Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Interior of St. Peter's,
Giovanni Paolo Pannini,
oil on canvas, 1755.
Niedersachsische Landes-museum, Hanover.

Continuing from yesterday:

We often see critics who announce they don't read a particular genre - but are compelled to tell us so - in order for us to appreciate their austere favours and the purity of their taste. Romance and SF get this a lot.

Critics who see derivatives from TV and film for every possible plot point and character. I can't see any special value in these observations - except to express their fetish for the tube and to rattle the poor writer.
I thought we already knew there are no new plots.

Dr. Fell critics, who don't like the writer's style, voice, or subject. Sometimes these are "backatcha" critics and it is definitely personal.
Other times, it's just an expression of a taste and individual squick, which they may believe, possibly erroneously, are universally shared.

My main fault as a "critic" is an excessive tendency towards nitpicky reality bites - internal contradictions/inconsistencies in plot and character.


writtenwyrdd said...

I like this series of posts. It is really good to have the old reality check on critiquing, because we can all forget to keep our distance and read someone else's work with a true critical eye and not be just a bundle of our own biases, lashing out.

I personally comment on things that seem ripped from television or the movies, because these are often topics that are rehashed from same. Once something is on television, it's pretty much been done to death,and it will take a really careful treatment to make it special enough to rise above the morass of derivitive sameness.

Or so sez I. I think this is an industry bias in large part, too, though. Unless you're writing a book for the Buffy series, it shouldn't sound like fan fic of the show with the names changed.

Scott said...

It's hard for me not to use something I've seen before, whether on tv or in the movies, because I've seen so much. I don't even know I'm doing it sometimes.

Bernita said...

Written, I was thinking more of those who announce the plot had been "done" in a forgotten series in 1972.

And I may be exhibiting a bias of my own. Not everyone follows TV. And I'm all for variations on theme.If we took the argument ad absurdum, we'd all stop writing.

So, Scott? Your take is bound to be individual.

Ric said...

What I want from my critics is "WOW!"
If I don't get that, I know I'm not there yet.
Not "It was good" or, worse, nothing at all.

"You write like Nicholas Sparks." - like that is a bad thing??? I'll take one of his deals anyday.

TV is mostly formulaic - ten guys sitting around in a room "We're coming to commercial break - kill somebody."

Excuse the rambling - sun is shining and it's the Merry Month of May.

writtenwyrdd said...

LOL, you're right, Bernita. And if we went into such a whirl of nitpicking as you describe, there would be nothing acceptable to say or write. Besides, we'd be too busy arguing to write or do anything else.

I didn't mean to sound like a story can't or shouldn't be similar to what is on television. With only a few original plots in the world, it would be impossible for new work not to have resemblances to previous work. But there's a difference between the same idea and the same story.

So long as the rehashed idea is innovative and unique in its own special way, it can work. I'm talking about fanfic by any other name.

Jaye Wells said...

Nitpicking makes my eyes cross. For this reason, I have learned to cherish good critiquers, rare though they may be.

Bernita said...

So, you think you can please everybody, Ric, to universal acclaim? And if not, you suck?

I get you, Written. I'm inclined to think those ..."there's this boy wizard, see, who goes to a wizard school, see..." ought to be nailed to the cross.

Bernita said...

Sometimes nitpickers fail to mention what works in their pursuit of what doesn't, Jaye.
And to be fair, nits may be all they have to pick, if they are presented with a short passage.
And if people blow basic grammar, indulge in cliches, etc. - those nits deserve to be picked.

Ric said...

Actually, I was thinking of my first readers - the critic who count the most (at this point anyway). I need them to say WOW!, then at least one agent to say, WOW, then 10 publishers to say WOW and I get a beach house.

Nitpicking - new Fox drama, Drive, outdoor shot in Florida - big mountains in background - okay, yeah.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

These posts make me realize how lucky I've been. I've only had one bad critiquer who got kind of malicious. I've definitely had beta readers (ones who aren't writers) who thought they were no help at all, but they are the brilliant for seeing the big picture.

As for old plots, there's that "Does your fantasy novel contain this trope?" questionaire floating around the internet. I think it's ridiculous. Of course my hero is the lost king. Do we really want to read a story about some ordinary guy?

It's the journey, man, not the destination.

Rick said...

Bernita, I think Ric is saying that you need to please someone. People who don't like books about imaginary kingdoms aren't going to like mine, and I don't expect them to. But for it to fly there have to be people - an agent, then an editor, then several thousand readers - who say Yes! I like that girl and her world ... what happens to her next?

Bernita said...

Definitely true for first readers, Ric.
That nit was produced by an extra large louse-up.

SS, put me down as one of those who love lost kings, handsome heroes, beautiful princesses ( as long as she is not TSTL) etc., etc.
Readers do NOT get tired of these stories.Certainly they haven't for several thousand years, and I doubt if we'll see a revulsion any time soon.

Rick, I just have to twit Ric now and then...

Gabriele C. said...

Of course, my heroes are handsome. Sure, I could write about the ugly ducks I meet every day, but where's the fun in that? ;)

Bernita said...

Quite, Gabriele.
Further, you'd think that handsome guys were rare and therefore fantasy or something.
There's one who lives down the street who looks like the actor in The Scorpion King. Another fellow who works for a garden supply business who looks like the classic cowboy hero.
Probably six to a dozen in this small town alone, just going by looks.
I don't find either male or female beauty as rare as the critics claim it is.

Robyn said...

There's one who lives down the street who looks like the actor in The Scorpion King.

Then I will be visiting you shortly!

Seriously, the critics that really grate (try theater critics if you think lit crits are difficult) are the ones who not only announce their own agendas for what makes a good book/script/show, but then trash you for not following it.

Anonymous said...

The bias against genre writing is funny in particular since there are so many who try to remove the "genre" from the stories that they want to be "literature". This happens most often within science fiction, I think. Books like "1984", or "A Brave New World" couldn't possibly be called Science Fiction, they are simply too good.

This is one of the things I like about the recently departed Kurt Vonnegut; even though he had a lot of fans that were not usually SF readers, he didn't have any pretensions about his genre. And he even got his start writing "bad" Science Fiction.

Bernita said...

Their way or the highway, Robyn, and how dare you invade...

Eh, Trevor, if it's popular, it couldn't possibly be good. The masses, you know, have no taste.
Writers are harder on other writers than readers, it seems.

Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Bernita! I hear what you are saying about the same plots revisited. Take a run over to Razored Zen and read Charles' thoughts on shaping characters. (You may have been there already and I didn't notice.) You'll find it interesting.

Sam said...

Interested by all the good looking guys in Bernita's town.

Hmm. Where did you say you lived again?
Everyone looks good when I take my glasses off...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
It's good to remind us!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Donnetta. I'll check him out.

Hee, Sam, these guys would be considered handsome by the usual objective standards.