1. live2write
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    live2write Member

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    Getting personal with critiques.

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by live2write, May 3, 2012.

    Critiquing I found especially learned about it in art school revolves around reviewing and giving feedback about the technical and aesthetic features of any form of a medium that can be judged. I found that there is also an opinion that is given that makes the critique more personal. In the past I have reviewed and critiqued other's artist's and writers work and I cannot help myself but state my own opinion about how I feel about the entire work and how I would strike my attention to want more.

    Do you get personal with your critiques, whether it is good or bad, and do you judge based upon only technical and aesthetic qualities.

    Personally I like to give my honest opinion if I want to read more of the story or if it does not interest me because of the technical/aesthetic qualities. Then I offer suggestions that the writer could or could not use.

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    I understand that critiques are always in a matter of opinion and some people take it personally. I can understand that and I have learned to let it go.

    I also understand that some critiques can be taken too far and cause anger and conflict. (In school I have seen two students verbally fighting over the color of a girl's lipstick in a photograph).

    When critiquing what is your opinion about the use of personal opinion and does it help at all or does it cause conflict?
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Contributor

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    I think it's fine to say if you did or didn't like a piece, and even leave a little comment explaining why if you can. But a strictly personal opinion should not be the main focus of a critique - it should be about the mechanics and the writing, what worked, what didn't, how the piece is structured and so on. There should not be a debate on the subject matter itself I don't think, but a critique on how the subject matter is presented.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Lemex, although I try not to give personal preferences in any critique unless the author specifically asks me. I don't think there should be a debate; however, discussion/brainstorming has often proved helpful in clarifying and solving problems, so if it can be kept at that level and not move into an argument...
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you can offer an objective (more or less) reason for every opinion, the writer can follow your reasoning and decide whether it applies to that piece of writing.

    Of course, if your opinion is expressed in aggressive language, no justification will suffice. If you say, "This putrescent piece of writing sucks syphilitic donkey lips," no supporting arguments will turn it into constructive critique.
     
  5. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I've seen two idiots fighting over a girl in a saloon. I think the key word in the argument is "idiots" not what they fight for.

    Well, personally I'm not good enough to fix things like plot development or subtle shades of meaning, or even symbolism. I can find continuity errors, changes in syntax and mistakes pertaining to the hobbies in which I participate.

    I've seen some real vitriol here, and it disturbs me. I do think I get involved when I like the writing of an individual overall. You see a spark, you hope the guy (or redhead) writes more.

    Lately I leave drek lay. It's like my Aunt Clara used to say, "There's no problem that cannot be solved with a few ounces of C-4." For the most part, I agree.

    But with some drek, she'd need a much bigger charge, and I don't have all day... ;)
     
  6. Ventis
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    Ventis New Member

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    It shouldn't be personal. The author can't do anything about your preferences, so how does it help to know about them?
    And 'personal' as in 'offensive' - well. If someone can't write a proper critique, with appropriate and efficient language, tone and arguments... then he obviously isn't a very good writer, no? So why should the author of the story care for any recommendations he makes?

    Of course, a critique can't be 100% objective or impersonal. What 'doesn't work' for one reader can be the best part for someone else. But there should be arguments that will explain why it does or doesn't work. That way if there are two opposite critiques, the author can think about it, compare it with his own intentions and goals and choose the one that works best for him.
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I'm not sure the human mind functions that way, but we should be adult enough to try.

    Look at the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." It's a clear-cut concept, and one of the cornerstones of our laws. If the prosecution cannot make the case, the defendent walks. Yet when that principle is justly applied, look at how many people whine about 'justice' as they see it, an demand society should bend to their whims.

    Doing a critique is a parallel situation. You cannot help but drag around your life experiences in making any choice--including which breakfast cereal to purchase.

    In believing that, I did a critique on my personal critiques. If an honest opinion on drek causes problems, maybe I should sit out the individual case. We no longer have (or tolerate) mentors who will give you a kick in the keester when it's sorely needed. I do see creative people with talent and desire. They should be supported. The guys that hang drek will be sifted out of business anyway.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course, one purpose of a critique is to help the author move from 'drek' to 'good story'. Being too blunt (ie, rude) does nothing to accomplish that. Especially with new writers, one has to nurture more than anything. Note - nurturing is not the same as coddling. Let reviewers and readers cull the herd - the critiquer is there to lessen the chance that author will be among them.

    JMO
     
  9. live2write
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    live2write Member

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    When I am presented with a piece of writing I have not had the problem to address to the mechanics and the flow of the story. However when it comes to the idea the author is attempting to pursue there is a fine line of what the critic thinks is a good direction to pursue or a direction that needs to be improved by rewriting or rewording parts of the story or introducing a possible idea. I believe a suggestion along those lines are a matter of personal opinion and common sense that some writers may take offense to because we are commenting on how the story is told.

    I do enjoy critics offer suggestion to how the story can improve and evolve into a larger idea. I do recommend members doing the same only if the original offer mentioned first hand. There are critiques where I cannot help but tell you author that the story needs more information or more to the meaning.
     
  10. Ventis
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    Ventis New Member

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    Which is why I said they can't be absolutely objective.

    Problem with 'honest opinion on drek' is that people can't agree on what is drek and what is not. There are books that I consider drek, very poorly written and full of elementary mistakes - and yet they're bestsellers and loved by many people.
    On the other hand, since I started to learn more about writing in English, I'm starting to wonder how is it possible that such books as Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion or Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude were published and not thrown away as trash written by a troll... when they ignores so many important 'rules' about writing...
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the route a story takes is the province of the author, and the personal opinion of the critiquer (I really wish there were a different term for that!) doesn't matter. If there are potholes along that route, that's what need to be pointed out, and discussed if the author wants more feedback/brainstorming. So if they choose to use vampires instead of dragons, that's their choice; if they have vampires spewing fire - well, that's something that might need flagging. ;)
     
  12. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Oh, I agree 100%. The issue is the quality. For example, we all love "It's a Wonderful Life." It was considered a flop at release.

    There is no doubt in my mind that over the next year several movies will feature female characters that are crack bow and arrow shots fighting for the oppressed. The refreshed 'Titanic' is being re-released, and already I'm seeing specials on cable. Heck, if they released a new version of 'Easy Rider' the sales of long front ends and shotguns would triple overnight.

    But is it good in the 'crafted' sense of the word? Hell no. My Aunt Clara used to tell my Dad, "Good things are good because they are good." And as foolish as that first might sound, it has merit. Look at well made clothes, automobiles and classic books. You don't have to see many to know how much drek we really have to tolerate.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is getting off topic of "critique - how personal to get." Please remain on topic.
     
  14. kärlek
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    kärlek New Member

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    I'm new here, but it's not like that means I have no prior experience with critiquing. Here's what I say after reading everyone else's thoughts: it's always useful to provide input in regards to structure, grammar, spelling, etc. etc. but that's only useful so to a certain point, and in some cases not useful at all because the person already has impeccable grammar and spelling and has organized their story in an essentially flawless manner. If that's the case, then I think a personal critique is a really good idea because it can be a safe assumption that most everyone who posts on this site wants their work to be read and enjoyed by others. Personal critiques are extremely useful, provided the person doesn't go off on a rant or a personal attack on the author, because it helps the author to see what people do/don't like about the piece and it can help them to get a better idea of who they want their target audience to be. Sure we don't want to be offending people, but we shouldn't be so afraid insensitivity that we pass up every opportunity to help a person develop in their writing.
     
  15. Joey Batz
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    Joey Batz New Member

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    There's always going to be a bit of personal opinion in any supposedly objective review. Look at Siskel and Ebert, two professional critics who would look at the same movie and arrive at two completely different opinions. I believe in trying to be as objective as possible, and that holds true for the technical aspects such as grammar. But when it comes to the plot, characters, and setting, one reviewer might think it's utter crap while another might think it's literary gold. The key is to have a reason to back up your review; good or bad, the writer isn't helped by simply being told that his work is "awesome" or "awful". The reviewer should have a clear, concise, and rational reason to have come to his conclusion about the work's quality. It's a reviewer's duty, I'd say, to let the writer know that his characters are underdeveloped or that his plot is filled with holes. The reviewer may criticize (not with personal attacks, of course), but the readers will be far harsher than any reviewer.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But are you talking about a review or a critique? A review is much more subjective (and opinionated) than a critique.
     
  17. KRHolbrook
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    KRHolbrook Member

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    Whenever I critique someone, I go all out on my own opinions about why I think some things should be changed, which is why sometimes my critiques can be more than four hours long, lol. I don't like simply crossing something out, or throwing in a word, or saying that I don't like a certain something as a reader without giving an explanation on why. I've never been fond of getting critiques that say "I don't understand this," because that leaves the writer with wondering how to fix it, if they (the critiquer) never explained what they don't understand about it in the first place.
     
  18. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    The truth is that I know exactly what you mean.

    My pet peeve is having someone hand you a treatise and having them say, "Tell me what you think, and be honest."

    So I read it, and it's terrible. So I answer the question posed. I reply, "Give up writing, get a job at McDonalds and spare us a sequel, because this was the most pedantic, self aggrandizing piece of drek I've ever seen plagiarized from a Phantom Menace re-write, even with zombies..."

    Next thing I know I'm getting a PM telling me (yet again) I'm in violation of something that I do not even bother reading.

    I have decided to take a new approach. If it's good, I say so. If it is drek, I say nothing, and that speaks volumes all by itself.
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    When you get that comment, you also have to consider the possibility that the problem may rest with the reader and not the writer. Just because someone didn't understand something doesn't necessarily mean you did anything wrong or need to change it at all. If they elaborate on it, then as you say you can make a judgment based on that.
     
  20. KRHolbrook
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    KRHolbrook Member

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    Yeah, I've had a lot of reviews on one of my chapters, and one person had a huge block of text that they didn't understand, but didn't elaborate on it. I think it's my style that threw them off. Also some people have thought my antagonist is a pedophile which is definitely not the direction I was going in with him, but only two people thought that out of of maybe fifteen people that read it. So yeah, sometimes it's the readers who don't see things clearly as others.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    Yes, ultimately the final judgment rests with the writer, who is after all the artist that is trying to create something. Critiques can provide a wealth of ideas and information, but only the writer knows her artistic vision and how best to stay true to it. Tying that in to the original question...I will provide some comments that are more objective in nature, such as perhaps a broad comment or two about grammar, but I feel that the most helpful information relates to what worked for me (or did not work) and why. This is invariably "personal" to some degree, because you aren't commenting on how well someone did on a math problem, but on a very personal expression of that person in the form of creative output. There's no reason to cast the critique in overtly personal language, such as by questioning the intelligence or literacy of the writer, or speculating on their ancestry, but there's no getting around the fact that by the very process of critiquing you are commenting on an intensely personal aspect of the writer's life. At least, that's the case with most writers I know.
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Alright, fair enough. But just how does one read and critque the fourteenth zombie thread of the week that begins, "This is nothing like 'The Hunger Games'...

    The problem there is not the craft, punctuation, syntax or the font used. The problem is a matter of laziness in creating a truly original piece of work. The problem, under those circumstances, is the writer.
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    Maybe. I think you still have to look at the execution of it. There are many novels out there that follow a similar premise, and some of them are well done. Even among published works, if something gets fairly popular you'll see the publishers push out a lot of similar work over the subsequent years. Look at how much Urban Fiction is out there, and much of it quite similar. If the author is very close to something a popular as The Hunger Games I'd certainly mention it, but I think I could still critique the writing itself. Otherwise, I'd probably just skip it and move on to another piece.
     
  24. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    And that is just what I have started to do. While this action is clearly self-preservation, I'm not really doing anything of value for the writer. It's kind of like our national facination with "self-esteem." You tell someone he's 'special' for twenty years and he believes it. Until he gets turned down at his first job interview.

    Same thing here. We try to soften the blow on werewolf and fairy-dust stories by trying to couch our criticism in telling those folks what wonderful wordsmiths they have become. In our hearts we're thinking, "Oy vey, I'll bet the first zombie dies with an arrow fired from a young strong female lead who's running from an oppressive government...yada, yada."

    Part of the craft is crafting.
     
  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    Heh. This is true. It's what comes of rewarding for the sake of rewarding, rather than as a result of accomplishment. No one does any would-be writer any favors by giving them positive feedback that isn't warranted. The only critiques I've ever received that were of much use were the negative ones. I think you can tell someone something that might be harsh, on some level, without presenting it harshly if that makes sense. If the person is thin-skinned enough to take offense at negative criticism even when it is present in an even-handed way, then they're getting into the wrong profession.
     

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