What Stace had to say on Thursday, August 13th, 2009
On Critiques 8: Bad crit 2

A couple of quick things before we start:

1. HUGE thanks to everyone who delurked Tuesday, or just left me birthday wishes. I am slowly replying to every comment, but it’s taking a little time. Please be assured I WILL reply. I don’t always reply to every comment here–I used to, but I just don’t have time anymore–but the birthday/delurking comments are different.

2. HUGE thanks to those who replied to Monday’s bad crit! Yes, your answers were overwhelmingly correct. That crit nitpicked; it gave awful advice (Have the MC look into a mirror? Yeesh!); it tried to rewrite the story, it was generally awful.

So let’s do another one! Hee!

Again, the general disclaimer: Thise crit in NO WAY reflects my feelings on the piece. It is meant for entertainment value ONLY and is not a serious crit; it’s a learning exercise. (Today I’m trying a different Bad Crit tack, btw.) That’s all. And let’s please thank the brave submitter for agreeing to let me viciously rip what I hope are funny holes in their work.

Since stepping out of the vehicle, the vision of my body splayed out on a buffet with straws stuck in all major veins and my blood being slurped up like a syrupy soft drink, had become a permanent background to my thoughts. You shouldn’t start a sentence with “Since.” Or with a character having visions. That’s not action, it’s just thinking. ACTION! ACTION!

Death didn’t scare me, but blood drinkers did. That’s a contradiction, since she’s obviously scared the blood drinkers will kill her. Yet here I was, staring at a group of finely dressed humans, vampires, and other creatures that went bump in the night like what? This is vague without so much as a pencil to protect me.

Somewhere inside me lived a very pleased masochist, limbs chained to a damp brick wall and a shit-eating grin spreading across her gaping mouth. Still nothing happening! ACTION! ACTION!

The light from the setting sun cast an orange shadow onto the green and blue hues of the river. In front of the glittering water was a grand stage “grand” is telling not showing. Never ever TELL and what looked like church pews covered in black velour. Carnival booths surrounded the seating area in a semicircle, meant to enclose the space in a form of intimacy. Instead it looked like a cage to hold the living, breathing refreshments who merely smiled and laughed without a care in the world. So they’re happy to be eaten? This is a weird world

My nerves were shot to hell and the sight of so many creatures milling through the freshly cut grass in their finest evening wear deepened the crack in my emotional control and sent a bubble of giggles up my throat. I don’t think anyone would giggle in that situation. She would scream or cry instead The hair band around my wrist made a loud “pop” as it connected with my flesh, breaking me out of my reverie. Huh? Is the hair band sentient?

Chris—no last name, like Madonna—glared at me out of the corner of his ice-blue eyes, giving a whole new meaning to the Evil Eye. This doesn’t sound like an Evil Eye to me He was a high-ranking retrieval demon and the soulless love of Mel’s life. This does us no good since we don’t know who Mel is. Please explain. Don’t make us figure this stuff out for ourselves. Tonight he looked like a fashionable hippie, but he wielded enough power to keep the local vampire Families in heel.

He was also the reason that a self-proclaimed sanguivoriphobe what does this mean? Long words confuse the reader found herself at a banquet for the most powerful vampire Family in the Mid West. Is that what’s happening here? Not a carnival? And why is there no ACTION yet?

Yeah, my inner masochist was a real crazy bitch. Aren’t all masochists crazy? This is redundant and boring.

“We’ll laugh at the undead freaks and you’ll see they’re not so scary,” Mel had said, offering no room for argument as only a best friend could. I think lots of people offer no room for argument, so this doesn’t ring true. What she had failed to mention until the ride over was that immersion therapy wasn’t the only reason to crash the party—it was also a chance to gather information about the Careys, the founders of the Sargasso Program and organizers of the banquet. So they’re crashing this party? But aren’t there giggling humans everywhere? These logical inconsistencies are weird.

Never mind the fact that if we were caught, we’d likely be tortured just for the fun of it, or that my presence would automatically be logged in the Demonic Annals for every soul-munching being to peruse at his leisure. I thought these were vampires? Is she getting caught? Why not start the story where she gets caught, because that’s something happening. It was a party! I was supposed to relax and enjoy myself, not worry about dismemberment and the possible draining of all my life fluids. This is overly dramatic. This heroine whines and worries a lot. She’s awfully wimpy.

Adding demon spy to the Top Ten Reasons Not To Be Surrounded By Vampires, I flicked the hair band one last time before readjusting my strapless bra and hoping like hell it was pushing up without letting anything poke out. Don’t women want their boobs to poke out? Also, readjusting her bra in public is tacky.

Mel and I had bought matching red dresses for the occasion, but she filled hers out in a porn star sort of way with her massive curves and long legs while I barely filled it out. Oh, God, is this going to be one of those books where the heroine whinges about her skinny body all the time? YAWN. My knee high boots helped compensate, adding to the sexy factor, but I had a niggling feeling my outfit resembled something out of Resident Evil sans the big gun. I’ve never seen Resident Evil, so this doesn’t work. You should take it out because readers don’t like references to stuff they don’t know. Also, ACTION! WHERE’S THE ACTION!

The path to the party was paved in grass and weeds waiting to trip me. Are the grass and weeds sentient? In a fantasy world you need to be very clear on this sort of thing. Chris had parked his Corvette atop a grassy hill when a perfectly good, perfectly flat area was available closer to the stage. Whine, complain, complain He claimed we would have a tactical advantage should things go sour. I wanted to know how running uphill in four inch heels and breaking my neck was an advantage, but I wasn’t about to argue the point with a demon on a mission. She is obviously a wimp. She should tell him to fuck off. I don’t want to read about some wimpy girl who doesn’t stand up for herself and lets herself be walked all over like that

My partners in crime were already down the hill by the time I caught up with them. Why is she behind them? Is she whiny and unable to walk in heels? She’s not much of a heroine is she? She should have held them at knifepoint and MADE them wait for her They were standing in front of one of the booths set to rob—I mean entertain—the guests. This particular booth had a large sign nailed to the top announcing Rent-a-Vamp in bold, gothic lettering. SHOW, don’t tell. You should set the name on a separate line, centered, in all caps.

The plywood used to build the booth was painted with a black lacquer and had red tooling hung around the opening. How does she know it’s plywood? It was meant to be Goth, but looked more like something you’d find at a high school prom. It doesn’t sound like it to me. You need to show us why that’s the case, not just tell us.

Definitely not something that inspired my money to leap out of my billfold. Is money sentient TOO? What kind of world is this? Then again, I wasn’t into the whole Goth scene. Summertime was hot enough without thick bangs in my eyes and layers of jewelry covering any piece of flesh that wasn’t encased in baggy black fabric. So? Why is there no ACTION yet?

“This is our competition?” Chris shook his head in disgust, sending his ponytail on a slow journey across his shoulders. Vampirism was a touchy subject for demons; you couldn’t con the soul out of someone who was damn near immortal, making the two species natural enemies. Why not SHOW us this? Or put it in dialogue? Chris could say “No wonder we hate them, especially since they live so long we can’t get their souls.” See how much better that works? Always put background info in dialogue if you can.

No one was manning don’t you mean VAMPING? That would be funny the booth yet—they weren’t set to open until after the presentation—but someone had already hung posters and laid out pamphlets proclaiming the many uses of a rented vampire.

Need furniture rearranged? A spouse you’d like to keep an eye on? Someone who doesn’t understand the word “no”? For $100 an hour, a handpicked vampire assistant can be at your disposal! I can think of lots better uses for vampires. These are’t very good examples.

“Why don’t they just come out and say hired assassins at the low, low price of your soul?” asked the migraine that was Grace as she laughed in my head. “Asshats.” Who is Grace now? And if her talking hurts the heroine why doesn’t the heroine do something about it?

“I hate to admit it, but your soul has a point.” Chris met my wide eyes with a smile that made him delectable in an I’ll bet your soul tastes like chicken kind of way. “No, I can’t hear her, but I can see her intentions clearly.” So he’s reading her mind? What a jerk! Why does she take this? Why doesn’t she hit him?

“How is it you can see?” My palms were sweating, the fear of leaving stains on the dress keeping me from rubbing the excess moisture on its smooth surface. Is there anything she’s not afraid of? That makes her such a WIMP. Also, why is there no ACTION YET!?! I glared daggers at Mel, wishing a meteor would fall from the sky and land on her. She should hit her. Why won’t she stand up for herself?! UGH!

“I wanted to tell you, E…” Mel raised her hands and took a step back, her posture and movements exhibiting an unthreatening demeanor. Why is her friend scared of her, when she’s so wimpy?

My soul and I knew better. That witch had some ‘splaining to do. Who is the witch?

Chris looked between the two of us in confusion. “I asked Melanie about it after the incantation. When Grace appeared, her life force called to me. From now on, I’ll always have the taste of her in my mouth.” Eeeew!! Why doesn’t the heroine slap him for that?

Now I was the one backing up with my hands held in front of me. Until this moment, I thought no one was able to see Grace but me, no matter how hard Mel tried or what spells she cast, she’d never been able to catch so much as a glimpse. It seems weird she wouldn’t know this. And why is her friend trying to find out? She was the only person I’d trusted with the information, too afraid of what others would do or say when they found out. Ugh. Wimp. Also, ACTION!! Nothing says “crazy” like admitting you hear a voice in your head, except maybe admitting that the voice can take form when she wants to really creep you out. Or that you named her Grace to piss her off. Why would that piss her off?

“This is what I get for helping a friend. I am so not going to anymore of your meetings.” Who is speaking?

Last month Mel begged me to go to one of the monthly meetings Chris held for the new demon recruits. And the heroine gave in, like the wimp she is. Why does she do stuff like that for people? She’s not very strong Having me around made her less nervous. Even though she was dating a demon, I don’t think she was comfortable around them. Witchs’ souls were a bit of a delicacy Down Below. That sounds dirty.

Okay, so. This was a bit different from the other Bad Crit; a different tone, as it were. What’s wrong with it?

6 comments to “On Critiques 8: Bad crit 2”

  1. synde
    · August 13th, 2009 at 1:30 pm · Link

    well it’s snippy and cutting..almost making fun of the ms….not really offering any help

  2. BernardL
    · August 13th, 2009 at 3:43 pm · Link

    Although perhaps overly strident, I read quite a few decent observations in there. My favorite is:

    The hair band around my wrist made a loud “pop” as it connected with my flesh, breaking me out of my reverie. Huh? Is the hair band sentient?

    I could garner quite a bit from a crit like that. It’s not necessary to take every comment as gospel. :)

  3. Felicia Fredlundf
    · August 13th, 2009 at 6:09 pm · Link

    The critiquer seemed to have a preference to very feisty heroines (to put it mildly). Most of the comments are about the heroine being a whimp.
    The critiquer wanted the heroine to completely change personality and instead be a kicking-ass, feisty, violent and uncompromising woman.
    And he/she wants action, action action. Now, now, now! Althought it was clearly evident that this story probably would have action in it.
    Plus the critiquer takes every word literally, which isn’t really helpful.

    I have to say that I want to read more of the two stories we’ve seen bad crits on so far, they seem awesome. :)

  4. Cora
    · August 13th, 2009 at 8:36 pm · Link

    This hypothetical critiquer seems to have completely misunderstood the concept of “Show don’t tell”, hence the constant demands for action.

    The critiquer also seems to harbour a dislike for idiomatic expressions and takes everything literally.

    Finally, this is the sort of critiquer who wants to change the author’s characters to whatever the critiquer considers more appropriate characters. This one seems to want “kick-ass heroines”, others want characters to conform to whatever their personal moral code is.

  5. writtenwyrdd
    · August 14th, 2009 at 7:22 am · Link

    The attitude of this bad critique is one that is cutting down the writer instead of offering neutral observations of perceived issues. That’s adversarial, and the business of critiquing is one of supporting the writer’s efforts, not making yourself feel better by proving how many things you can find fault with.

    Again, this is pretty funny stuff. Stacia, you are proving to me that you can’t really write a wholly bad critique; although these examples do illustrate the points you’re making.

  6. driftsmoke
    · August 14th, 2009 at 2:42 pm · Link

    I agree with lots that’s already been said, especially about the idiomatic expressions and taking every word literally. 😀

    On the comments about the hair band, the money, and the grass being sentient: I’ve gotten comments similar to this in my own work. I took them seriously and try to keep a watch on doing that. I still have no clue if that’s nitpicking or valid critique. 😳

    The critiquer didn’t seem to be paying attention to the story. The comments asking who is speaking, who is the witch, and who is Grace hipped me to this idea. 😈

    I guessed Critiquer (C) read the piece and made her comments all in one read-through because several questions C asked were clarified a line or two later. Sometimes even crits need proofing … or at least read them over before you press send. 😉

    If C made those comments because she wanted the author to relay more info up front, that could get into infodump territory. Nobody likes that.

    The characterization tips were for the critiquer’s story, not the author’s. Talk about kick-ass heroine to the nth power. Yipes!

    The calls for ACTION: Those were probably for C’s story, too. Someone else mentioned a misunderstanding of the “show don’t tell” concept. That could be right. It could also be a misunderstanding of the concept of conflict on every page. 😉

    The suggestion for putting background info in dialogue is called “As you know, Bob.” If you don’t know the expression, a quick google search will be your friend.

    The tone was abrasive. You don’t have to say nice things to an author in a crit, but saying at least one nice thing always helps. I always make it a sincere compliment, too. 😉

    On both “bad” critiques, C doesn’t seem to know the author’s work well — and doesn’t seem to want to know it. Both had the feel, excuse me, Stacia, of drive-by critiquing. Don’t get me wrong. You can get some useful stuff from drive-by crits. When someone knows your work, though, it cuts down on the, uhhh, useless crap.

    The author doesn’t have to take every piece of advice offered, that’s true. When you’re a new writer, though, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s a diamond and what’s a piece of cubic zirconia in the world of critiques.

    Have a good weekend! :mrgreen:

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