1. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    When a critique group member only gives negative feedback . . .

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by KhalieLa, Jan 13, 2016.

    My critique group met again last night. One of the members is incredibly negative and insist that nothing I write is believable. Most of his critique happens to be along gender-role stereotypes or the instance of inserting a "Christian perspective" into my book.

    My MC happens to the a whore, all other major characters are men. Examples of his critiques are:
    1) She wouldn't own a bow or know how to hunt.
    2) Male character should display more "christian values" and not allow her to be a whore.
    3) She's too intelligent for her station in life. (He thought she shouldn't know the difference between deciduous trees and conifers.)
    4) Male characters should not ask for opinion or advice on anything. THIS WAS LAST NIGHT'S GRIPE!

    How do you handle a critique group member who is consistently gives negative feedback that has nothing to do with the writing, but personal preferences about how the world should be organized?
     
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  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Smile politely, reflect for a few minutes to see if anything he said had value, then ignore everything else. Same process for a negative or positive critic, really.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Just give a polite thanks for the input and tell him that's not really what you're writing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
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  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Just smile politely, thank him for his (not) advice and just write the story. He should be critiquing actual errors/problems in your work, not shoving his bigoted beliefs into your face. Also, raise this to the leader of your critique group. Maybe he/she can do something about this?
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with the rest, a polite thank you, perhaps a simple explanation that you have a different direction in mind, and not one joule more. Sounds to me like Mr. Man is pining for someone to pay attention to the importance of his agendas. Don't be that person. :whistle::agreed:
     
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  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    A simple explanation is just the response he'd be looking for to go on a bigoted rant. Folks like him are looking for reasons to get offended and pick a fight.

    Just smile, thank him, nod, and be on your way, Khalie.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    First, I agree, from the examples you've given, the comments sound like they are more about the story than the writing.

    Try to ignore the fact the critique doesn't sit well with you but still ask yourself some questions about it:

    1) She wouldn't own a bow or know how to hunt.​

    What was his reason for this? Do you need to address how she came to learn hunting? Why is he not finding credibility? Is it all him, or is there any truth to it?

    2) Male character should display more "christian values" and not allow her to be a whore.
    Meh, sounds like you didn't write the character he'd write. You could look at any inconsistencies your character might have. Maybe you need the male character to express something like, "she has to help herself, I can only guide her." It depends on if your male character is consistent or not.

    3) She's too intelligent for her station in life. (He thought she shouldn't know the difference between deciduous trees and conifers.)
    I get a lot of this kind of feedback, but in my case it's because people don't understand the story when they only read an isolated chapter. I have characters that live a hunter gatherer life, but they descended from a modern people and now live in hiding in a forest with access to books, but not to much technology. When a new member joins the critique group they inevitably make comments like, I don't think she'd know that.

    I know to ignore that advice. I fluctuate between being annoyed having to explain it yet again and being pleased I really am writing a unique story.

    But I did take a little away from the comments and have increased the number of inventions the village actually uses, and upped their metal technology. For example, I went from regular bows they hunted with to these really cool ones called a compound bow.
    [​IMG]
    4) Male characters should not ask for opinion or advice on anything.
    This one is bizarre. I can't image how this makes any sense at all. :p


    In other words, don't get annoyed. Mentally stretch the comments to think about any kernel of truth that might be buried in them. But don't worry about a polite, thank you, and then ignore the guy.
     
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  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Gal, it's because we're manly men of manliness and....man stuff. Asking for opinions, advice, and even simple directions makes our man-parts shrivel up. :p Dory from Finding Nemo summed it up best: ‘What is it with men and asking for directions?’ :p
     
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  9. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    In your next installment of your work that you present to the group, write a scene where your main characters keeps getting negative feedback by someone in their life and as revenge they poison their drink. That should do it.
     
  10. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    There doesn't seem to be a leader. More like herding cats. I've been ignoring him for the most part, but I'm wondering if there comes a point where you can just say, "Stuff it!"
     
  11. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Try this ...

    Tell him to shut the fuck up before you cram your three-hundred page manuscript up his ass. Or better still, write a story based on him, and when you read it out to the group, see if he still has any critique left in him.
     
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  12. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    1) Because she is a woman. I am a woman and I hunt. In fact, I am a Hunter Education Instructor for the State of Idaho. My brother is an Archery Education Instructor for the State of Idaho and Range Master for the Sandpoint Archers. We hunt barebow, as dose my MC. (She doesn't get a choice though--modern technology has yet to be invented.) I'm sure the hunting is credibly written, just done by a woman. I've wondered if I should tell him that I hunt and challenge him to shoot against me down at the range. (I would love to best his pompous ass!)

    2) They are goddess worshipers and the male character is her employer.

    3) I did cover how/when she gained her skills, but again he thought that was unbelievable.
     
  13. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    We don't read to the group. We exchange chapters, then meet again a week later to discuss what we read. That allows time for a more in depth critique. He takes up most of the time and includes snarky comments on the manuscript as well. I would like to point out that in the few months that I've been with the group, he hasn't turned in a single thing to be critiqued by us. And I get the feeling that he hasn't had anything critiqued by them in years, possibly decades.
     
  14. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Can't you pick someone else to give your feedback in that case? He sounds like a bitter wannabe who digs into others' work to massage his insecurities. Or one of those people (some of whom are on this forum) who trash talk others work and then attempt to justify their approach by dishing out excuses base on moral obligation, like there's no room for empathy when providing feedback.

    The best way to deal with people like that is to just avoid them if possible. Feedback only really becomes useful when you form correlations as well, so you should get the opinion of others before you even consider his feedback as having any value.
     
  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If he's hogging too much time, that's a different matter altogether. It's something you can raise and that can be dealt with. "Stop being so negative in your critiques" is too subjective, in my opinion, to tackle. I don't think there is a clear line between a mistake and a personal dislike, and if we restrict ourselves to objective SPAG errors we're not critiquing, we're editing. That part, I think you have to just accept.

    If the others in the group feel the same, you can all uninvite him. But if they've allowed him to be there for years, they probably don't.
     
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  16. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I think this is it! He's seeking attention.
    He's in his 60's, I don't think he's ever married, and he lives alone. He wants to feel special or important. That's why I've been politely listening, saying thank you, and moving on. But it's getting to the point where I want to strangle him. It's been 11 chapters of "men don't listen to women" and "women can't do the things men can."

    In the chapter I got back last night, he was mad that the MC was the first to spot the wolf, even though she was last in the column and therefore in the best position to notice if anything was taking an interest and following them. He thought one of the men should have seen it first. Then, when in camp, the party leader compliments her skills and ask her how it is that she notices so much that they miss. She basically says, I spent my youth hiding in the forest, being observant was necessary for my survival. He thought this was unrealistic because the man wouldn't have given her a compliment and she would not have been able to survive on her own in the forest. They when they rode out the following day the leader asked her to send word up the column if she sights the wolf again. And he thought that was unrealistic because the leader would have moved her to the middle of the column and replaced her with more qualified man before asking her to do anything.

    Totally irritating.

    So without and actual group leader, how would you bring this up? Or do you just keep ignoring him?
     
  17. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    There is someone like him in every group. If you can't identify that person in your group, you the one.
    Just kidding.
    Maybe try and write the most boring crap you could imagine. Bulk it up in the group, then when he comments how boring it is, just tell him you tried to write something he would like.
    He will get the message.
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    First, learn how to ignore, do not tell him to fuck off. It does no good. Learn how to smile and ignore people.

    One of the hallmarks of a critique member failure (and I've been in an excellent group for 3 years now) are those members who argue with other members. Try at all costs not to argue. Your goal is to get useful feedback, not to convince other members that your work is good.

    So how can you get useful feedback from bad critics? Sometimes you can't. But it's still worth considering, is there any grain of truth to the critique?

    #1) I am not questioning the character in your story. Women hunting is not unusual. And you may have written the character beautifully. The critic in your group may truly be full of it.

    All I'm saying is, check that you did indeed grow your character in the reader's mind so that how/why she is a hunter is clear.

    In common fantasy stories, one need not explain a female bow hunter. But that depends on the story.
    Extreme example: if you have a city girl who never had a need or reason to learn bow hunting. Now you may need some backstory reference to explain her skill.
    #2) Then you might want to ask the critic why he thinks a male should 'control' his boss.

    #3) This applies to #1 more than to #3.

    I don't need you to justify the story to me, I haven't even read it. And you certainly don't need to justify your story to the critic in your group.

    What I'm saying is, don't worry about justifying your story. Instead ask yourself if there is or is not any round-about truth in what the critic is saying.

    That's what I meant by my bow example. I didn't need to justify how my characters had technical knowledge while they hunted with bows in the forest when my critique group found it illogical. But aside from their confusion, I did recognize from their comments that more was needed in the story. I didn't need to change my story, I merely adjusted it.

    On the other hand, I have frequently told critics, "that's not the story I'm writing".


    Here's another example. Our group leader is writing a story with all sorts of 'that wouldn't happen that way' comments. I can see he's getting tired of hearing it. I just tell him 'you know the trouble I have with the story premise' and go on to give whatever critique I can.

    But last week I noticed he was trying to make some corrections. A lot of stories require the reader to suspend belief. Divergent, for example, is genetically impossible. I couldn't stand the story because of it. But most readers were able to suspend belief and just enjoy the story. So he's recognizing that he needs to do something else to move the reader past the logic problems rather than just getting annoyed people are not suspending belief that he is trying to achieve.
     
  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Oh sweet zombie lord Jesus Christ shambling on the tripwire, he sounds like the most pathetic human being in existence. He's nothing better to do with his now quite limited time on Earth than to shred your work, does he?

    Just...wow... o_O

    Bring it up next time. He may be a 60-year-old man, but you don't have to take shit from that old fart.

    EDIT TO ADD: Ginger does have pretty useful advice, though. :) Wanted to add something before I get this post deleted 'cause I was just talking smack about that old guy. :p :D But basically, sometimes an asshole is just an asshole.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
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  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If you don't have a group leader who shuts-up the group monopolizers, you may have to take on that role yourself. One of our members brings a timer and when people go on too long the bell rings. Bring it up with the group that some individuals are taking up too much time and ask how they'd like to solve the problem.

    As for him not seeking critique of his own, we don't allow it. You can come empty handed once in a great while, but otherwise you're politely told to stop coming.
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Another thing we do in our group is encourage the sandwich approach. Say something positive, then negative if you have anything, then end with something positive.
     
  22. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    But this old guy seems to be relentless with his "women can't do xyz!" and "men don't listen to women!" It seems to me that he's subtly injecting his bigoted opinions onto her work.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is too much, "that's not the story I'm writing".

    As for the gender issues, I might be tempted to say something about how old fashioned that nonsense is.
     
  24. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I vote we all kidnap him, and make him write 'I will not criticize others' work again' one-thousand times on a chalk board.

    :superyesh:
     
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  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    :supergrin:
    I wouldn't waste my time doing this.

    But you are absolutely right, we can't control who's in our group either. And frequently we'll have someone that bores the hell out of me. Nothing you can do, usually.
     

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