Encouragement or criticism.

Discussion in 'General Writing' started by deadrats, Aug 2, 2022.

  1. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    All these opinions that are against feedback makes me wonder why we spend billions on teachers and why writers even make use of beta readers?
    I don't know about others, but thanks to this forum I learned some important things, such as not to have too much text in a dialogue tag, as one of many examples. That is just one way that feedback has helped improve my writing. Sure I may never get published, but feedback sure brought me closer to getting published.

    Isn't it partially for others we are writing? The opinion of someone else regarding your writing does carry weight, it is important, it can determine our success. So getting feedback on your early version can help improve later versions.

    Same here.
    I think it boils down to us humans wanting to be loved. Loved by everyone... a sea of love embracing us and cheering our name throughout the eons of time.
     
  2. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    We evolve as writers. Almost certainly we would expect to have more conviction now than when we first started. Critique therefore has a different role to play depending on which stage we are at. My previous points were centred around writers at the beginning of their journey.

    interesting to see people commenting on how they perceive themselves and others and the stages they are at.
     
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  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Someone above mentioned barbed critiques.

    Barbs are points aimed to hurt or kill. I never include barbs here. I'm never harsh or brutal, my critiques are neutral. I would only sharpen the barbs if I were criticizing a dead author. And even then, Im not a person who generally expresses myself in the negative. I'm pretty balanced.

    When I brought up the masculine and feminine aspects, that isn't a dichotomy, it's a sliding scale. Most of us aren't all the way at one end or the other, those are pure abstractions and real people aren't so precise. We tend to lean one way or the other to some degree, and as I said earlier, on a good day most of us can be pretty neutral or include the other side in our critiques. But under duress we tend to slide farther into the extreme. Not only that, but your position along that scale will fluctuate from day to day (while generally remaining on your natural 'side').

    I'd say my natural position along that scale is somewhat into the masculine side, but not by much.
     
  4. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    I think the Byron quote was about this.
    The Quarterly likes to think it has killed John Keats - but it expresses that thought in ghastly Romantic rhyme in the style of, and as vainly as, the deceased poet. And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Byron's barb becomes an epitaph.
    (I don't know if it was in a journal itself as would be nice, or a letter. It goes on to mention arrows, so very much critique-as-"barb")

    But I say again, the true audience of critique is the third-party reader. On WF we don't have many skilled-but-naff poets like Keats.
    What there is sometimes is ill-intentioned Workshop threads where a veneer of fiction-writing is used as a cover for content that's sick.
    A barb pierces through that veneer, and shows the third-party reader how to expose the writer's probable intentions toward them.
    And that needs to stick in the mind, and be replicable and general - and the snark, or pointedness, or sharpness of it is in proportion to the future usefulness of the critical tool that's being shared.

    So for suicide content, I can tell to look out for encouragement to self-insert into a character with no agency who thinks about sleeping a lot and dies at the end (often in some sort of misty forest).
    But by g-d I'm gonna show-not-tell in my critique if I think there's something like that in a piece.

    The craft of honing sharp barbs is integral to critique and we'll endanger ourselves and others if the forum rule (it shall be obeyed, it shall be obeyed) on civility is over-applied and crushes that out .

    On this thread, encouraging budding writers is assumed to be a universal good.
    Idiocy. Some budding writers are insane and evil and craft stories not for publication or money or vanity but specifically to try make and kids hang themselves.

    But you like the esoteric, so I'll suggest the Sumerians were onto something when they restricted writing to the priesthood.

    Magicians hear the words of evil spirits.
    Writers make words last outside the speaker - sometimes for decades!
    So best be careful about whom we teach the secret.
    For good measure we'll make all the letters really fiddly.
     
  5. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    An example of my critique style:

    I noticed that you head hop between characters (there was not consistent point of view). That had the effect of jolting me out of the story as I had to stop and think for a moment, it made me wonder, did I miss something. I do not claim to be an expert, but you may want to look at this book I was recommended by my editor that helps me with the same issue:

    Unmasking the mystery of 'Point of View.'

    I am happy to discuss with you what I know. Maybe you can show me a few things too?


    So if we look at this, I point out an issue, sign post a solution, make it clear that I don't know everything, infer that I am still learning. I don't labour the point by over explaining or justifying my observations. The writer may not like what I have to say but other readers will probably point out the same issue. At some point the penny will drop for the writer and its up to them what they wish to do about it. They may address it right away or it may take many years.

    I know when I first started writing, i just wanted to write. I heard what people were saying but I had too many words to write to stop and pay attention. Eventually I got exhausted and it suddenly made a lot more sense when people told me there were easier and more efficient methods I could look at.

    Anyhow, rather than over explain ourselves, maybe you could all show us examples of how you critique or deal with it.
     
  6. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    I seem to remember WF having a rule or guideline along the lines that critique is above criticism.
    I'm not sure if that applies outside the workshop so will try to follow the spirit rather than the letter.

    But when receiving critique, especially if we disagree, I think it's often a good idea for people to look through the other user's replies to workshop threads in their forum posts to get the true picture of their style and methods.

    - Are they active and keeping themselves practiced?
    - Do they give themselves a varied diet and take on new challenges, or do they only fix toytown problems in new writers' first drafts?
    - Are they going line-by-line and showing they've read the whole thing, or spaffing out 2-3 lines of reinforcing waffle to build up credits for their own workshop submissions?
    - Are they telling people how to critique - starting threads about it and pontificating about the theory - without showing how it's done by ever posting critique in the workshop?
    - If they have perhaps studied some critical methods, do they mention when they're using them?

    My critique certainly isn't perfect. But I do walk-the-walk; I haven't had any sanctions yet; and more people have pretended to be pleased than have protested.
    If I say something is good - then it's on the basis that I'm indifferent to the other writer and if anything have probably found them watching me work a little awkward. So there's a chance that whatever good thing I've said I've found might - possibly - be novel.
    Amongst the other type of critic - who say everyone can improve and we're always progressing - are hiding hacks, and charlatans, and the cultists of mediocrity.
    If we write in line with the latest industrial formula; if we subscribe to this correspondence course; if we buy a thing - we can all become Harlan Coben.
     
  7. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    @evild4ve
    In your perfect world, would only those of the appropriate morality and conformity become writers? Then who decides what is morally right to write about? Or who decides on the standards of art? Or am I misunderstanding you? By reading some of your posts I get the impression you want writing to be something exclusive to a certain group of people, is that right?

    I agree with you that some individuals that want to cause harm through their writing, should have a harder time finding success. And there should be counter writing or opposition to their harmful work.
     
  8. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    What I said earlier to Xoic was just that the Sumerians did restrict writing to the priesthood (I should say we probably don't know for sure, they might have).
    But I'm not personally advocating returning everything to the 3rd-millennium BC.

    I want to go much further!

    In my perfect world, we'd be mute
    We would no longer need the novelty of novels to hold off the falling ruins of our eternally-collapsing linguistic structures
    And we would no longer need critics to guide our exodus from Language
    We could be like bipedal hippopotami. Anthropotami - happy in the river.
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Who decides this, and how? I think a lot of them aren't trying intentionally to do anything of the sort, they may just be honestly expressing what they feel.

    But as with certain other threads I've been involved in lately (a little too involved) the focus is supposed to be on writing—specifically in the case of workshop threads on helping them learn to write better—not on deciding what the writers secret intentions might be and playing judge jury and executioner. It's the moderators' job to decide if the content is appropriate or not.
     
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  10. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    The critic is failing themselves, the writer, and the audience if they can't form a view on whether a story is well-intentioned or not. If we can't tell shakespeare from a viagra advert, and laud the one while commending the other to the dustbin, then what is the point of us?
    If critique breaches the rules of the site, the moderators can remove it. I haven't known that to happen to mine, so perhaps what are we arguing about?
    But if the moderators are the only people who can express views on whether a piece is appropriate, then they should critique the whole workshop. First. Perhaps exclusively, or perhaps on the important points leaving some impoverished domain of topics to the other users. Maybe we could be allowed to point out typos.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2022
  11. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor

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    Oh shit, my cover's blown.
     
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  12. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    It's not necessarily a bad thing - and you'll always be the original.
     
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  13. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Member

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    Ideas, creativity, self-expression, the imaginative spirit, should always be praised and encouraged. Nothing kills motivation like having your ideas judged harshly.

    Then evaluate structure fairly.

    This applies to kids and adults alike.

    My ten-year-old grand-nephew's grade 4 class was given an assignment to write a story about Santa Claus. He wrote a story in which Santa died and the elves time-travelled back in time to save Santa. The teacher went up in front of the whole class and waved the story around, criticizing it, saying, "Santa can't die!"
     
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  14. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Dog mom Contributor

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    Some people have no idea how to teach and shouldn't be allowed around children.
     
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  15. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    On Writingforums.com on Sunday it was your nine-year-old nephew - https://www.writingforums.com/threads/i-need-help-with-something.199334/
    So congratulations to him on recently making it to double-digits! :)
    And for being a studious viewer: he must have only been 1 when 'Saving Santa' came out

    I feel a little sad though that other than minor text edits we're the #2 and get copypasta
    And even worse - for us! - we must seem like we're a generation older
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2022
  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    The job of the mother is to pamper and praise children (even as adults we need it sometimes), to make them feel good about themselves which instills confidence. The job of the father is to challenge them so they'll grow and learn to deal with adversity. If they get too much pampering and not enough challenging they'll grow up terrified of adversity. They should learn to meet it with gusto. Of course not everyone needs to do both jobs, it's natural for each of us to lean more toward one, and maybe throw in a little of the other now and then. But hopefully people are getting both sides of the equation.

    And one of the major differences between the kind of critique we do on sites like this and what I call 'criticism' is that we're also teaching. Well, that's actually what we're doing period. In part we do it on specific issues by dissecting lines of text, but I think one of the most important things we can do for developing writers is to point them toward some of the big principles they might not have encountered yet.

    Showing and telling, POV, story structure, character arc, the fact that story is built around conflict, etc. These are the important things many writers are unaware of when they get here.

    I had developed an intuitive understanding of showing and telling, but I didn't know there was a name for it. Learning that and reading a few good articles about it really sharpened up my knowledge. And then explaining it to newcomers helped me sharpen up even more—as they say, nobody learns more than the teacher. That one's pretty simple really, mostly it just takes linking them to the information, then they can practice it going forward. POV is a much bigger subject. All we can do is point out the importance of it and recommend some good books. Then the ball's in their court. @Not the Territory and @Wreybies launched me on that one, for which I'm forever grateful.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2022
  17. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Member

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    I realized I was wrong about his age and made the correction.

    It is a true story
     
  18. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    I was going to suggest this book for this thread before as the underlining theme all the way through is one of who has control...

    An example:

    As husband and wife are walking through a park on a hot day. They near a ice cream stall.

    He asks, 'Those ice creams look nice, do you think we should have one?'

    She answers, 'Oh Hermantrude, make your own mind up. If you want one then just go and get one! Why do you always have to ask me whenever you want something.'

    Lots of things are going on here, but essentially the wife is responding to her husbands inner child as she subconsciously picked up that he is speaking to her as if she were his mother. She may not of intended to scold him but she reacted instinctively to this transaction. He had not expected her to react like this. As unintentionally he was speaking as a child (or was he!), when he actually intended the question to be aimed from his adult to his wifes adult (adult adult transaction). What resulted was a game. It is called a game as the behavior characteristics are repeated continually regardless of subject. They express the hallmarks of a game until one or the other persons rectify the situation by not playing the game. Just as an aside, if Hermantrude had framed the question as an adult to his wifes adult, she may have taken the option to respond to him as his mother would! Thus, potentially rendering him in child mode, the game then may perpetuate. So trying to stop a game player by not playing their game is not always as easy as it seems. Best to eek out an adult response if you can manage it.

    So the point is, if you ask a question of someone you do not know, and certainly you are asking that person for knowledge or advice etc (you are asking them for something) beware the possibility that they instinctively feel they have the upper hand. They may put you in child mode as this puts them in their usual position (call it what you might: teacher, mummy daddy). This type of transaction (a game) happens instantly and often between people that are complete strangers. One person thinks I am talking control, the other thinks, 'that was a bit brash,' but allow transactions carry on on that basis.

    The reason I mention this is that when the 100% controller of a piece of work asks for help (the writer), they must allow at least some degree of control to the help giver (beta reader etc). This is actually a big ask and I don't think writers are prepared for how this makes them feel and think. It is rather like someone taking their leg and saying I will examine this and tell you what I think in two weeks!

    Anyway, I waffle on. The Book is called The Games People Play by Eric Berne. It is a guide to transactional analysis.
     
  19. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Member

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    Lots of wisdom here.
     
  20. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    Is any story about the past true?
    The universe seems determined that only the present exists.
    And if the past no longer exists, how can it have a truth-value?
     
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  21. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Member

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    Now who's veering into philosophy? ;)

    The past exists in memories. And the fMRI scans below exactly where these are stored.

    [​IMG]
     
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  22. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Each time you call up a memory, it gets modified slightly. The way we remember things, especially from childhood or a long time ago, is heavily distorted by nostalgia and many other factors.

    Modifying Memory: Selectively Enhancing and Updating Personal Memories for a Museum Tour by Reactivating Them

    And hisotry is far from objective. Ask an American and a Japanese about WWII.

    Oh wow. Sorry, I thought this was the Science thread!
     
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