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 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

Part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior

Part 15: Unclear Character Goals

Part 16: Unclear or Insufficient Obstacles

Part 17: Dialect, Foreign Language...

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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 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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“The Everything Screenwriting Book” Review

Of all the books out there on screenwriting, this on one not to waste your money on.

Because it was published in 2003, it contains a lot of unavoidable “errors.” For example, author Robert Pollock could not have foreseen the death of the video rental store or the rise of video streaming or social media. We can forgive and ignore these and other things and move on to the more serious problems with the book.

First, it’s easy to wonder why Pollock was hired to write the book in the first place. He has only one screenplay that was turned into a movie to his credit, a generally panned 1981 film called “Loophole...

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“Faeries” Review

5-star rating

I don’t remember when I got this book, probably not many years after its 1978 publication, yet until recently I’d hardly ever cracked it, much less sat down to read it. My loss, absolutely.

The book has two components: the artwork and the prose. The prose is surprisingly academic, very readable but a straight-up discussion of the various stories and legends about the many varieties of faeries. Most come from the British Isles, but there are a few from northwestern Europe: Iceland, Scandinavia, and Germany. Authors Brian Froud and Alan Lee relate some of these legends without themselves becoming too mystical or too analytical. They even kindly provide pronunciation guides to the Gaelic terms sprinkled throughout the work...

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“Single Striper” Review

3-star rating
"Single Striper" book cover

Having read some of Steve Smith’s previous work, I was looking forward to a wild and wacky account of the first part of his two year hitch in the post-Korean War Army of the late 1950s. That expectation was only partially met.

My overall impression is that Smith was deeply disappointed in this part of his Army experience. Rather than a time of adventure and challenge leading to wisdom and maturity, he found it to be a time of boredom and drudgery, interrupted by pointless meanness, sometimes bordering on cruelty. It’s not clear when he adopted the draftee’s cynical distrust of officers, sergeants, and “lifers” generally—that is, the soldiers who were serving beyond their initial enlistment—but it’s clear that he did.

That’s not to say that this distrust was u...

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