How and why I review.
A Message from Your Reviewer
Not everyone reviews items in the same way. When I review, I consider many things, yet some seem more important than others and stand out. First of all, I check to see if the member is a new writer. If they are, then I might be more careful how I word things because I don't want to discourage them. I want them to feel empowered, yet still get a helpful review.
Here is a list of some of the things I might notice during a review. I don't always mention all of them.
APPEAL: First, the story or prose must appeal to me. Do I want to read more? If the story draws me in, then I notice how it makes me feel, if anything at all. It can end sadly, or it can be uplifting. It doesn't matter which one. Whatever I feel usually means your purpose is working, unless it isn't.
NAMES: I could write a whole page and focus on this alone.
First, I will notice if you named your item or am still considering it. I would mention it and also might make suggestions after I have read the content.
Names in stories make a big difference in creating believable places, people, and things.
Your title is the first thing that anyone sees. I often imagine my title up in lights at a theatre and consider how it will appeal to those seeing it on screen. Which would you rather watch? Samaritan? The Samaritan? The Good Samaritan? The Helper? One Good Samaritan? Which to you does make you wonder what happens in the story? I choose the last one, although not long ago a movie came out with the title "The Helper".
Some members use character's names which are too similar, or they introduce too many at once. Naming them and/or revising them is, of course, the author's choice, but it can be potentially confusing when a reader views the writer's item.
If we are talking about fairytale, elf, or other kinds of stories, the names would have a feel like that. If in doubt, there are many name generators online. and I'm amazed at how clever they are. Try them. Link to Examples ▼
As you can see, depending on what other letters are used it can soften or enhance the hard sounds, giving the name a different feel to it.
Why is this important? Because we associate what something sounds like with whether the character or place seems a challenge or has some softness about him or her. There are always exceptions to this notion.
Example: Someone named Hugo sounds like a huge guy who is strong, yet not necessarily. He might be a strong nurse at a vet hospital, who is gentle. More than likely, he wouldn't be 3 feet tall, but as I said, there are exceptions to everything. He could be a dwarf.
FORMAT: At a glance, I know right away if it is appealing on the page and is easy to read and understand. If it is in one huge paragraph, it becomes too difficult to read. Make use of white space between paragraphs and character dialogue.
If the item is too long with basically a day to day listing of events, then I'm not sure I see the point. I won't be sure of what the story is about. The person's life, his or her relationship with other people, or some other reason for it being a story.
SETTING: This is important. A nice balance of imagery and well written word makes me feel as if I am there, but too many descriptive words can be overkill, and ends up being repetitive and redundant.
LENGTH: If the piece is overly long, then I am more reluctant to read it, but if it's intriguing, I still might. It depends on how it is presented and whether the characters and premise appeal to me. Link to Length Examples ▼
GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION: While punctuation errors can make a piece impossible to read, often I can pass over them temporarily, again depending on what it is and noting where and what. I can then mention it in review, and the writer can go back and revise them. It is often something easily fixed.
Overuse of exclamation points becomes an issue also!!! Even though the characters are screaming, do not constantly use exclamation points or capitalization. Believe me, the reader does remember if you mentioned it once. There are other ways to indicate how something is said. It can be in the very words used.
DIALOGUE: I love dialogue. Done correctly, it enhances the piece or work. This too can be overdone. I would put important actions in dialogue to show the interaction between friend or foe.
Either the person forgot to close the quote, with a quotation mark, or they didn't put any period, comma or question mark. After the quotation mark, they may have capped the he said part, if they use any dialogue tags at all.
I'm okay with not having too many dialogue tags. It can be overdone or underdone. I do want to know who is talking. You could indicate that with a dialogue tag at first, and then periodically include some action with the dialogue, which only that character is doing. Or you could show what they are doing and then let them speak.
Keep a character's actions with his or her dialogue.
Treat each character's dialogue as a paragraph and line space before and after.
I take note if it has any dialogue or if it has the character's thoughts, which is internal dialogue. Is it too much and distracts from the story, or does it enhance the work? Is it done correctly? Is the one character's dialogue mixed up with another character's dialogue?
Is there an overuse of dialogue tags? These are what I mean: Tom said, she said, they said, he mumbled, Mary screamed, he growled, Cheryl crowed, etc. Did you start to feel tired of all that? It is not necessary to label each dialogue. We can tell what is happening by the character's actions and circumstance.
POINT OF VIEW: I must know who's point of view we are in. If there is a rough transition between character's points of view, then I put that on the list of possible edits.
Has the setting, time of day, or point of view changed and was the transition rough? If there are any changes in point of view, setting, or time change, you must indicate who is talking, where we are, what time of day or which day it is. When a paragraph starts with a change there must be an extra line space between the previous paragraph and the beginning of this new one.
FLOW: The story must not only be told in a logical order, but must have a feel to it. That means the reader will start and stumble or stop reading abruptly. Sentences should not all sound alike. There should be a variety of sentence lengths.
Link to Flow Examples: ▼
I also notice if there is any foreshadowing. The best kind is subtle, and we don't quite notice it until much later in the story, when we might have one of those AHA! moments.
Remember that whatever the character does in the beginning of the story, is remembered most, no matter what he does later.
We want to care about this character or at least understand him or her, and can only know who we discover through the text and his actions.
To do background, it helps to figure out what the person does for a living as that might indicate the personality and further investigation might lead to the reason why they chose that profession. Often times, who we are spills over into what we choose to do in life, or would do given the chance. Link to profession Examples ▼
Think about what background this person might have. What makes the character choose this profession? What makes this character tick? Maybe his situation ended up forcing him into it. A hard-boiled detective might have a purpose after some traumatic event happened.
Even with how our lives have changed being a wife and mother can be a full time job and both challenging and rewarding. Although, if the housewife/mother does have a hobby or some outside activity, or just interacts with the general public, it can enhance the story character and allow for some interesting interaction. Even if she only does PTA meetings or fundraisers or supports the local elections by providing toll booths or even working at the polls. Maybe her side job is a surprising difference.
ITEM HAS NOT BEEN EDITED OR REVISED: Some of the people I review never edit or revise their pieces, after I've written an intensive review about the areas which need fixing. The area needing to be fixed can be and often is an obvious error--maybe it has a consistant comma error (and I'm guilty of this too), or too many dialogue tags or some other easily fixed problem.
Sometimes the new member doesn't understand how to use the features on the site, doesn't let the reviewer know that, and in frustration reacts in an irritated way, yet given encouragement without backlash helps.
As for me, when I get a review, and just so I don't forget, I immediately look over my work to see what they are referring to, and if it applies. Then I either make changes or leave it depending on where I'm going with it. Sometimes it's just a typo. Sometimes they somehow missed an important point. Every so often, I might disagree with what they have said, but thank them for it anyway. Regardless, I consider their advice.
Reviewing other member's work and helping them is a privilege and an honor. In a way, it tends to be self-serving. I end up learning so much during the process, and am surrounded by some of the most brilliant authors. That encourages me to try even harder on my own work. Although, it's not about competition either. It's more like I know they will have learned enough to find what is working or not in my own work and will let me know, and for that I am thankful.
Sometimes, even after I have reviewed another member's work, I decide to ask someone else for assistance and also pay them for their help. They might know more than me, have a different perspective or at least give the writer a few options. It's not always about not having or making time. I still keep in contact.
RATING: I rate not so harshly if it's a typo and easily fixed, or grammar errors which aren't so bad that I can't understand the story. If it's too littered with different types of errors it might be too difficult to review.
I like to look at the overall content. Does it appeal to me? Does it have a beginning, middle, and ending? Does it make me feel anything?
Even though the form might not be perfect, the idea comes across, and if it touches the heart, then to me that means something. If it creates a feeling in me and feels realistic then it was worth the time I took to read it.
I try to remember that these stories are parts of ourselves. No, we're not that serial killer, but we are expressing ourselves and sending a message, maybe even helping someone else to beware or encourage someone to pick themselves up and dust themselves off.
Keeping a positive approach works best when giving or getting reviews. These are like our babies, and so we want to protect them. Getting a review might be somewhat painful sometimes, but if the writer considers what the person has suggested, it might work out better, or it might re-enforce what the writer has considered in what is already written.
In some cases, maybe the reviewer didn't get the right impression for some reason. If so, take what works and leave the rest. Only you know how you want your story to read.
I hope this article was helpful. Thank you for taking the time to read this important message.
This is the type of responses I have received and very much appreciate.
Review of "Untitled/unfinished" given on "Untitled/unfinished" . got this response.
I GREATLY appreciate reviews of your caliber.
On WDC I mainly do Flash Fiction as exercises to better my content, plot-structure and cohesiveness, and grammar choices. So, reviews like these, are dead-brilliant. As I go back and edit, I may foreshadow the illness.
David was stuck once he made his first and second wishes, since the first wish was two-fold - in case he died, they would have more kids, and easily put David aside but also because he and his mom and dad wanted more kids, but it seemed she couldn't have any more. So, on his third wish, he could only help his friend.
Once again, keep giving reviews like this. They just motivate me!!