1. JayClassical
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    JayClassical Member

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    Why do friends/family suck at giving criticism

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by JayClassical, Feb 24, 2013.

    How many times have you guys given your precious work for criticism to your friends and family only to have a gloomy or unenthusiastic response. For instance maybe a friend says he'll read it asap and not read it for weeks. Or a family member will read it and give a review a sentence long. I personally think you can never count on a intelligent and thoughtful review from one of your loved ones because even if they are happy and impressed that you are trying to write, no one will take you seriously until you publish.
     
  2. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I think it's just part of the process.

    My dad was an engineer. I was an art major. Yikes. He once found me writing, and I was stumped. When he asked me why I had writers' block, I told him I was having trouble refining a conflict as the center of the story.

    Now, (and no kidding) he said, "Why does every story have to have a problem? Why don't you write a story where everything goes right?"

    But consider the reverse here. I was always baffled by the slavish, robotic way he designed machinery. So what you're actually seeing is a family dynamic, not a writing critique.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, you've got a common dilemma, Jay. I think the problem is that most people in general are not good writing critics, so it makes sense that most of the people you know aren't either. And on top of that, you've got people who don't want to hurt your feelings. It's hard enough to find people who are decent critics to review your work, because they won't always write or get your genre or particular type of writing, and they won't always have the time to do a good critique.

    Have you tried to find some critique groups in your area? Try looking at meetup or googling writing groups and a city near you. Or ask at a local bookstore or library to see if they know of any groups that meet. It's very hard to find a good reviewer/critique partner.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The friends I trust to give criticism are actually pretty good. We are all writers, so hurting feelings is just not an issue. I've seen one of my friends give criticism on a 25 line poem that was about ten pages long. My writer friends are very very good that way.

    My family? They are ok, they are able to give as much criticism as they can, and that's not often very much. Hurt feelings are not an issue with them either but that's the scene they are in. In fact, the best put downs you can hear are at socialite parties - wit can really count for a lot, and whenever I do get a reaction from a family member or family friend it's usually the wit that is the best part of it.

    I've heard, though, other people complain about this sort of thing. I think you might be looking for responses from the wrong people.
     
  5. Snicket
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    Snicket Member

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    My grandfather told me that I have to write simpler or else the reader won't get it. But it wasn't that confusing when I had a couple of good friends who give good critique, who are all online. They aren't writers persay they just enjoy good ideas. My grandfather kind of just like stories that hand out all the information. We're talking he could Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in a year. So....I take his advice with a grain of salt sometimes. He gets so happy that in two days he read two chapters. In one day I could have read 4 and if I really buckled down I could read the whole book in a day.
     
  6. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Family and friends 'suck' at giving worthy critiques because they don't want to hurt your feelings. Friends who promise to read your work and then don't, do it for the same reason--if they don't read it they can't give you any negative feedback. For this very reason that is why there are writing forums, like this one, to give the budding writer an unbiased critique which will point out that needs fixing. That's of course if the poster sees it as help and not just a chance for a stranger to be mean.
     
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  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hurt feelings is one reason. Not interested in what you write is another. Let's face it - just because they're family or friend doesn't mean they want to read a romance when their interest lies in mysteries. This is my big problem with family - they just don't care for the genre I write, or the type of story within that genre. Plus, as was also mentioned, not everyone knows how to give a review or, even more, a critique. Why should they? Just look how many writers come onto forums and are shy about giving comments because they've never done it before and they're afraid of saying the wrong thing or leading the writer in the wrong direction.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Agreed. The only thing some people I know can offer is pointing out spelling errors and typos, and that's it. Anything more complex than that and they are hopeless, because they are just not interested in any of that. They know when they like something they read, but are not fussed about trying to explain why. They either liked it or they didn't.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1.because they're not professional editors/agents/publishers

    2.because they will either be too kind so as to not hurt your feelings, or will be too critical and hurt your feelings
     
  10. JayClassical
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    JayClassical Member

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    It is a problem that they don't want to hurt your feelings even though you tell them that they won't. Sometimes my friends then view it as a chore and I think some people just generally don't want to see others succeed in their goals because it reflects a lack of accomplishment in themselves, its kind of a subconscious thing for people who are generally unhappy. The best criticism that I could ask for is whether the person enjoyed reading it or not. If they were intrigued by the set up. You don't have to be a professional to know if you enjoyed something or not but most of the times my friends and my family barely pick it up.

    Thank god for this site.
     
  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Even when I get published I'm not sure my family members will ever read my stories. That doesn't bother me. I never push
    it. My style isn't there style so I don't go to them for advice. Last time I did my mother repeatedly asked ( not unkindly
    just bewildered ) who would read this? She didn't mean the spelling issues, or mistakes just the subject matter. I think
    that's what can hang-up a lot of family members or friends. Writing can be pretty personal and sometimes a writer can show a loved
    one a shocking side of themselves, he or she never saw before.
     
  12. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I just showed my sister a short story I recently wrote. Well, she read it and English not being her mother-tongue, I wasn't looking forward to much. She was mainly interested in the story, not in the way it's written and whatnot. I suppose Mammamaia is right in saying that family members are not professional editors. My boyfriend is much better, since he's English-speaker, but most of his input is grunts. lol

    I don't show my work to anyone, except for posting it on this forums and it doesn't bother me, but yes I do wish my family could help a bit more. Oh well, it happens.
     
  13. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    I agree with what people are saying here. They don't want to hurt your feelings, and, most of the time, they aren't literature-oriented enough to see what works, and what doesn't. They might not know how to trim a sentence well, the rules of grammar as thoroughly as you do, etc. Also, they might get a little bored if your genre/style doesn't attract directly to them and you're constantly giving them work to read.
     
  14. Merkabah
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    Merkabah New Member

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    I kind of sense not a small amount resentment toward your disinterested family and friends. To this I just have to point out that it could be a lot worse. At least they seem to be supportive of your interest. I haven't mentioned that I started writing to any of my family at all because they are the sort of people that would actively discourage it as a waste of time.
     
  15. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    It could have nothing to do with writing, at all. Yikes, look at all of the family drama that happens at Thanksgiving, at family reunions and on vacations. I don't think it was possible for my dad to enter a room without criticizing someone.

    Then again, it just might be jealousy.
     
  16. Talmay
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    Talmay Member

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    Most people don't want to hurt your feelings, especially family. I'm lucky that mine lets me ramble until I'm finished. They don't outright dismiss me, just politely listen. But they have zero interest in the actual writing process and could care less when I perfect a character arc. The most criticism they could offer is whether the plot is interesting or not and even then I have to remember I'm aiming for a vastly different audience. Main reason I turned toward the online community.
     
  17. Mot
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    Mot Member

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    I know how you feel. The majority of my friend group read three books last year- 50 shades of grey, 50 shades darker and 50 shades free. Their critiques of my stories (when they actually get round to reading the excerpts/plot outlines) are limited to 'no-one will publish that'/'it's not sexy enough'/'there isn't enough action'.

    My family are hideously bad at critique too. "I had no idea you could write!" is generally what they say, despite the fact that the UK has a literacy rate of 99%.
     
  18. RaeRae
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    RaeRae Member

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    I get the opposite...I get nadda! When I pitched a story last year, I got the deer in headlights deal. the few who have read my stuff love it but get angry at me because the stories are not finished. Those people were my weird out the box friends who get it though. My writing is a hybrid of Sci-Fi, Drama, Angst, Old World Combat, Sexual depravity, and Death all with that one character that is such an awful being you hate them but root for at the same time. Needless to say, my family thinks I am mentally disturbed when they read one. I have yet to find someone who can really critique them because I do not belong to any "genre" per se.
     
  19. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    I take any reviews I get from family and friends with a grain of salt. I know they're going to say it's great. They were telling me my writing was good when I was nine years old and writing things like, "Gerchinchicken was a big bad scary indvisule..." for heaven's sake. I only give them things to read when I'm looking to see if something makes sense, or if they catch some symbolism, or if they can spot any inconsistencies or spelling mistakes. Otherwise if I want honest, gritty opinions I turn to strangers.
     
  20. Keith Trimm
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    Keith Trimm Banned

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    People who like to read will read, people you have to ask will blow you off. Don't try to force a review, run it up a flagpole and those interested will salute, The rest will do what they usually do.
     
  21. BBolin
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    I only go to family and friends for "criticism" if I'm looking for validation. I'm just looking for a genuinely positive reaction, to expect anything more from someone who cares about you is pointless (usually-there are always exceptions). If you want to feel good about a piece that you're particularly proud of, take it to friends or family, but if you want a true critique, you have to take it to someone who doesn't know or care about you.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  23. N42
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    N42 New Member

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    They are not good at giving criticism to your works because they care about you, so they don't want to hurt your feelings. This is 1 reason why friends and family are not good people to ask for criticism from. Since you are their friend/in their family, they will have a bias due to not wanting to hurt your feelings, and/or what they think of you.

    Edit: Forgot the thread was old, sorry.
     
  24. Rosacrvx
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    Rosacrvx Member

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    This thread is never old, I'm afraid.
    I can't rely on family (I have to correct their spellings and grammar, not the other way around) and they don't read, period.
    Friends don't help. Sometimes I can beg someone to read and give an opinion, any opinion at all, and I'm lucky if I get a sentence long reply.
    You guys are very lucky to have this forum (and other forums out there). I've no one to ask an opinion about my work. Not even to ask if a comma is out of place. It's lonely and I know that my work would have improved a lot if I had had the minimum amount of help.
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm fortunate, my son is an excellent critic of my work. He believes in my skills, yet has the most relevant critique comments and he's been a tremendous help with brainstorming the future tech and other things in my WIP that he knows more about or has different insight than I do.

    He's always been a voracious reader. But I was still surprised when he turned out to recognize writing issues and techniques. I hope he decides to become a writer some day.
     
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