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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 of Many

Part 4: Series Preview

Reader Response

Part 2: How Do You Feel?

Part 3: 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 7b: More on 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...

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Critique Technique, Part 43—Too Many Notes

Violin bow over music score

Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Ross B. Lampert

Perhaps you remember this exchange from the movie Amadeus:

Emperor Joseph II: “My dear young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”

Mozart: “Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?”

Wow. Talk about a perfect response to an ignorant critic—never mind that the critic happened to be an Emperor! (I guess that would qualify as a 3-star review.) And yet….

The truth is, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. In writing, that “good thing” can be descriptive details. Last time I wrote about the expository lump (a.k.a...

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Critique Technique, Part 40—The Gray Haze

By Ross B. Lampert

Fog over villagePainters have a lot of different tools at their disposal to create an image: oils, water colors, acrylics, computer graphics. Photographers have light, angle, framing, the capabilities of their camera and film or electronics, and of course Photoshop® and its cousins. Sculptors have stone, wood, found objects, metal, even sand.

We writers have words—hundreds of thousands of them in the English language alone—so there should never be a problem with creating a clear image, right?

Alas, we know that’s not true. It’s not how many or how few tools we have at our disposal, it’s how we use them that matters...

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Critique Technique, Part 20—Too Much Setting Detail

Cluttered bedroom

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The flip side of providing vague or insufficient setting detail is providing too much. Drowning the reader in the minutiae of a setting not only kills the momentum of the story, it causes readers to lose interest. For the lucky author, the reader will just skip ahead—a few times, anyway.

But for the unlucky author, or the one who insists on describing the three green sateen ribbons on the head of the second Pekinese from the left, the one with the ghost-grey patch of fur on its back that looks just like a giraffe if you look at it from the right rear, which was hard to do because the dog insists on spinning around, always clockwise, never counterclockwise, to face you, but is now asleep in the brown wicker basket with the braided ...

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Critique Technique, Part 19—Vague Setting

Foggy scene

Image courtesy of Dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Last time I wrote about authors not providing setting information at all, or not providing it soon enough. Not providing enough detail about the setting is a similar problem, but different enough that it gets its own post. Next time we’ll go to the other extreme and discuss providing too much information.

It’s easy for an author to fall into the vagueness trap: after all, his mind’s eye sees the setting the characters are in. That knowledge becomes so ingrained that he forgets the reader isn’t right there with him: she doesn’t see what he sees, know what he knows, etc. In the end, details get left out, even when they’re new and important, and the poor reader becomes a member of the Fugawi Tribe (see Part 18 for an explanation...

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Critique Technique, part 18—Lost in Space

Landing on a mystery planet

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

This is the first of three posts on setting.

Remember that old TV show, “Lost In Space”? Neither do I, really, but that’s OK. The title’s the important thing. I used to be in the Air Force, and there was a joke among us aviators that navigators were members of the Fugawi Tribe. (This was true for Naval aviators, too.)

“Why is that?” you ask.

“Because,” I reply, “you could often find them huddled over their paper charts (this is back in the day—today they huddle over GPS displays, mostly) with their compasses and protractors and special rulers and rotary slide rules...

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