critique technique tagged posts

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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Critique Technique, Part 17: Dialect, Foreign Languages, and Jargon

This is the last post in the series on characterization. Next time we’ll move on to setting.

Confused person
Photo by Jeroen van Oostrom, via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’ve traveled around the country, or watched TV or the movies, or done just about anything other than live under a rock, you know that people speak differently in different places. They have different accents, different slang terms, and different styles of speaking. Compare the laconic Mainer or cowboy to the fast-talking New Yorker. And that’s just in the United States! Canadians, Britons, Scots, Irish, New Zealanders, Australians, and some Indians and Kenyans (to name just a few) speak English, too.

And they all do it differently.

England’s WWII Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill famously described America and ...

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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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Critique Technique, Part 3: How Do You Feel?

New members of a critique or writers’ group will often say, “I don’t know how to critique.” The tendency, I suspect, is to think they have to do what they did in high school or college English classes: identify and explain the symbolism in a passage, say, or compare and contrast the use of metaphor with onomatopoeia.

Nope! Nope, nope, nope. That’s not what critique or writers’ group feedback is about. It’s about helping the author get better by identifying what worked, what didn’t, and why.

How Do You Feel?

Let’s start with the easiest thing: how did the piece make you feel? Did it:

  • excite you
  • anger you
  • make you happy
  • make you sad
  • confuse you
  • fascinate you
  • annoy you
  • thri...
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Critique Technique, Part 8: Story Endings

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. Now it’s time for the author to tie everything up in a shiny bow, or leather straps, or bands of steel… or not, so you, the reader feel that satisfying sense of completion… or not.

Or not?

Or not. We’ll get to that shortly.

What Makes a ...

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Critique Technique, Part 59 — The End

The End on dice
Photo by hisks via RGBStock.com

This article marks the formal 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.

For writers, there are only three parts of a story that are hard to write: the beginning, the middle, and the end. A successful ending is something worth celebrating.

Happily Ever After… or Not

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. A romance is likely to end up happy, satisfying, and complete—the lovers fall into each other’s arms and all is right in their world. At least for now...

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Critique Technique, Part 58 — Ending a Scene or Chapter Well

saying on shirt
photo credit: Harpersbizarre via photopin cc

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, perhaps, at the very end of the story or book. More on that in the next article.) And because of that, he wants to leave the reader wanting to read more. No, 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, or a subtle but irresistible suction that pulls them onward. But gentle or gigantic, push or pull, it needs to be undeniable: the reader can’t say no to it.

Launch Controls

The...

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Critique Technique, Part 57 — Magic Middles

Woman reading a book
Image courtesy of Marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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, chapter, and ultimately the whole story or book, has to keep holding the reader’s interest.

At the Scene or Chapter Level

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...

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Critique Technique, Part 56 — Great Start!

Young woman reding a book on a lawn
Photo by lusi/RGBstock photos.

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, all the way to the end...

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Critique Technique, Part 55 — Good Job!

Image courtesy of Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 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 articles is going to address that requirement, starting with specific details and growing to larger-scale successes.

What to Praise

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

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