Why do friends/family suck at giving criticism

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

  1. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    2,619
    Likes Received:
    3,192
    Location:
    The People's Republic of New Hampshire
    Most people (even friends and relations) just don't care. Everyone says, "I can't wait to read it" but that's usually bullshit. And if it's not in actual paper form with a cover and familiar dimensions they look at it like it's written in Sanskrit. I gave up a long time ago with friends and family as beta readers. I send stuff to them and if they want to read it, fine. If not, no worries. My mother isn't a problem though. She's an English teacher, lol....
     
    Rosacrvx likes this.
  2. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    7,260
    Likes Received:
    3,850
    I've said this earlier on. It's a LOT to ask someone to read to a novel you wrote. Were I to ask a friend, I would preface it with "Look, I recognize this is a huge favor. This is very important to me and I will owe you BIG time."

    The biggest reason I can see a friend or family member secretly not wanting to read your work is simply power struggle. It's the equivalent of sitting at dinner and letting your friend do all of the talking a thousand times over.

    The second biggest reason is intimacy. You're asking someone to read 100,000 words that came from the heart, which you've slaved over endlessly.

    The third is awkwardness. What if they don't like it?

    I really don't think asking a friend to read a novel you wrote is much different from taking off your clothes and asking them to evaluate your body.
     
    Homer Potvin likes this.
  3. TheeFreakShowee

    TheeFreakShowee Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2017
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    6
    That is a weirdly perfect way to describe it, actually... but does that make it any better to do the same in front of a complete stranger?
     
    123456789 likes this.
  4. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    8,028
    Likes Received:
    7,742
    If the stranger is a doctor, it makes sense. If the stranger is an editor, it makes sense.

    If you're never going to see the stranger again and you really, really, really want someone's opinion, I guess it makes sense then, too.
     
  5. TheeFreakShowee

    TheeFreakShowee Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2017
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    6
    True, true. That does make some logic. Now if only some trust could be scrounged up for the strangers... (personal problem).
     
  6. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2017
    Messages:
    344
    Likes Received:
    195
    Location:
    Greater London, England
    I mentioned this on another thread, but my parents do not believe in writing as a stable career and thus tried to tell me that writing is a waste of my time, which should be put towards getting a 'real job'.

    There's that, and I'm a fan of fantasy, which they're not in the least. So they doubly suck for serious critique.
     
  7. FireWater

    FireWater Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2016
    Messages:
    330
    Likes Received:
    199
    Reading that pissed me off. Here's this: complete all your in-progress novel projects (if you haven't already), get them revised and critiqued by mentors until they're good like a boss, get published, and live the life of your dreams. You'll be the one with the last laugh then.

    Of course most of us need to have day jobs too. But to dissuade your kid from following their passion and saying it's a "waste of time"? Fuck that very much.
     
    Rosacrvx likes this.
  8. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    7,260
    Likes Received:
    3,850
    That's what makes WF so valuable. Hopefully you will find trustworthy people here to critique your work.
     
  9. FireWater

    FireWater Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2016
    Messages:
    330
    Likes Received:
    199
    This is also why it's great to have non-online writer friends. We can swap each other's work and it's not a favor or one person putting a burden on the other, because you can both trade novels equally. Also, they'll understand the critique mentality and can be more helpful than the obligatory "it was great."
     
  10. Youssef Salameh

    Youssef Salameh Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    50
    Yes, family members, namely relatives, tend to encourage us on writing. But the point is how meaningful is what we write. I mean, mean how meaningful to the writer and to the reader as well. When a reader reads a certain writing, he is a part of that work, whether he liked it or not. His response and criticism reflects his feelings at that particular time; the time when he read. But this is not a rule.
     
  11. Jupie

    Jupie Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    162
    I have to agree with Homer about most family/friends not caring. For instance, I recently posted on Facebook asking for people's thoughts about my book title. I said: "'Sent from Above' or the 'Library of Secrets' for my next novel. What d'ya think?" The replies were as follows...

    Chris Harris Depends what it's about. If it's the story a rogue parachuter, the former; but if it's about a building whose sole purpose is storing books but they're a bit shit at self-promotion, then the latter.
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · Yesterday at 4:52pm

    Nathan Stone Library from above!
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · Yesterday at 5:49pm

    Ashley Metcalfe This cheese sandwich is off

    That last one particularly shows my friends level of interest. Hah!

    But I have to say whenever I do ask I feel like I'm almost holding them at gunpoint. They really aren't that bothered about my writing life. But they are busy folk and in the end it's readers I want!
     
    jannert likes this.
  12. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    29
    I've experienced the same. My brother is a slight exception because he's always loved reading the genre I work in, but even from him I can only get a few sentences' response. But while his response was terse, it showed appreciation for the themes I had expressed. It may have been terse, but while we as artists need a lot of encouragement, (I mean, why do we HAVE forums like this in the first place?), we can't expect a huge response to one chapter. Even from our family members. We have to learn to find validation in ourselves, and in even the shortest of responses. That's true, even here in writing communities.
     
  13. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    29
    If I can go a little further: imagine you're a painter. You know all about brush sizes and brush types. You know about strokes. You know about canvasses. You know about methods of shading. You know about noses. You know about bone structure. You know about reflections in the eye. You dream about the peculiar way a tiny muscle movement affects the cheek, and its emotional context.

    Non-painters don't ruminate about these things. They just know they like it.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  14. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    391
    Location:
    The middle of the UK
    I'm lucky in that many of my friends are non native speakers of English, so while they may ask to read something, they rapidly put it back down, and I get the peace of mind that it's entirely linguistic.

    My English friends don't ask and I don't, either.
     
  15. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    3,269
    Likes Received:
    3,178
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    Teachers have it easy. They whip out a draft, narrate it to the class. A great exercise if your ego is wobbly:

    'And the author, his motivation..?'

    'Troubled soul, a beautiful mind...'

    'Exactly.'

    'I think it's boring...'

    'You know nothing Esmerelda, GET OUT. The rest of you, any idea who actually wrote this? No, no, not Nigel Farage, think again. Yes it was me, thank you. Who would like a copy? Nobody, little shits, you try writing it. God's sake, give me teeth...'
     
  16. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    29
    Laughed aloud at this. Damn good comedy!
     
  17. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    9,376
    Likes Received:
    9,181
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think it's absolutely essential—no matter who your beta readers are—to make it clear at the start that it's perfectly okay for them to not like what you wrote. It's okay if they can't get past the first page. Make it clear (and you must mean it) that your relationship will NOT be affected by their reaction. Keep saying to yourself : everybody's tastes are different.

    If they find it's not their thing, you do want them to let you know. Otherwise you'll be sitting around expecting feedback you're not going to get. Request for closure is a reasonable request. However, make it clear that your response will be, "That's fine. Thank you for trying. No problem."

    You MUST gear yourself up for disappointment. The fact that people are your friends and family does not mean they're going to enjoy your writing. They might—and that will be a thrill. But they also might not. And you really won't know ahead of time.

    The last thing you need is a beta pretending to like something, just because it's YOU who wrote it. Or because they don't want to hurt your feelings or make you angry.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  18. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    29
    Really, it helps if your family disowns you. That's the only way you're gonna get objective critiques.
     
  19. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    3,269
    Likes Received:
    3,178
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    I have done this actually. Seeing her at the time, but she then insisted, and brought her friend Beccy into the room. I sat in the corner with my shirt off, and the two girls stayed cross-legged on the bed, shared a J actually, laughed at me, my malfunction, the dip in chest. You can rest a cup in it, they said. The day ruined my life.
     
    123456789 likes this.
  20. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    29
    Reading about it ruined mine. *shudder*
     
  21. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2017
    Messages:
    296
    Likes Received:
    39
    they are afraid of hurt feelings and damaged relationships

    an editor only cares about the content
    and will be free to be totally honest



     
  22. Sam Cox

    Sam Cox New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2017
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Sussex
    You should never ask family or friends to edit or check your work unless they are avid writers themselves.

    After all, if you ask for a review from someone who has dissimilar interests, you're not likely to get useful critique back as they might not be entirely sure what it is you are asking for. Not only this, but they might just tell you that the writing you have provided is good out of a sense of duty. Happened to me once and it was not at all helpful.
    Best to stick with writing forums.
     
  23. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    8,028
    Likes Received:
    7,742
    I would say avid readers rather than avid writers. I don't think it's that important that they write themselves--often writers are the worst betas, in my experience, because they're too focused on their own style and preferences.
     
    amerrigan, joe sixpak and Jupie like this.

Share This Page