I have never written a critique before—what do I say? Knowledge Base

First, don’t worry—you’ll find that many members share concerns over how to compose and structure a critique.

To address that, we’ve written Critique Guidelines that should help you get started. These guidelines are collected here. The following checklist is included in that link, but we’ve added them here for quick reference.

Critique Checklist

These guidelines would not be complete without a basic checklist of things we suggest you include your critique.

The Opening

  1. Has the writer established key story facts in their introductory narration?
  2. Have they done a good job of hooking you from one chapter to another?
  3. Does the introductory writing suggest the tone and pacing of what’s to come? Or do the tone and pacing change drastically and unpleasantly?
  4. Is an underlying or distinct conflict tangible in the text?
  5. What kinds of conflict did you perceive, and were they executed in a manner that was satisfying?
  6. Was the conflict fully addressed in the presented text, or did the writer leave it at a point that might help to carry the narrative into the next chapter?
  7. Do the characters on the page feel real or do they seem like paper people?
  8. Were their motivations, personalities and voices effectively conveyed?
  9. Given what you know of these characters, did they react to external or internal motivation in ways that seemed appropriate?

Conflict & Tension

Character

Plot

Addressing plot in short fiction tends to be easier given the length of this format; for longer fiction, plot is usually best addressed after a complete read of the manuscript. When reviewing plot in small units of a large work, e.g., chapters, we suggest you focus on the following:

  1. If you read the opening narration and you perceived the underlying plot from it, has it been woven through the text you’re currently reviewing?
  2. Have all the elements of interest—story facts, characters and plot devices—all the things that affect plot—been effectively introduced?
  3. What of any subplots you perceived? How have these been executed in the given text?
  4. Has the setting been developed in a manner that contrasts or complements the characters and plot?
  5. What does the setting tell you of the story overall?
  6. Was the setting neglected—or, inversely, over-addressed—in any way that has a negative impact on the story?
  7. Is the dialogue pulling double-duty to effectively reveal character and/or convey motivation and plot?
  8. Does the dialogue move the story forward or is it static?
  9. Is there conflict present in the dialogue?

Setting

Dialogue

Point of View (PoV)

Many different points of view can be used in narrative fiction, and it is quite common to mix different types of PoV so long as the mechanics of those PoVs are respected.

  1. Did the writer handle their chosen PoV(s) well?
  2. Was the writer able to convey the scene, story facts and conflict effectively using their chosen PoV(s)?
  3. Narrative distance—is the writer consistent in their handling of this aspect of PoV?

Note: “PoV shifts” are not an immediate indicator of mishandled PoV. It is quite common to vary the narrative distance in a given PoV to avoid reader fatigue; however, if the shifts are jarring (third-person to first-person without whitespace or scene breaks), this may be an issue.

We’re all in the process of learning; each critique you provide will help you improve both your analytical and composition skills. While we do not expect members to produce literary critiques worthy of acceptance by any educational institution, we do expect that your feedback be composed and articulated to the best of your ability.

Last Edited: 7 months ago