Posts

Showing posts from December, 2011

Three Things (Fantasy) Readers Want

Image
It has been such an encouragement to me how many of you have really gotten some nugget of useful wisdom out of the One-Star Review series I've been posting here--I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement. As I troll more one-star diatribes for cohesive nuggets to post about, I thought I'd take a little detour to talk about what those who posted positive reviews state they want, at least in general terms, from their fantasy reading. After all, of the "big titles" I've been studying, the boo-hiss reviews represent less than 5% of the feedback on any of these books, so it seems prudent to at least touch on what most people are saying.

So here we go. If reviews are to be believed, fantasy readers want...

To visit your world

Fantasy readers generally revel in the opportunity to traverse the map of another land, if the tale you are telling allows for such things. Where the mountains are, how the weather changes from place to place, what rivers must be forded an…

One Star Reviews #4: Grammatical Snobbery

There are none so righteous as the newly converted...

I thought C.S. Lewis had said this, but as I dug around, I was hard pressed to locate an attribution for the quote. But it certainly holds true no matter who the quote belongs to. For those who are freshly educated in the use of language, the brand of righteousness these folks exhibit is irksome to fiction writers.

While not as pervasive as the one-star reasons I've talked about in the first three posts in this series, a refrain I am finding in one-star reviews (and also two-star, incidentally) is grammarphilia. People who stand on the premise that impeccable grammar is far more important than style. Fragments give these people heart palpitations. Prepositions at the ends of sentences are like scarlet letters of the literary world. No self-respecting paragraph would ever have just one sentence.

Now, I am completely on the grammarphiles' side in their assertions that writers should know how to make their nouns and verbs agre…

One-Star Reviews #3: Keep it Relevant

Image
The third prevalent complaint I found in one-star reviews applies most specifically to writers who are forging into subsequent books in a series, and the word of warning one-star reviewers send your way is this: don't ramble. No matter how fascinating you might think the minutia of your world may be, if it doesn't serve to advance the plot in some meaningful way, don't include it.

To be fair, for every one-star review that complains about self-indulgent world building detail, there are ten reviews that rave about the depth of the story teller's world. The majority of loyal fantasy fans eat world details like Edmund Pevensie shovels Turkish Delight, but my study of one-star reviews shows there is a significant percentage of those who don't. As with many things in life, it seems to me moderation is the key.

More specifically, the incensed reviewers became weary when a promising first (or even second or third) book in a series led them into a tome of rambling nothing.…

One Star Reviews #2: Papa Don't Preach

As I continue my quest to squeeze as much wisdom as possible out of one-star reviews of generally respected fantasy books, I came across an issue that a commenter on the last post about this topic touched upon: visible religious content in the narrative. More specifically, overt parallels to Christianity seem to have a distinct talent for drawing the ire of the one-star reviewer.

Some of these reviewers have railed against feeling as though books have snuck up on them under the guise of fantasy stories and then somewhere in the middle, pulled a "bait and switch." Some have even suggested that if authors intend to have Christian content in their stories, that they should preface the book with a warning. Something like a allergen label, I guess:

Processed in a facility that may leave trace amounts of stuff that sounds and feels like the Bible.
Or perhaps: 
Caution: Contains characters that bear an undeniable resemblance to Jesus or other biblical figures
Few reviewers have any…

Reviewer Warnings to Writers #1: Skip the Head Dipping

Image
Over the past few weeks, I've been grabbing a little time here and there to make a study of one-star reviews of fantasy books on Amazon. The content of such reviews has been sometimes funny, but more often very telling. A detailed picture of "what not to do" as an author. Now, granted, I tend to skip over the one-star reviews where the reviewer makes an idiot of him- or herself by spouting vitriol, or spelling every third word wrong, or using syntax that requires the reader to employ a combination of creativity and mind-altering substances to make sense of the reviewer's point.

Anyway, once the chaff blows yonder, what's left is a specific list of what makes readers so mad they feel they have to stand in front of the book in question and wave their arms wildly, saying "Turn back! Turn back! Don't suffer like I did."

One of the biggest reader offenders I'm running into is what I'll call "head dipping." What I mean by that is a stor…

The Do's and Don'ts of Critiquing

Whether your a writer or a reader who knows writers, chances are, you've been asked for your opinion on somebody's story in progress. Talk about a ticklish position to be in, depending on who the asker happens to be. As I've spent time experiencing all levels of experience, from online forums where people have never critiqued anything before, to professional workshops under the guidance of multipublished authors, a list of things we "critters" should do (and a bigger list of those we should not) keep piling up in my mind. I figured, rather than let those take up space in my already cluttered brain, I ought to spill them here and hope they help someone else in their intent to give a good critique.

Here are my general thoughts and observations in the realm of critiquing:

#1-Be realistic about what kind of feedback you can provide--and how quickly.
If you are no grammarian but you know your way around a story, critique what you're good at. It's infinitely mo…