My B2B Marketing Book

  • The Witness
    The Witness
    by Nora Roberts
  • Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less
    Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less
    by Joe Pulizzi

Critiquing Scenes

Critiquing scenes is one of those pleasure and pain experiences that we all relish as writers. Well, okay, some of us relish them and to others they're like having root canals. But, take it from me, if you can take a crit from The Cherry herself (Jenny Crusie), you can take a crit from anyone.

I spend quite a bit of time on various critique lists I belong to because I always learn something. Whether it's my scene being critiqued, someone else's critique of another's work or my critiquing of a writer's cherished scene, it's all fascinating to me.

The word on the street is that there are no new plots. Yep. You read that right. They've all already been done. It's in the way they're done each time that produces all the unique stories. The fact that no two people would choose to tell the same stories with the same characters or set of individual circumstances is what keeps things fresh and interesting.

The first time I heard this, I thought, the word on the street was wrong. But, sadly, I find they are right. At the core of every book I read, I can narrow it down to a plot that's at least as old as Aristotle. That may be an exaggeration, but you get my point.

But, I digress. I'm writing about critiquing, so let's get back to it. A novice critiquer on one of the lists recently asked for some guidance about critiquing and, I leaped into the breach to share my thoughts with her, so I thought I'd pass them on. Be aware that there are many ways to do this, but this is what I shared with her:

The best way to approach a scene from a learning standpoint is to address it like a reader.

  • Point out what you like.
  • Indicate what throws you out of the story and say why
  • Note any typos or grammatical errors (trust me, she's looked at it so much she can't see them any more)
  • Are the five senses are being used?
  • Do you know where you are? Can you see the setting?

Those are the basics. Now let's get to the good stuff.

  • Point of View (POV) - I'm a POV purist, in that Iprefer each scene to have only one POV.Head hopping throws me out unless it's done really well. Norais the only author I've seen, who can do this well. So make sure that the perspective in the scene is coming from the same character throughout. Usually the protagonist.
  • Purpose - This goes to motivation. What does the Protagonist want during the scene. In simple terms, What's the point? Does it push the story forward? Does it give you a compelling need to turn to the next page?
  • Conflict - What gets in the way of the protagonist getting what they want? Generally, this is an antagonist. A character who's either pushing back directly against the protagonist to thwart them. Or, it could be that the scene antagonist is going about their business and what they are doing is not directly intentional against the protagonist's goal, but blocks them just the same.
  • Value Change - This is a bit of a tricky one. Basically, this asks you to look at the protagonist and note if their emotional state has changed from where they started at the beginning of the scene to where they are now, at the end of the scene.

There are many other things to look at, but this should be enough to get you started.

Critiquing scenes in support of your fellow writers is a wonderful way to learn more about craft and to give much needed input to your writing friends who can always use the feedback. Just remember, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. So I urge you to always find something nice to say. Be encouraging, supportiveand thoughtful in your critiques and your writing buddies will cherish you more than you've ever thought possible.