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 2: Series Overview

Reader Response

Part 3: How Do You Feel?

Part 4: Authorial Intentions and Tracking Your Own Responses

Beginnings and Endings

Part 5: Weak or Missing Hook

Part 6: The Wrong Beginning Updated!

Part 7: Scene and Chapter Endings Updated!

Part 8: Story Endings Updated!

Characterization

Part 9: Characters and Conflict Updated!

Part 10: Poor Characterization Updated!

Part 11: Lack of Character Development Updated!

Part 12: Showing and Telling in Character Development Updated!

Part 13: Timing the Reveal Updated!

Part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior Updated!

Part 15: Unclear Character Goa...

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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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Too Close to Home: The Samantha Zaldivar Case Review

5-star rating

It’s hard to say I “enjoyed” this book. After all, how can one “enjoy” a book about the real murder of an eight year old girl by her mother’s boyfriend? Indeed, at times there were tears in my eyes.

That said, there’s a lot to like—or maybe “appreciate” is a better word—about Too Close to Home. Let me set the scene first.

Too Close to Home book cover
Cover design and photo by Jesaro Photography. Used with permission.

Samantha’s home life was anything but easy. Her mother, Rachel Stra, had been divorced by Samantha’s biological father. Samantha and Rachel had moved with Rachel’s boyfriend from Florida to western New York to “get a fresh start.”

Angel Colon, the boyfriend, was no angel...

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Give It Up, Part 3

‘Way back in November I threw out this question: If you could keep only one piece of modern technology, which one would it be? As I wrote the post, though, it became clear how much of our technology today relies on a functioning electrical grid. Without the grid, it would be almost impossible to keep any one device or technology. Modern batteries need the grid to be constructed, but keeping even primitive batteries around to power something else would violate the terms of the question by adding a second retained technology.

OK, so maybe that was an interesting thought problem, but not even close to realistic. Here’s a different scenario that might even slide into the realm of realism...

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25th Anniversary, Liberation of Kuwait Review

Liberation of Kuwait book cover

Let’s get this clear from the start: this book is not a history of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and of Operation Desert Storm. Oh, superficially it is, but far better ones have been written.

Second, while the subtitle of the book is, “Honoring the Veterans of Desert Storm,” it does not honor, or even much mention the tens of thousands of Airmen, especially from the U.S. Air Force, who crushed the Iraqi Air Force in days, crushed many of the Iraqi Republican Guards ground forces, even during the middle of a historic sandstorm, and who in general made the famed 100-hour ground war possible.

Third, potential readers should know who sponsored and paid for this book: six of the seven sponsors are either wealthy Kuwaitis or the Kuwaiti Royals, the al-Sabah family...

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This Voice in My Heart review

3-star rating

This Voice in My Heart cover

This is the first autobiography I’ve read, which makes it hard to evaluate. The book is the story of the life of Gilbert Tuhabonye, from the central African nation of Burundi, up to about 2005.

Like its neighbor Rwanda, Burundi has suffered from serious conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes for decades. The genocidal spasm that afflicted Rwanda was well known at the time, but Burundi has had its own troubles as well, and Tuhabonye was nearly killed in one in October, 1993.

Tuhabonye presents his life growing up on a farm in southern Burundi as idyllic, and given that he knew little of the world beyond his local community, that’s not a surprise...

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What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

I’m ba-a-a-a-a-a-ack. Maybe I should paraphrase Paul McCartney: “Back in the B-L, back in the B-L, back in the B-L-O-G.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring, somehow.

The last couple of months have been weird and stressful in the web site world. In November, I asked my hosting company to update some software that’s important for running the web site. In the process, the tech support guy said, “We can save you some money by switching you from shared hosting to dedicated hosting.” (In other words, I’d have a web server computer all to myself.) “You interested?”

Saving money’s a good thing, right? So I said OK.

Humanoid image surrounded by question marks

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next thing I know, we can’t get my “theme,” the software that gives the site its particular science-fiction-y look, to wo...

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Critique Technique, part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior

Comedy has been defined as “ordinary people in extraordinary situations, or extraordinary people in ordinary situations.” But what if the piece you’re critiquing isn’t comedy—or isn’t meant to be comedy? When a character you’ve come to know suddenly acts in a way that makes you stop, scratch your head, and say “huh?”, maybe there’s a problem.

Maybe. That’s an important word. What does the story’s context tell you about this new behavior? If Alice suddenly starts screaming, which she’s never done before, but it’s because the car she’s riding in just went off a cliff, that’s reasonable...

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The Tides of Time Review

[No rating]

I’m really not sure how to respond to this odd little novel by John Brunner. For the first three-quarters, it seems like a different take on the standard time travel story. Then it gets weird.

Rich white girl Stacy and her black boyfriend Gene are fleeing something. Prejudice because they’re a biracial couple? Maybe. It’s never made clear. In any case, they have signed up to travel through time and space, and are initially sent back to a Sphinx-shaped Greek island called Oragalia in their present day or close to it. But the next morning, they have magically jumped back in time to something like the 1980s. They spend the day exploring the island and its one small town. The next morning, they’ve jumped again, this time back to WWII.

The pattern continues: in each “Part,” ...

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Close Range Review

Close Range coverI came to this book with some unease. My first encounter with Annie Proulx’s collection subtitled “Wyoming Stories,” was the final one, “Brokeback Mountain,” in which a cowboy discovers, as an adult, that he’s gay. Uh, yeah, sure. The story was a “political” assignment by one of my English professors, and it set my expectations when, probably 15 years later, I finally picked up the book again.

Proulx starts “A Lonely Coast” late in the book this way:

“You ever see a house burning up in the night, way to hell and gone out there on the plains?… And you might think about the people in the burning house, see them trying for the stairs, but mostly you don’t give a damn.”

That seems like a fitting metaphor for the entire book...

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TusCon 45 Wrap-Up

My original plan was to give you a revised “thought experiment” this week in which I asked you what one device you would keep if you had to give up everything else, assuming that electrical power was still available. I’m going to hold that for next week, however, in favor of a quick summary of my participation in TusCon 45, the Tucson Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention this past weekend. (The organizers are so organized, they’ve already updated their site for next year’s event!)

TusCon is a small and friendly convention (or “con,” in the lingo). While most of the participating authors come from Arizona or adjacent states, the staff has managed to score some big-name authors as the Author Guest of Honor, including George R. R...

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Give It Up, Part 2

Last time I asked, “If you had to get rid of one piece of the technological stuff you use every day, what would it be?” This time the question is reversed and A LOT harder: you can only keep one thing.

This is a really sneaky and difficult question because technology, writ large, is so deeply embedded in our lives. Consider all of the things that are powered by electricity. The electrical grid that brings power to our homes is so critical that if you want to keep one electrically powered device, you have to either also keep the grid or replace it with some other technology that would generate electricity—and that violates the “rules” of this question.

So that means everything powered by electricity has to go: not just computers and smart phones, but refrigerators, washers and dry...

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