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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Ways to Critique » critiquing guidelines (set 1)

   
Author Topic: critiquing guidelines (set 1)
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Member # 59

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SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY WORKSHOP SELF-EDITING CHECKLIST


PLOT PROBLEMS:

pseudo-situations:
----"so what?" story--situation in story is not desperate enough to make
reader care whether it is resolved or not
----situation is too easily resolved, uninteresting
----misunderstanding (there would be no story if the characters would just
sit down and talk to each other)
----contrived plot (protagonist does something stupid, against all advice
and his or her own best judgement, just so there is a story)

starts in wrong place:
----too late (writer either has to backfill like crazy or reader doesn't
ever know what is going on)
----too early (writer takes too long to set up the situation and clarify
what the objective is, boring reader in the process)

holes in logic:
----motivation doesn't make sense
----reactions don't make sense
----reasoning behind resolution doesn't make sense
----objective or situation doesn't make sense

imposed solution:
----deus ex machina (something or someone totally out of the protagonist's
control solves the problem for him or her)
----coincidence (resolution totally unlikely--obviously the writer arranged
it)

others:
----off-stage action (point-of-view character (and therefore reader)
doesn't see what happens and so needs to be told)
----protagonist doesn't solve his or her own problem, too passive/helpless


CHARACTERIZATION PROBLEMS:

wrong choices:
----wrong protagonist--should be person most deeply concerned by the
situation, the one with the most to lose
----wrong view-point character--should be protagonist; if it isn't, there
needs to be a good reason why not

unbelievable characters:
----hero is too completely good, too one-sided, boring
----villain is too completely evil, too one-sided, boring
----characters don't talk like real people
----characters' actions and motivations aren't thought out or clear enough

others:
----unnecessary characters--the story works without the character, so get
rid of him or her


STYLE PROBLEMS:

----lack of sensory data (people can smell, taste and touch as well as see
and hear things, and aliens or magical beings may do even more)
----irrelevancies emphasized--detailed descriptions of unimportant things
----frustrating omissions--writer skims over key elements to understanding
----weak or overused words: very, but, then, seem, felt, suddenly, rather,
almost, nearly, slightly, certain, quite, was, -ing and -ly words
----too many point-of-view shifts--need a good reason for jerking reader
around from head to head or else don't do it


MISCELLANEOUS PROBLEMS:

----doesn't touch the reader, lacks emotional content, doesn't make the
reader care about what happens

reveals a Wonder, but is not a story:
----no clear protagonist, or person who has a problem
----no clear objective or need that motivates the protagonist, except one
that may be revealed at the end of the story
----no real complications to make the protagonist's attempts to reach his
or her
objective interesting to the reader
----no clear resolution to any situations in the story
----none of the characters are changed by what happens in the story
----story is not science fiction (take out the science and you still have a
story)
----story is not fantasy (take out the magic and you still have a story)
----story is not any of the above, and it doesn't scare the editor
----story is X or R rated, and so is not acceptable for this publication
----supportive details missing (story seems to happen in a vacuum, needs
the interesting little wonders that make people read SF/F/H)
----implications in story not thought out
----telling instead of showing--examples:
"He got away." (instead of describing how he did it)
"She was dressed funny." (instead of describing her clothes)
"He was angry." (instead of showing how he acted so the reader could
see his anger)
"It was cold outside." (instead of describing the way it felt to be
outside)


Kathleen


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Member # 59

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