Monday, May 25, 2015

Common Critiques

Last week, a fellow writer in my writers workshop told me that they always paid a little extra attention to my critiques in class.  That comment meant a lot to me.  It meant that I was not only going through the exercise of "critiquing", I was providing value.

Having reviewed and provided notes on scripts and manuscripts, here are a few issues that seem to pop up often and with a few tweaks, they can be resolved quickly.

1) Who's POV is it?

Sometimes we forget who's POV we're writing from.  We'll be deep into our protagonist's head and all of a sudden a scene pops up from a secondary character's POV.  You may have several characters who's POV's you're writing from and that's ok. The key is to ask yourself who's scene does this belong to and does switching POVs take your readers out of the action. 

2) Too much exposition

We want our readers to get to know our characters and we may feel it's important to tell stories about their past, family or history.  But instead of increasing the emotional connection between our readers and the protagonist, we may actually be distancing them.  Providing too much backstory can actually be a disservice.  It changes the mood and pacing of the scene and takes us out of what's going on at that moment.  If information about the past is to be revealed, it has to be grounded in the present.

3) Dialogue Tags

He said, she said, they asked, he mumbled, she griped.  These are all dialogue tags and having too many of them can be a distraction for the reader.  A great exercise is to print off a few pages of your manuscript and circle all the tags.  If you're seeing a lot of circles per page, then perhaps it's time to eliminate some of them.  One possibility is to replace the tag with an action by the speaker.  For example, "This tastes delicious!" Gary took another bite of the apple. 

Are there any common criticisms that you've seen in your critique groups?  Feel free to share here!

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