough for Jazz" cover

When last we left our hero, author Steve Smith, he had just escaped the fell clutches of a tyrannical Staff Sergeant for the idyllic life of a trumpeter in the Kitzingen Area Band.

And at first, life was indeed idyllic. The band was, in a word, untouchable. No morning PT (physical training), no onerous details, no inspections. All the band members had to do was practice and play, welcoming the 5th Artillery Division’s Commanding General when he arrived on post each morning, conducting a “rouser march” to get the other soldiers’ day going, and playing gigs off post to keep up good relations with the local community.

The band had been formed at the General’s insistence, and one of the junior members of the band had grown up next door to then-President Dwight D...

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CoKoCon 2019 Downloads

Here are the links to use to download my Logline Development Worksheet and a PDF version of the presentation on developing your logline at CoKoCon 2019.

Click here to download your copy of the Logline Development Worksheet.

Click here to download a copy of the Create Your Logline! presentation.

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