| About this Newsletter
This issue will discuss the inclusion of side-notes, or tangents, in reviews, and how this additional information can be a benefit or let down to writers. Sometimes, a review can meander off-topic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It can all depend on what you, as reviewer, choose to talk about.
* For toDAY, second of MAY, twenty-oh-EIGHT, hoping not to degenerATE, your guest editor is Stargopher .
Letter from the Editor
You Been to the Edge?
When you choose to review a story item in-depth, you may have felt the urge to tell the
writer that their story reminds you of something else, of anybody else. Sometimes, the
writing style of a member might remind you of an author you are fond of. (It might also
remind you of an author you're not so fond of). Sometimes, the content of the story itself can remind you of a movie you have seen, or another book you've read. This can really encourage a writer. At least, this kind of feedback has encouraged me. Then again, the reviewer may have hated that particular movie. The reviewer who has taken the
time to look over my story may mention these other authors or stories because they feel my
story is lacking originality. But, not to be discouraged. I have usually found that, whether this additional information is designed as a compliment, or meant to be constructive criticism, the feedback is valuable to the writer.
Imagine you are reading a fantasy epic. You are enjoying the story, but when you choose
to review it you remember that among the characters there are a lot of elves. This is just
hypothetical, but, as a reviewer, the elves might have bored you, and reminded you of many
other fantasy epics you‘ve read. Including this opinion in a review can be tough. Keep some things in mind. First, we are assuming that if this is an in-depth review, then the member is interested in how the characters made you feel. This becomes significant information to the writer, and if they requested this review then it is safe to assume they will best know how to use the feedback.
I wanted to tell you that many readers can find elves clichÃ© these days. If you ask me, you can make your elves a lot more interesting if they made light of the fact they were elves, or if they pretended to be elves, only to be revealed as a different race altogether later in the story.
Also consider if this is a writer unaccustomed to harsh criticism, that it may be a matter of presenting your opinion respectfully. Depending on the writer (of course), coming out and exclaiming their story is a rip-off of Lord of the Rings may not be the best way to handle it, especially if you have not offered helpful suggestions.
Well, these elves are so worn out by now that you just need to delete them. You can't keep stealing from Tolkien. And another thing. Do you know you actually have a character named Frado? Frado--I‘m serious. Are you kidding me? Do me a favor, and don‘t come back--
As with anything review-related, explaining your concerns and detailing your opinion will help the writer most effectively. The writer and reviewer, both, should desire item highlights and evidence for the point you have made. Then, it always helps to discuss it. Your respectful suggestions to change the elves, or improve them, can make a huge difference in the item you review.
I have given and received reviews that meander, and wander off into an entirely different side-story or personal story. For my part anyway, I was happy to receive those reviews. (I was happy to write them also, but that does not mean I was always helping.) To me, these reviews showed that, one, the story I wrote had some form of effect on the reviewer. It made them think, or reminded them of their own experiences. Two, any insight from somebody who has read my story is useful, almost by default, because it lets me know if this story I wanted to write is actually what I have written. And, three, it is a sign that they are paying attention.
Your Brad character almost made me quit reading this story because he's so
thick-headed like my next door neighbor. When Brad left his furniture in Victor's garage, it was just like when my neighbor left his boat in my driveway. For a month. But, you don't need to be hearing this...
I went to the museum of science this past weekend, and was able to learn some
things about rock formations. Did you know that the rock monster in your story, if he's really made from sedimentary rock, as you say, may be millions of years old...?
There are drawbacks, and bad examples of side-notes. Sometimes a review can meander so
off-track that they can confuse a writer, frustrate them, and do little else. A reviewer can face the challenge of getting caught up in their own business to the point where they have stopped reviewing an item, and started to review whatever happens to be on their mind. Though in my experience, these reviews are an uncommon phenomenon, there are those
that can become a commentary roaming to the edge of comprehension.
Good story! Fantastic! The part about driving cross-country for vacation was so well-typed! It was you who wrote that story about the family who went on a sea cruise too, right? Maybe it was someone else. Anyway, in that story, there was an out-of-control character named Jake. You'd like him. You should read that one sometime. Anyway, here
is a contest I've been working on...
If a review does not relate to the story in some helpful way, it can tell the writer the wrong things about their item. Most gravely, it can tell them it was not good enough to pay attention to, when it actually was worth the time.
Clearly, whenever we, as reviewers, are discussing things that are somewhat unrelated to
the member's item at hand, there is a danger we can bore the writer. Also, there is the danger that if we get too off-topic, the plot turns, or the message the writer is trying to convey in their item can be missed. But, in the opinion of this guest editor, it is worth a shot. It is worth knowing when your storyline is worrisome because it treads closely to established fiction. It is worth knowing when your character is life-like, and touches the reality of a reviewer, to know if Brad has honestly irritated your reviewer for a personal reason. Ray Bradbury wrote, "The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies." The writer deserves to know whether they have done any of these three things. The reviewer has the power to let them know. As Spider-Man said, "With great power comes great responsibility" so-- (Oh, man...am I just using too many side-notes now?)
I was given the opportunity to choose some favorites of my own. In this section, I am
highlighting items from members who make a point of going a little off-topic (to stay on topic) when they review.