Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Island Adventures

From Barnes and Noble, this list:

10 Middle Grade Island Adventures to Thrill and Delight Young Readers

Delightful theme for a list, especially delightful since it was compiled by Charlotte Taylor, of Charlotte’s Library blog. Charlotte does weekly roundups of MG fantasy and SF, so she’s on top of the genre in a way that most of us can’t, or at least don’t, manage for any genre. Plus Charlotte’s taste in books is parallel to mine, in broad terms, so any books she recommends are worth a second look. In this case, the list includes some historicals as well as fantasy, such as —

Island War, by Patricia Reilly Giff
11-year-old Izzy is taken by her ornithologist mother for an extended stay on a remote Alaskan island, and 14-year-old Matt arrives at the same time, unwillingly visiting his own father. Though they both have troubles adjusting to their new home, they don’t become friends. Then Pearl Harbor is bombed. The Japanese army invades the island, rounds up all its inhabitants and sends them to camps in Japan. Matt and Izzy escape, and are left behind. They are forced to join forces in order to survive, scavenging for food and always fearful that they will be found. When winter comes, and Matt falls ill, survival becomes even more difficult. This gripping adventure, based on a little-known piece of American history, will appeal to any kid who loves stories of kids surviving danger on their own.

I like WWII stories (as long as there’s a happy-ish ending) and survival stories, so this one sounds appealing to me. This setup reminds me of Island of the Blue Dolphins, which I loved when I was a kid.

In this list, Charlotte stretches out a bit from MG to include Nation by Terry Pratchett, not to mention The Floating Islands.

Not tired of islands yet? Then here’s a list from tor.com: Five Books About Fantastical Islands. Of these, I have one on my Kindle — The Girl with the Glass Feet — not sure where I heard of that one, but here’s the description:

The wintry archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land is the setting for this magic realist coming-of-age tale. Ali Shaw captures both characters and landscapes caught in stasis, woodlands and frozen fens in hibernation. Magic flits between the branches, drifts of jellyfish light the icy waters, and Ida McLaird is slowly turning to glass. Ida’s search for a cure reopens old wounds but also brings the chance of redemption, her journey across the island taking her from heart-stopping danger to nothing less than true love.

And for classics, not only Treasure Island but also LeGuin’s Earthsea — if I remember correctly, the world in that one is essentially a single archipelago.

If you’ve got a favorite book set on an island, drop it in the comments!

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A chance to buy your very own giant robot

Eye-catching opportunity!

This giant 12-ton fighting robot is on sale for $1

Eagle Prime, the crown jewel of MegaBots Inc.’s fleet of sci-fi-inspired piloted robots, is being sold on eBay for a single dollar.  …

“I think it’s time to pass the torch to whoever will do it next and wants to take on the responsibility of the mission,” Oehrlein says. The auction, for which there is no reserve or minimum bid, starts Monday night and will last 10 days.

Granted, this giant robot is evidently a little pricey to transport and operate. Nevertheless, it appears to be a real opportunity for, I guess, the tech-loving kid who has everything. I mean, everything except a giant robot.

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A unique kind of anthology

Okay, so, this is not exactly a collection of stories:

This is actually a collection of vignettes and scenes, from published and unpublished novels by, as you see, a wide range of authors. Here’s the description:

Magic—danger—and the thrill of the chase!

Experience the rush of racing across rooftops with thieves—or the desperation of fleeing an assassin who knows you a little too well. From the fish market of a tropical island sultanate, to the monster-filled alleys of a steampunk London, to a land where souls take different forms as they rise or fall through the layers of the world, this collection of chase scenes and vignettes set in nine distinctive worlds will leave you spellbound.

Find unexpected allies, unshakeable enemies, sudden twists and turns, and always the swiftness of the chase—whether you’re on the hunt, or racing for your life.

This sampler includes an exclusive bonus scene set during the events of Tea Set and Match by Casey Blair, available for free online, and a scene from an unpublished novel by Rachel Neumeier not available anywhere else. The excerpts by Intisar Khanani, Raf Morgan, P. Djèlí Clark, Sherwood Smith, Joyce Chng, Melissa McShane, and Andrea K. Höst are from longer works that are available for sale at all major retailers.

Okay! So, if you’re interested, by all means check it out at Goodreads and enter the associated giveaway!

There will also be a Facebook release party on October 8th, so drop by Facebook and Friend me or any author with an excerpt included in the collection if you’d like to follow posts there on the release day. The hashtag on Twitter is, of course, #SwiftTheChase.

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When to stop fiddling and leave it alone

Via The Passive Voice blog, I noticed this, linked from The Legal Artist: Why J.K. Rowling Should Walk Away From Harry Potter Forever

We revere authors and creators of valuable intellectual property. We assume they know what’s best when it comes to their work. And sometimes that’s true! …But as fans, I think we’ve been burned by too many Special Editions/ Director’s Cuts/ sequels/ prequels/ sidequels/ reboots/ and preboots to feel anything but trepidation when a creator remains involved for too long with their own work. …Remember too that history is replete with authors who aren’t the best judges of their own work; George Lucas is a prime example of how far from grace one can fall simply by sticking around for too long. And I want Rowling to avoid that fate.

All evidence indicates that she’s not stepping away. …

To my eyes, the seams are already showing. Three years ago, Rowling publicly stated that she wished she had killed Ron out of spite and that Hermione really should’ve ended up with Harry. The fact that she admitted this publicly is problematic enough – it shows a tone-deafness to the effect her words have on the fan-base (which is surprising considering her generosity to her fans). It also suggests that she might not have a full grasp of what makes the story work (i.e. that Harry’s arc isn’t about romance). 

This is interesting. I haven’t been following events regarding the Harry Potter universe because I don’t really care. I liked the books fine, I saw one or maybe two of the movies, but I did not hit this series at a particularly impressionable age and so that’s pretty much the sum of my reaction: it was fine, might re-read the series sometime, maybe not, I’d put Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series well above Harry Potter, moving on.

But it makes me think of some of the information that dribbled out about Peter Jackson’s LotR movies, about the kinds of ideas he entertained while making the movies. Things like: Hey, and then Sauron can come out through the gates and fight Aragorn! Really terrible ideas that show he did not get some of the most central themes of the novels.

The difference is, Jackson was not the author. It’s impossible to imagine Tolkien himself coming up with an idea like that.

Or almost impossible. I gather in an early draft, “Strider” was a Hobbit called … something undignified … oh yes, “Trotter.” And the name remained “Trotter” for a shockingly long time.

It only goes to show.

Anyway, sure, there are times when it’s best to look politely away when the author is making clearly untrue statements about her own work, and Rowling is certainly known to make such statements from time to time. No, Hermione should not have wound up with Harry because yes, Harry’s character arc was not essentially a romantic arc.

The author of the linked post, Greg Kanaan, suggests that after your book or movie or whatever has become a major cultural artifact, it’s time for the author to stop messing with it. He has a good point.

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So, yesterday I happened across a discussion of foils. Not aluminum foil, nor those slender little dueling blades, but literary foils. It was a pretty neat discussion, on a podcast called Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, which is mainly a podcast for gaming, but also touches on weird historical trivia and, I don’t know, movies and cooking and a broad collection of this and that. As I say, this particular recent tidbit was about literary foils. I’m sure there are various blog posts on the topic here and there, but I don’t think I’ve seen that kind of discussion elsewhere, so I thought I’d share some of it with you, relating these ideas to SFF along the way.

So, foils reflect the protagonist. This isn’t the same as an ensemble cast, because there should be a single protagonist along with one or multiple foils; the protagonist need not be the same as the point of view character.

Four types of foils:

1. Sidekicks.

Sidekicks serve as actuators, pushing the protagonist to act. I’m sure this encompasses all the sidekicks who are kidnapped, thus driving the protagonist to rescue them, but Ken and Robin pointed to a different role for a sidekick in Archie in the Nero Wolfe books, who is definitely a great example as (a) Archie is definitely playing the sidekick role, constantly shoving at Nero to make him take action; (b) Archie is the one who actually does stuff, while Nero never (hardly ever) leaves the house; and (c) Archie is the pov character, but not the protagonist.

This is all true and Archie is a great example, but let me look around for some SFF sidekicks.

I think Rian might serve as this kind of foil for Maskelle in The Wheel of the Infinite. He does a lot more than motivate Maskelle to act, though he does sometimes serve that function. He also sometimes drives the action through his own actions, plus he plays an important role as someone for Maskelle to explain things to, which is a role assigned by the podcast to a different kind of foil, below. Of course in the real world we do expect categories to blur. Nevertheless, Rian does not take on enough importance to serve as a secondary protagonist or take the male lead role in a romance – that’s a relatively unimportant subplot. I would say he fits into the story as a sidekick. Florian is a sidekick for Tremaine in The Fall of Ile Rien trilogy too, probably, though there’s a big ensemble cast there.

2. Companions.

Companions serve to offer an accessible viewpoint to the reader when the protagonist is not that accessible, or to observe the action for the reader. The obvious example is the Doctor’s various human companions, but this kind of foil is particularly essential in fiction when the protagonist’s pov is never shown to the reader; eg, Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings. Lymond is practically the reverse of “accessible,” by design. The various ordinary people who move in and out of his orbit, taking the pov role, serve both to humanize Lymond and as a window through which the reader can observe the action.

However, that isn’t an SFF example. Many fantastic examples of companions must exist. For “accessible, human viewpoint in the midst of strangers,” I think of Bren Cameron, but he isn’t a foil for anybody; he’s the primary protagonist. A better example is Costis, who serves as a humanizing, accessible viewpoint character for Gen in The King of Attolia. MWT plays with viewpoint a lot in this series, but in TKoA, Gen is almost as inaccessible as Lymond in Dunnett’s series – showing how well it can work to set the protagonist at a distance from the reader.

3. Confidantes.

Confidantes serve as someone to whom the protagonist can explain things – often a pretty clumsy way to handle backstory or other kinds of information — though Martha Wells used Rian to good effect as the person to whom Maskelle could explain things. Overlap for sure in the role of a confidante and a sidekick, but I would not call Rian a confidante.

If you do have a confidante, that character can also serve as a source of advice for the protagonist. Including, sometimes, bad advice, thus providing a push to the plot.

A good SFF example of a confidante would be, let me think … okay, Annova is this kind of foil for Zoe in Troubled Waters. She’s the kind of confidante who offers good advice and emotional support to the protagonist, and who occasionally serves as a motivator by, for example, being poisoned by mistake when the target was Zoe.

According to Ken and Robin, a confidant may also serve as a thematic contrast or support to the protagonist. The example offered in the podcast was Horatio to Hamlet, where Horatio serves as a contrastingly active character. Here I disagree. The term ‘confidante’ is a not right for someone who a thematically contrasting foil, because plenty of foils of that kind do not serve in any way as confidantes. So let’s break that out as a separate category:

4. Thematically contrasting foil.

In The Thousand Names series, Marcus is thematically the opposite of Janus bet Vhalnich. Marcus is open, honest, decent, and ordinary as opposed to extraordinarily secretive and brilliant and ruthless. He also gives the reader a more accessible pov character compared to Janus. This series offers a great ensemble cast, but Marcus is the one who is both a secondary protagonist and a foil for Janus.

In the same series, Jane serves as the same kind of foil for Winter. Jane is volatile and selfish and charismatic whereas Winter is steady and calm and responsible. She is not charismatic through sheer force of personality, like Jane. Winter’s charisma is much quieter; it’s the kind that draws people to her as they get to know her. Jane’s volatility pushes people away as they come to know her better.

5. Parallel foil.

Parallel foils reinforce the protagonist’s nature or themes or character arc or whatever. The podcast argues that this can be the villain, in the “I am your dark shadow” way, but I’d say that is a thematically contrasting foil, whereas there is actually a different kind of character who is a thematically parallel foil.

When you say parallel foil, the character who springs immediately to mind for me is Ronsarde in Death of the Necromancer. He is clearly this kind of foil for Nicholas. They echo each other in so many ways, which is why Ronsarde presents Nicholas to the queen as his protégé and why Nicholas resents that so strongly.

So, I’d say there are (at least) five types of foils, which no doubt blur together a good deal. I haven’t thought explicitly about this when tossing secondary characters into my own books, but let me see …

Well, Elise is a confidante for Kehara, through the first part of The Winter of Ice and Iron. Let me see … hmm … Maybe Tassel in The Keeper of the Mist is a companion for Keri. A very important companion, if so, but then every kind of foil can indeed be very important.

I don’t believe I’d say that there are any foils as such in The Mountain of Kept Memory. The important characters play various important roles, but I don’t think any of them are foils. Oressa is too alone, and really so is Gulien, and Gajdosik is not a foil at all, but an important secondary protagonist. Or that’s how I see them.

Hmm, maybe in The Floating Islands. I could make a case there for several of the other male students being foils for Trei.

Anyway, an interesting topic, and I’m glad Ken and Robin happened to pick that for one of their rare-ish forays into “writing good.”

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Via The Passive Voice blog:

Bring Back Handwriting: It’s Good for Your Brain

“The primary advantage of longhand notes was that it slowed people down…people who took longhand notes could not write fast enough to take verbatim notes — instead they were forced to rephrase the content in their own words,” Oppenheimer says. “To do that, people had to think deeply about the material and actually understand the arguments. This helped them learn the material better.”

Sure, that’s plausible.

Slowing down and writing by hand may come with other advantages. Oppenheimer says that because typing is fast, it tends to cause people to employ a less diverse group of words.  Writing longhand allows people more time to come up with the most appropriate word, which may facilitate better self-expression.  …

Wait, wait, no longer on board here.

Finally, there’s a mountain of research that suggests online forms of communication are more toxic than offline dialogue. …

Okay, now you’re changing the subject completely.

All right, The Passive Guy comments:

PG believes that whatever areas of his brain that would otherwise be devoted to handwriting have been hijacked by keyboarding. … He doesn’t believe that handwriting holds a special place in his brain any more. Your experience may vary, but PG has typed so many more words than he has handwritten during his life, he thinks his handwriting brain has either gone completely dormant or been occupied by his typing brain.

Yep, that’s me.

Adding to that: a tendon issue means that it’s uncomfortable for me to write longhand. If I were forced to write a lot, the tendon issue would get worse and I’d wind up actually in pain. Typing is painless, as long as I restrict the use of my right thumb (these days, I hit the space bar with my left thumb).

I get that this is perhaps not a common problem, and yet it leaves me with a firm NO THANKS response to people who try to argue that handwriting is special.

Also, I have to admit to a private little chuckle at the idea that typing fast causes people to “employ a less diverse group of words.” Yeah, show me the data on that one, please. I’m betting that people who employ a large vocabulary when they handwrite stuff do not employ a less large vocabulary when they type. I could be persuaded otherwise, but I’d have to look over the methodology of that study before I took it seriously.

As far as I’m concerned, handwriting is for short notes you include with a sympathy card, and not much else. I don’t even handwrite Christmas letters because, again, tendon issue, ow, those are long letters, so definitely typed.

How about you all? Do you handwrite anything much these days?

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25 YA ghost stories


I’m not into really serious horror, but fantasy that grades over into horror can appeal to me. It depends on my mood and how the story is presented, I suppose. Several of these sound good, a couple have been on my radar for a while (Anna Dressed in Blood), and one I am seriously inclined to try.

That one is A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma. Here’s the description:

After too many broken promises and an unstable home life, Sabina decides to leave the Hudson Valley and move into the girls’ boarding house where her mother once took residence in New York City. Bina discovers there’s a whole world here that is startling, different, and compelling and that the girls who are with her at Catherine House may (or may not) be entirely real. …

I think that sounds pretty snazzy, and although other books by Suma have not worked for me, I do think she’s a great writer. Maybe a ghost story rather than a grim contemporary would be something I’d like a lot.

Oh, hey, look here, this is unexpected: a book by Laura Ruby! I hadn’t been aware she’d written a YA ghost story. Oh, I see this is a very new title, not quite out yet — coming out October 1. You may remember, Laura Ruby wrote Bone Gap, which was one of my favorite books of the year a couple years ago. I do have York on my Kindle, I believe.

By a funny coincidence, Ruby’s title also features wolves: Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All.

What do you think of that title? Too long, awkward with the comma, perhaps your emotional reaction to the thought of wolves is not teeth but beautiful canid, not very dangerous and thus the title fails to evoke quite the right emotional reaction? Not sure what I think of it.

Here’s the description:

A story about two girls—one who is living and one who is dead—set against the backdrop of World War II in Chicago. Frankie and her sister are left in an orphanage when their mother dies, with a promise from their father that as soon as he’s back on his feet, he’ll rescue them. But the time doesn’t come, and he runs off with another woman instead, leaving them behind. Abandoned like so many others, Frankie will have to find a way to carve out something resembling a life. (And yes, there are ghosts). Ruby is a master at the unsettling, at the magical and mythical, and this book promises all of those things and more, with the backdrop of war and the Great Depression.

Well, that sounds intriguing. I’ve been wanting to read something else by Laura Ruby. Maybe I should read York and then decide about this one.

Several of the other books on this list also look promising. Honestly, this is the most successful list I’ve ever seen at Book Riot, defining success as “getting me to look seriously at the books and think about trying them.”

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Now, this is a sentence

This weekend, my mother pressed on me a copy of Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages. I’m sure you all know Jackson as the author of The Lottery. That was one of the many classics I read, dutifully but far from enthusiastically, in school, and have sense forgotten completely, except for the central conceit of the story.

So, fine, I read Life Among the Savages. It’s kind of fun to read. Let me see. Looks like this book was first published in 1948. Seventy-one years ago. Wow. Well, as they say, the past is a foreign country. This little memoir is old enough to count as pretty foreign from modern experience.

But that isn’t the point of this post. The point is, I want to show you the first paragraph so that we can all pause in admiration of Jackson’s literary style. Here, take a look:

Our house is old, and noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books. I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books; we also own assorted beds and tables and chairs and rocking horses and lamps and doll dresses and ship models and paint brushes and literally thousands of socks. This is the way of life my husband and I have fallen into, inadvertently, as though we had fallen into a well and decided that since there was no way out we might as well stay there and set up a chair and a desk and a light of some kind; even though this is our way of life, and the only one we know, it is occasionally bewildering, and perhaps even inexplicable to the sort of person who does not have that swift, accurate conviction that he is going to step on a broken celluloid doll in the dark. I cannot think of a preferable way of life, except one without children and without books, going on soundlessly in an apartment hotel where they do the cleaning for you and send up your meals and all you have to do is lie on a couch and – as I say, I cannot think of a preferable way of life, but then I have had to make a good many compromises, all told.

That first sentence is eight words long. The second is fourteen. The third is fifty-two, but then there are all those items in the list, so it doesn’t read as though it’s extremely long. The fourth sentence is one hundred words long exactly, which causes me to entertain amusing thoughts about whether Jackson did that on purpose. The last sentence in the paragraph is seventy-two words long, so I gather that no, she just liked long sentences. Well, so do I, and artistic writing in general, not that I recall noticing artistry in The Lottery, as I was both much younger then and also distracted by the revolting situation described in the story.

Unlike The Lottery, I could hardly miss the artistry in the construction of this paragraph, beginning with the short, punchy sentence and then immediately slipping into these very long sentences, and ending with that entertaining non sequitur. In fact, I particularly like the last sentence, which certainly does set up expectations for the stories of family life that follow.

I also found myself thinking, Wow, people just can’t write like that anymore, which is probably both unfair and untrue, though when I read a book like this, I do see why my mother continually cycles back around to re-read old titles she’s had on her shelves for half a century and complains that she can’t find any modern mystery authors who can begin to match the old classics.

There were only sixty-nine words in the above sentence. Did it feel unusually long to anybody? I’d probably have broken it up into two sentences if I hadn’t been specifically playing with long sentences in this post.

Have you picked up anything lately in which the sentences as sentences immediately leaped out at you? When’s the last time that happened, if you can recall? Out of curiosity, was it for a book over fifty years old, or something more recent?

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Free indirect third-person narration

Here’s a first page and critique at Jane Friedman’s site.

There’s a first page, of course, and then the critique. Here’s a bit from the first page:

Lainie was scraping the last bit of peanut butter out of the jar when the land-line rang. She didn’t pick up; her friends only called her cell. The ancient answering machine clicked on and a perky, professional voice chirped “Tini Ferrari here, KNWD-TV?” Lainie knew that name. Pronounced teeny. Everything she said sounded like a question. “I’m phoning about a possible New Year’s Eve interview with Madeleine Stanton? I understand you were Ohio’s first millennium baby? I’d love to talk to you about a feature we’re doing, now that you’re turning twelve. Give me a call?” Tini gave a phone number and clicked off.

A feature on 2K-babies, on TV! She’d be the star, having come into the world at precisely midnight at the turn of the millennium to 2000. It had been years since anyone had mentioned it. It might be fun to be in the spotlight for a few minutes. An image of herself surrounded by kids at school flashed through her mind. But what if something went wrong—if she belched, or got sweaty? Or said something stupid? If she messed up on TV? The worst moment of her life would become unerasable entertainment online for the world to see forever—potential boyfriends, colleges, employers—it could end all hope of a normal life!

Anyway, Dad and the Uncs wouldn’t like it. They’d probably freak-out at the attention it would bring to the family. Lainie was wondering whether to ask her dad when she heard the stamp of his boots in the mudroom. A minute later he walked in in his stocking feet, face red from the cold, briefcase under one arm.

And here’s the bit of the critique that caught my eye:

The next thing this opening does well: it thoroughly and consistently engages the experience of a character by way of its third-person narrator. It does so through a technique called free indirect discourse, also known as free indirect style … the narrator is free to dip in and out of the point-of-view character’s (in this case Lainie) interior dialogue …

And so when we read “The ancient answering machine clicked on and a perky, professional voice chirped …” we intuit that the opinions expressed by the words “ancient” and “perky,” and the comparison of the “professional voice” to a bird’s, reflect not only Lainie’s consciousness, but her vocabulary. They are her words, or anyway they’re the sort of words she would use to describe those things.

Read through the rest of this first page, and time and again you’ll find Lainie’s personality infusing the third-person voice, to where at moments it reads exactly like a first-person narrative: “Anyway, Dad and the Uncs wouldn’t like it. …”

I’ve also seen this called “close third person.”

The above novel opening does indeed provide a good example of writing third person as though it were first. This is often the way third person is written. The voice of the protagonist is then expressed in their interior thoughts, so the only time this doesn’t happen is when those thoughts are never revealed.

I can think of some situations where third-person narration is used to hide the thoughts of the protagonist, sometimes to excellent effect. In Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings, Lymond’s thoughts are always hidden. That is one of the techniques Dunnett uses to make this story so very powerful: the reader is kept guessing about Lymond’s thoughts and motivations right to the end.

One author who brilliantly uses very close third person narration to bring her protagonists to life is CJ Cherryh. I believe she always uses this kind of narration, so her books work well for me only when I like her protagonist(s) — which I do, almost all the time, except not soooo much in Hellburner and Heavy Time. I’ve only read that duology once because first, I don’t much like Ben (the reader is not supposed to like Ben very much) and because the universe is highly claustrophobic for me, meaning not technically claustrophobic, but it’s the kind of universe where people are often metaphorically stuck in bad circumstances. I find that kind of setting difficult to tolerate.

I think you’ll mostly find, if you pay attention, that a lot of authors slide in and out of close third person — now very close, right into internal dialogue; then in the next scene a more distant third person. Then close again. That can be an effective way to draw the reader into an intense scene and then create a restful scene, not only by using action / slowdown but by using closer / more distant third person.

Here’s a great post about revising a story from more distant third person to close third person.

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The art of the critique

At Kill Zone Blog, this, from PJ Parrish:

The Fine Art Of Giving Out Criticism

It took me a long time to learn that doling out criticism is a learned skill. All writers need honesty but it has to come with a healthy side order of kindness. …

Parrish then lists these seven considerations:

  • Resist the urge to fix the problem. 
  • Watch your tone. 
  • Don’t take out your frustrations on someone else. 
  • Don’t boost your own ego. 
  • Let the person react. 
  • Be empathetic. 
  • Don’t focus on the person.

With, of course, plenty of comments under each point. Now, as far as I’m concerned, (2), (3), and (6) are all pretty much the same thing. “Watch your tone,” and “Don’t take out your frustrations” and “Be empathetic” are all basically versions of “be nice.” Come to think of it, maybe “Let the person react” falls into this same category as well.

Besides that, “Don’t boost yourself” and “Don’t focus on the person” both could be subsumed into “Keep your focus on the work.”

So really, three rules:

a) Resist the urge to fix the problem.

b) Be nice.

c) Keep your focus on the specific work at hand.

This short list seems pretty good to me. From time to time I have, very cautiously, suggested possible solutions, but I agree this is fraught. Generally it is probably better to say, “I feel that this section slows down too much” rather than suggest ways to speed it up; or “It seems to me that this story opens in a ‘white room;’ I have no real sense of place here” rather than suggesting ways to establish the setting.

I like participating in workshops, from time to time, but I do think they’re hard. I’m not likely to ever join a critique group because I put way more time into reading and re-reading a workshop entry, and working up a critique, than I would ever want to put into a regular activity.

How about you all? Has anybody participated regularly in a critique group, and if so, how did it work out?

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