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Rated: E · Review · Reviewing · #2259390
How do I assess people's work when reviewing?
This was written after receiving a particularly low mark in a WDC Contest. I reviewed the reviewer's own rating philosophy agreeing with him that rating inflation was a problem on this site and that I needed to lower my ratings. I also wanted to review what people looked at when reviewing my own work. In the interest of fairness and consistency, it seemed important to write down a coherent strategy and system for reviews which I will try and keep to as of October 2021.


1) Reviewing should help others. So if you give a poor mark, say why and make it helpful.
2) Reviewing helps us grow also. We can learn from other people's stories and the mistakes they make. Reviewing helps us to see our own writing flaws more clearly also.
3) To promote the good, beautiful, pure, noble, and the true.


1) Why am I reviewing your piece, where did I find it?
2) My summary of what I think you are saying.
3) Commentary on the content and characters of your piece. An assessment of the truth and quality of what you said.
My personal reactions to this content. (*Star**Star*)
4) Mechanics (*Star**Star**Star*)

So a perfectly written piece with drivel for content will get a three. Edifying, realistic, and high-quality content but with too many mistakes will get two stars.

5 stars are for perfectly written classics. I should expect to find one of these once a month if at all, not every day I review. A five-star review should probably also gain an automatic award icon because it is that good.

4-4.5 stars is very good work, perfectly written, realistic, and with some kind of stirring message.

3-3.5 is above average and well written. This is a good mark for a solid piece of work that could still be improved.

2-2.5 Is average or below and requires a lot of work to improve it. If I give you this rating it should be accompanied by an explanation of why with the aim of helping you write better.

The lowest mark is for unreal poor content and it is full of errors. Mainly I will simply not mark a piece where a 1-star rating is required.


Some pieces are content-focused and others character-focused. These are two different styles that require two different approaches. To see how I view characters follow the link below:

 Characters: Overview  (E)
How I regard and interact with characters in my stories
#2273348 by LightinMind

How do I assess content? I have three main criteria. Is it realistic? Is it high quality? Does it elicit a personal reaction in me?

A) Truth

I have four main methods for assessing the authenticity of a piece:

1) Christian theological. I take a broad view of Christianity that affirms scripture and most of the decisions of the first four church councils with the resulting credal declarations. I also accept that people of other religions, no religion, and indeed Christian heretics often have an overlap with the truth in regard to spiritual and moral matters. I have read the Quran three times and Hindu and Buddhist works also and taught the six major religions for a season but regard the focus of truth to be in the Christian faith positions.

2) Historical - primary sources, the credibility of historical testimony.

3) Scientific - Can it be established by the scientific method, is there a scientific rationale behind it that could possibly justify the storyline? Fact-checking is important in most stories.

4) Experiential - I am not a kid, have lived, read, and traveled widely. The experiential is when a story passes the first three tests but still feels false. It might lack a human connection for instance.

On occasions, metaphors can be used to describe complex truths. This is different from pure fantasy which has no metaphorical resonance, expansion on, or connection with literal-historical truth. I appreciated C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkiens attempts to build parallel universes in which Christian truths were embedded and articulated in other-worldly realities. However, on reflection I consider them to have been monumental diversions into fantastical cul de sacs that left too many people stranded from the truth. They helped spawn an unmoored and implausible genre of literature that is in effect pure foolishness. So generally I try to avoid reviewing the Fantasy genre unless it echoes or gives insight into the real world. Much Fantasy writing would get a 0/2 for content automatically from me, making the maximum score of any Fantasy genre piece 3 stars.

B) Quality

The definition of quality is regarded by many as purely subjective and a matter of personal preference. However, there are objective ways we could assess a piece.

1) Impact - Its impact on others. How many read it, how many have rated it highly?

2) Connectivity - Does it bring out the key issues of our age or personal experience? Does it provoke questions? Is it memorable to the point that we think about it long after we stopped reading? Does it reach into our souls and make us listen to what it has to say?

3) A Masterwork - Is this perfectly written - which connects to the mechanic's section below but is not entirely dependent on it. I have read stories that had no grammar errors and obeyed all the rules which sounded flat and robotic? The difference between a poet and an AI is clear but hard to define.

C) Emotional Reaction

At the end of the day, there is a personal preference. Some you like and some you do not. Some make you feel and some leave you dead and detached.

ii) MECHANICS*Star**Star**Star*Click to expand


1) Should a story mean something?
Should it hint at, affirm or demonstrate values? Not all moments captured in literature can readily be integrated into some kind of overarching meta-narrative, nor should they be. But when something is clearly designed as an attack on truth then it is a different beast.

2) Tell versus show.
As a preacher, I have a message to tell and work at making that compelling for actual real-live congregations. Sometimes the show versus tell brigade sounds like they have nothing clear to say and are suggesting that the Omniscient Narrator does not exist. This kind of moral relativism must be rejected. That said even good preaching requires anecdotes to connect to people and to show them the meaning of what is being said. The God I believe in generally explained Himself to mankind by demonstrating what he meant in history. The abstract interpretation of what He did came later. A novel that preaches could sound more like a textbook or be a little boring and you need to hook your reader in by pulling them into the narrative where they can do their own thinking and where the actions of your characters speak louder than words. In practice therefore a balance between the two is required with more show than tell in longer works especially. As with real life, actions reveal the real character of a person more effectively than their words do.

3) Personal preference and Objectivity.
This was partly covered in the Content section above. For those who have no religious moorings the question of theological truth is an open one. I have been dismayed to find even some Christians are free-floating on many theological issues where definite answers have already been agreed on by the church. But historical and scientific argumentation can lead to more definite conclusions for all readers and somebody who has lived or heavily researched something is generally better equipped to talk about that.

4) The balance between technical skill in writing and content of what is being said
So for example, if someone writes a beautiful piece glorifying pedophilia do you publish it? If someone writes a piece glorifying demons or Satan is that worthwhile literature?

5) "I am not a Christian, so why do you apply a Christian perspective to my writings?"
We all argue from definite positions even if sometimes these are entirely confused. The difference here is that I am being very clear on what my perspective is. Since much of modern literature stresses the importance of POV this should hardly be an issue. There is an 'objective' spiritual and moral perspective. It is just saying that rubs against the grain of the moral relativism of the modern Western world. People in the West forget that most of the world has much more certainty on the big questions than many of them and Westerners often think that to argue from a definite position is non-inclusive and antagonistic. In response, I would suggest that this is how the world is and that it is not Christians that are creating conflicts by suggesting definite convictions but rather those that disagree with them. Mutual respect without relativism is more honest than suggesting nothing is ultimately true and we are all just stabbing in the dark. I believe that ultimate accountability is to the Christian God. Showing that I have misunderstood the Christian perspective is another thing and critiques of that sort are of course entirely welcome.

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