"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Friday, April 3, 2015

C = Criticism

Criticism - the analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work

It's a fine line between criticism and trolling in today's dramatic digital world of Internet Balls. I suspect anyone who's posted an opinion on an online forum or messaging board is familiar with Internet Balls. It's the thing that turns nerds into raging, venomous, insult flinging, know it alls whose tempers won't be soothed until they feel they've successfully torn you a new one.

I've got a few indie-author friends who complain about negative reviews. No one likes being told their writing is bad. Less so if it's done by an angry reader with a case of I.B--it's a syndrome so wildly out of control people are now becoming desensitized to any form of criticism that isn't positive. And as a reviewer whose actually had to give negative reviews, I can admit it is so effing tempting to start ripping away...

So how does a reader walk the fine line between criticizing a literary work and just being cruel?

I prefer the essay approach. In school, students are taught to write essays in an easy to follow format. 1) Introduction and Thesis. 2) Support thesis with examples. 3) Support thesis with examples. 4) Support thesis with examples. 5) Restate thesis and Conclude.

Introduction and thesis should equal a brief plot summary (if I absolutely love a book, my summaries are anything but brief...but for arguments sake let's stick to a story I didn't like) and overall viewpoint. "This story is about... This story had a good *insert compliment here* but the story failed in other areas." When writing your viewpoint, keep in mind that you did finish the book. I don't know about you, but when a book is That Bad, it gets DNF'd. So you must have liked something to keep reading.

This is the really important bit: When stating your overall view, do not insult the author personally. Do not talk about their momma, their IQ, their family, their love life, their bank accounts, or their looks...because unless the story is a biography it probably contained none of these things.

Once you've nailed down the Intro:
2) Support it, starting with the compliment. Negative criticism is easier to take once you've point to the one thing that you enjoyed.
3) Support it. "It needed more editing." Why specifically? Spelling, grammar, plotholes? All of the above? You need to be able to objectively defend a negative statement.
4) Supporting point. "The characters were flat." Again why were the characters flat? How were they lacking?

In this manner, criticism remains helpful despite being negative. Soothe the authors ego with something nice. Then explain what you didn't like using examples from the story (tells the author they have room for improvement) and why it wasn't likable (tells the author you think they can improve). Sure it was bad, but here's where it could have been better...

To Conclude: restate your earlier thesis, and any final thoughts on the matter as long as your final thoughts on the matter have nothing to do with the writer's momma, IQ, family, love life, bank accounts, or looks... unless the story is a biography and contained all of these things.

Remember: Don't let Internet Balls control you-- Let yourself control your Internet Balls.


  1. I love this. It needs to be stated more often around internet communities, since the opposite of Internet Balls are those who think they HAVE to praise a book so as not to be seen as one. There is a place for balance.

    2015 A to Z Blogger
    Visions of Other Worlds

    1. LOL, I've seen reviews like that. I can believe that someone enjoys a book I don't like, there's a reader for every story, but when I see reviews that are so overwhelming positive and written in such away it's like the reviewer is trying to make his love the loudest...I have to wonder: friend of the author? Or trying to apologize for internet trolls?

      Anyways thank you for stopping by my blog!

  2. I love this! Reminds me of the compliment sandwich, which teachers are often taught to use when giving feedback to students. You start with something positive, then mention what they need to work on, and end with something positive, a compliment sandwich.


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