"At a Glance" Criticism

"At a Glance" Criticism

A Lesson by N. C. Matthews
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Criticism can be constructive or deconstructive. Sometimes, however, you really can't tell. Read more at http://LetUsWrite.wordpress.com

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For me, there is a little known third category of criticism that exists somewhere between constructive criticism and deconstructive criticism.

 

I have already said that constructive criticism is basically designed as an honest opinion to help the writer clear up things that the reader did not understand or thought would make the story better in their eyes.  Deconstructive criticism, on the other hand, is designed to make the writer feel bad about their writing ability, to openly bash a piece of work, and seldom has any value or bearing on what the story is actually about.  I consider people who give negative feedback based solely on their dislike of the theme to be giving deconstructive criticism because it does not help the author in any way.  Not everyone is going to like a particular theme or storyline, so feedback based solely on such opinions is useless.

 

The third type of criticism is criticism 'at a glance.'  It can be constructive criticism that, at first glance, sounds like deconstructive criticism.  It can even be criticism that you are not sure if it was meant to be helpful or if it is a sarcastic comment that is meant to make the author look like a fool for not getting facts straight.  It is often the result of a reader not really reading the story, not paying close attention to what is being written, or not fully understanding what is going on in the story.  I had this happen to me recently with the latest published installment of The Red Fang. 

 

Here is the excerpt in question:

 

....." It is common vampiric knowledge that a human who ingests enough human blood over a long enough period would eventually die. There is a legend among our kind. A vampire named Tao came across a young girl named Addalynne. When he found her, she was mortally wounded. The legend has changed as time has changed. She was attacked; she was raped and left for dead; she was discovered in a car wreck on the side of the road. But the names have remained unchanged over the centuries."  Copyright 2010 Nicola Matthews.

 

Here is the comment I received from a reader:".....Copyright 2010 Nicola Matthews.  All Rights Reserved.

I received this comment regarding this portion of the story:

"You are writing about an old legend where some girl is found raped in a CAR WRECK. Cars (that you can get into) were first made in the late 19th century.  Kind of a short time for a tale to turn into a legend... Unless your world is set like 8 centuries in the future.  I would really leave out the car wreck part or change it a bit."

 

When you first read this, you may not know if this is meant to be constructive criticism or a sarcastic comment meant to make me look like a fool.  In one aspect, it IS trying to be helpful by letting me know that having a 'legend' that has a girl found in a car wreck is a bit far-fetched and tends to make me look foolish.  On the other hand, the first lines of the comment almost sound sarcastic and could be interpreted as a stab at making me look foolish for not having facts straight as opposed to trying to keep me from  looking foolish by pointing out an discrepancy.  Either way, it doesn't matter because it is the READER who is in the wrong.  The person making this comment misunderstood what the story actually said.  That passage does not state that the girl of legend was found raped in a car wreck.  What it DOES state is that the legend has changed over the years.  Her being found on the side of the road is one version of the legend, her being found attacked was another version, her being found raped and left for dead a third version.  

 

At first glance I was not really sure what the reader was talking about, if they were sincere or trying to be sarcastic, and/or if the comment had any bearing on the storyline at all.  I kept running the story over and over in my mind, wondering if I had really made such a blaring oversight in my story.  Had I made the legend specifically stating that she was found in a car wreck, and this legend had been passed down for centuries, then there would have definitely been egg on my face.  I had to go back and read the excerpt in question to fully understand what the reader was talking about and realized that, thankfully, it was the reader who had misunderstood what I had written.

 

It is up to the author to try to decipher if the criticism is worth investing any time in.  Is it helpful to the storyline?  Would taking the advice change the storyline to the point that you feel it would not work?  Do you just like the way you wrote the story regardless of what others think?  In the end, it is left up to the author and the individual story in question to determine whether or not to listen to the criticism at hand.

 

 



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Comments

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Posted 1 Year Ago


That reviewer you could tell just didn't read ... he just gave a quick glance. It you're giving critisism make sure to actually read the piece.And also if giving any critisism make sure it's focused and gives clear meaning.

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Posted 2 Years Ago


I thank taking any criticism personally is a mistake, even if the writer knows beyond a doubt that the reviewer is being deliberately offensive. Allowing yourself to become focused on the style of the reviewers is a waste of time. It becomes a back and forth between the styles and looses focus on the story. Some of what one considers a "hateful" reviewer my offer some gems.
On a personal note. People who say nothing but nice things about my work are not helping me.

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Posted 2 Years Ago


I agree that the criticism given was presented in a harsh style, but it does allow you to see that a simple semi-colon may not be the best option in this case. Honestly, when I first read the example I was under the same impression; that all of the descriptions were from the same story, not different versions of the story. Upon rereading I realized what was meant, but a lot of readers won't take the time to reread something, even if it is unclear. If this was my story I would consider changing the period in the previous sentence to a colon to make it clear the following is a list, or changing the semi colons to the word 'or', and/or maybe further differentiating the car crash by putting it in another sentence. If one reviewer finds something unclear you can bet there are many more readers that find the same point equally vague.

In my experience the reader can be an a*s or an idiot but is never wrong. They are giving their opinion of a writing and that opinion is their truth, and every truth has value whether it is our truth or not. If a reader gets the wrong impression or message from a writing it is the writer who must take responsibility. It may be that the writer decides that the reader isn't their target audience and accepts that the reader and others of a similar type will be unable to enjoy their piece, but it is a decision the writer must make. As you said at the end, it is up to the author to decide whether or not to listen to criticism. But, I believe assigning blame to a reader for not understanding rather than to the writing for being unclear is a habit to be avoided.

These are my opinions, and can be accepted or disregarded at your (meaning everyone's) discretion. I ask only that they be considered...

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Posted 2 Years Ago


It is interesting - I found this to be destructive criticism - I liked your piece - but frankly did not understand it - and that is because I do not understand the topic nor the genre - therefore I feel I am ill-equipped to give a proper and thorough critque of the piece - I think in evaluating works - you need to go in as an educated critic.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Hello dear how are you ? i am miss Pamela , by name i saw your profile at www.writerscafe.org and was move to contact you, please contact me back in my email (pamela_life90@yahoo.co.uk ) for me to tell you more about me or you can send me your private email for me to send you mail on it and tell you my reason i contact you, am waiting for your email to my email
(pamela_life90@yahoo.co.uk )

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Hello dear how are you ? i am miss Pamela , by name i saw your profile at www.writerscafe.org and was move to contact you, please contact me back in my email (pamela_life90@yahoo.co.uk ) for me to tell you more about me or you can send me your private email for me to send you mail on it and tell you my reason i contact you, am waiting for your email to my email
(pamela_life90@yahoo.co.uk )

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Posted 4 Years Ago


I AGREE I HATE IT

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Posted 4 Years Ago


yes, but in the end...if the criticism made you double think yourself enough to recheck your work it was at least helpful, or should have been in making you reanaylize it just in case you may have made a mistake...dontcha think?

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Posted 5 Years Ago


LMAO! In all the times I have read this, I never noticed it before. Good catch. I'll have to change it ;D.

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Posted 5 Years Ago


you repeat yourself here

"Her being found on the side of the road is one version

of the legend, her being found attacked was another version, her being found raped and left for dead a third version, and

her being found on the side of the road yet another version. "

lol constructive criticism :p


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Author

N. C. Matthews
N. C. Matthews

About
My pen name is Nicola Chey Matthews. I have been writing for over 28 years now. I first began writing when I was only five years old. I wrote my first novel at the age of 13, and had attempted 2 ot..