narrative voice 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


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


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Spirit Walk Review

Best novel I’ve read in quite a while. And a debut novel at that.

Jay Treiber is a rare individual: a college English literature professor who can also write it, and write it well.

College English professor Kevin McNally has been struggling for decades with his guilt over an incident that happened when he was a teenager. This is the kind of subject that could lead the author and reader down a rat hole of angst, self-loathing, and neurotic navel-gazing but  Treiber avoids this trap. Instead, he chooses to have McNally seek resolution of that guilt, and forgiveness for what happened, through a skillfully interwoven series of story lines that mix McNally’s present and past.

By itself, that’s not unusual, but the story’s location and characters are...

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Runaway Dancer, Getaway Tales Review

Jeri McAndrews is a classically trained ballet dancer who ran away from the School of American Ballet in New York and the demands and discipline of ballet. She landed eventually in southwestern Colorado, where among other things, she taught dance and choreographed and performed in modern dances in wild outdoor settings including the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. The title of the book is apt: while dance is certainly a core of McAndrews’ life, so it seems is running away, getting away from… many things: teaching middle school English (to be fair, a challenge only a few people are cut out for), marriage, parenthood, big cities (can’t argue with that one).

Why did she run? We’ll never truly know...

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The Art of War for Writers

Small 4-star rating on dark blue background

Put James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers next to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on your bookshelf—or better, within easy reach! It’s that good.

Using famous and long-ago Chinese general Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as his model, Bell presents vital and valuable information for writers in bite-size chunks. These nourishing and digestible non-chicken nuggets add up to a lot of chapters, yet only two are longer than five pages.

That’s what makes them so useful: you can read a few, set the book aside to ponder them, and then come back without being overwhelmed with information. These chapter titles will give you a sense of what I mean:

  • From Part I, “Reconnaissance”: 21. Put heart into everything you write.
  • From Part II, “Tactics”: 36...
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Critique Technique, Part 38 — Pace: Speed It Up, Whoa It Up, or Change It Up

Racing horses
photo credit: dawvon via photopin cc

In the last article, I identified the general questions critiquers want to ask about scene and story pace—does it vary, is it appropriate, and if not, what needs to change—and eight factors that affect pace: sentence and paragraph length, active or passive voice, dialogue versus narrative, tone, language, description, complexity, and what’s happening.

Now let’s apply the factors to the questions.

Does the Pace Vary?

As I noted last time, even the shortest piece may have a varying pace but once you get beyond the flash-fiction story or filler article, the pace has to change. Readers need changes of pace to keep their interest...

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Critique Technique Bonus Material — Read-Out-Loud Tools and Techniques

We may not think of reading a work out loud as being a useful technique for critiquing a work, but it can be. Before a piece ever reaches a critiquer’s hands, though, authors can use the technique too. This article, then, is more for authors than critiquers, but both can benefit from it.

If you’ve been writing for any time at all, you’ve heard the advice that you should read your work out loud, or have it read to you. The reason is, you’ll hear things go bump or clank in the text that you might not have discovered otherwise. Your brain processes information through different channels when it comes in through your ears as opposed to when it comes in through your eyes. That can be truly eye- (or should that be “ear-”?) opening.

Like a lot of authors, I used to think I ...

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Great Stuff for Writers, March 19 & 20, 2013

Holy hotcakes, Batman! Check out the Great Stuff we’ve got today! The first three posts qualify as Extra-Great Stuff in my mind, and the others are none too shabby themselves. Check ‘em out.


Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s excellent Your Story Opening: Shock vs. Seduction on Jane Friedman’s blog opens today’s Great Stuff, and what an opening it is. This excerpt from her book Fine-Tuning Fiction actually starts with a brief discussion of pace and who drives it—antagonist early, protagonist later—then gets into those two types of openings. The shock opening grabs the reader’s interest and attention right away...

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Great Stuff for Writers, March 14 & 15, 2013

It’s the Ides of March—beware! It’s about to be St. Patty’s Day—rejoice! (But don’t drive afterwards.) Some big news about Google Reader, in case you hadn’t heard, along with our usual supply of Great Stuff.


I’ll let you in on a secret. When Lisa Cron (@lisacron) asks, Does Your Protagonist Have Amnesia?, she’s really asking about you, not your hero(ine). Why? Because, she says, that character’s past is her prologue, what leads to the change she needs to make over the course of the story. If you’ve forgotten to develop the critical details of that past (and not the 1,000-question list of irrelevant details some writing teachers advocate), you won’t know the how and why of the past that makes that change critical...

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