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July 14, 2011
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I thought I'd type up something on the type of people you're likely to meet in critique groups and how to handle them.  For those wondering, I am a Pit Bull Trooper.
Feel free to add other types; I don't think I got them all.
Also, feel free to donate so I can buy another Premium Membership: Droemar.deviantart.com/?givepo…


Bad Types:

The Toxic Snark
Most likely to be: Parents, self-described elitists, jerks in general
"When are you going to write for real?  Why are you wasting your time writing this junk?"
Attributes: This person is inclined to hate your stuff.  Without fail. They don't read what you write, or they read "real" literature.  And your work is so far below what they like, you're obviously in desperate need of their opinion and correction, which is largely that you should abandon what you're working on and start writing their idea of a story.  They hate mainstream, or hate a genre, or maybe just plain hate you.  You cannot put a foot right with this person, so you're really better off just not trying.
Strengths: None.  This type is sheer poison to your flow, your project, and your self-confidence. Get them out of your circle!  Failing that, don't mention any of your writing around them.  They don't deserve to know.
Weaknesses: Probably a real-life psychic vampire with a lot of criticism in their everyday relationships.

The PC/The Moral Guardian
Most likely to be: The new member of your critique group that won't be here next time, moms, old people
"I don't think kids should be exposed to this kind of stuff.  Shame on you!"
Attributes: This person disapproves of the content of your writing.  Blood, sex, violence, cursing, questions without easy answers: it doesn't matter, they sniffily object.  If it isn't kid-friendly, it shouldn't be broached, even if the audience in question is 14 or 16 or even 18.  This type will usually imply that you are not a morally correct person if you don't make the changes they suggest.
Strengths: If you're writing for kids, odds are this type actually has them, and may occasionally make a strawman point.  After all, if the "F" word appears in a preschooler picture book, this type is actually right to call you out on it.  Keeping the attitude that even a broken clock is right twice a day will allow you to get what you need from this type.
Weaknesses: Total milquetoasts.  They like bland, G-rated fare, and really aren't any use outside that realm (forget getting their advice on a graphic novel or YA).  Feel free to jibe them that you know about that stack of hardcore romances they've got stowed beneath their mattress.

The Inarticulate
Most likely to be: Roomates, general friends
"I liked this.  It was ... you know.  Like, good.  But this part I didn't like ... I dunno why."
Attributes: This type is the most common, unfortunately.  While probably the most neutral of all critique types, the Inarticulate cause their greatest damage by never being able to tell you what you did wrong or right.  They just can't quite put their finger on it, and while they might've liked it, they can't tell you how to fix anything.
Strengths: Inarticulates can be trained to become more erudite, but you've got your work cut out for you.  Ask very specific questions, and cite very specific passages.  Often this type will try to throw you off by giving you what you want to hear, i.e. "Lack of emotional hook?  Yeah, hey yeah, totally!  It was definitely that!"
Weaknesses: When cornered, Inarticulates can panic, or shut down because all this crap is a lot more work than they thought it was going to be.  Most either suffer from apathy, fear of hurting your feelings, or a lack of self-confidence in their own opinion.  Either way, avoidance is the biggest thing to expect.

The Vapid
Most Likely to Be: Roomates that are just random roomates, general friends, the new member trying to prove they're deep
"I know you're writing a typical hero fantasy, but ... was the red car on page 10 a symbol for something?"
Attributes: Odds are, if your first thought is "What the hell?  Did this person even READ what was on the page?" you've probably got this type.  These people are  forest-for-the-trees types, too caught up in the minutiae to critique broad strokes.  A lot of them seem to be motivated by a displaced desire to seem intelligent, deep, or witty.  
Strengths: The Vapid are actually pretty good at making you see aspects and facets of your writing you never considered before.  Of course, whether this leads to further illumination that will improve the story is on you.
Weaknesses: The Vapid tend to miss very obvious things for no good reason.  Some of them can also cross over with the Inarticulate, especially since they are more likely to be apathetic, and treat your questions like a quiz.  All they have to do is prove they read it, not necessarily that they comprehended it.

The Validator
Most likely to be: Your mom
"Oh, I just love everything about this!"
Attributes: When your mom saw your 2nd grade shoe-box with construction paper dinosaurs pasted inside it, this was what she was.  Validators believe that feelings should be considered above all else, and are hellbent on putting a positive vibe out into the world.  Not only that, they're damn good at telling you what you want to hear. They're very glib, and rarely specific, and one of the most sought after of the bad critique types. Strengths: The Validator is good at making you feel good.  Oh, you want it so; you want everyone to react this way to what you've written!   Sometimes, when you just need to feel good about yourself, you really do need to find these guys and perk yourself up a bit.
Weaknesses: While the Toxic Snark is all about putting bad energy out there, the Validator is the other end of that extreme.  Which isn't good for you.  Validators can't do anything but tell you you're wonderful, and too often, what you need to really know is what's bad.

Good Types:

The Wrecking Ball
Most likely to be: Your book agent, your publisher, that person in the group you wish you could write like
"You know, if you changed these major story elements around a little ... you'd have a better story."
Attributes: The Wrecking Ball sees the strength in your work, and pushes it farther.  Often, the best way to do this is to strip things down and rebuild, an extremely  painful process.  This is the best kind of critique to get, because the product at the end is undeniably a better one than it was before.  However, a Wrecking Ball must have the highest credentials of any critique types; you have to trust and truly know in your gut that this person is right, and having real life credentials like a Master's in Writing or awards for literature don't hurt.
Strengths: Wrecking Balls make great novels even better.  If you can get one to work alongside you, you're apt to learn a lot.
Weaknesses: Wrecking Balls are rare, or professionals.  Also, some people aren't able to see past the amount of painful work it would take to make their novel better, and turn away from their advice.

The Pit Bull
Most likely to be: The person in the group who's newly published or close to it, the most hated person in the group
"Hey, you can either suck now, or suck when you get rejected.  Your choice."
Attributes: Pit bulls are serious amateurs.  They don't merely write, writing is their craft and their passion.  Compared to most everyone else in the group who struggle just to log a few pages each week, the Pit Bull writes prolifically and can sometimes be impatient with new writers who haven't formed the habit yet.  Pits are notorious for blunt, harsh critique, and expect it in return.
Strengths: Pit Bulls are in it to win it; writing is no mere hobby, and they're earnestly seeking to not only get published, but to be a good writer.  Pits don't have a disproportionate sense of their own importance, unlike the Stylistic Sucker/The Defender.  They come to get knocked down, and these people will be disappointed if everyone's too meek or too nice.
Weaknesses: Pits like it rough, and they deal it out just as bad.  This can completely overwhelm new or timid critique partners, and even drive them away from the group.  A Pit usually needs to be tempered by someone else, otherwise they're very likely to become the ruthless leader of the writing circle.

The Logic Bomber
Most likely to be: Sci-fi readers, fanboys, nonfiction readers, college graduates in a specific field that you didn't bother to research before you wrote about it
"I got a real problem with your character running  upstairs with a killer in pursuit.  Man, that's just dumb."
Attributes: The Logic Bomber wants everything to make sense.  If there's anything in your writing that is inconsistent or illogical, they will lock onto you.  These are also the annoying types who just do happen to know how katanas were made, and everything you've put in your scene is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Stupid characters or brain-defying worlds will get this type frothing at the mouth.
Strengths: Logic Bombers are very likely to actually know what they're talking about.  It doesn't hurt if they have credentials; odds are the physicist in your writing group really does know about quantum physics.  These are also the best kind of partners to scan for things like consistency, grammar, and typos.
Weaknesses: Logic Bombers can shatter a story premise, especially if it insults their intelligence in addition to making no sense.  Plot holes and dues ex machinas will be called out to be shot in the street. These types can also get hung up on small details that don't make sense to them, and hound you until you fix it.  They also take a lot of pride in their vast knowledge, which can become arrogance.  Always be sure to double-check your research when they point something out.

The Soldier
Most Likely To Be: That friend you made when you went to the crit group for the first time
"Hey, remember how we couldn't get pacing last time?  I read this book on it, and I was thinking we could try this ..."
Attributes: This type is learning, just like you.  They're probably on your wavelength or at your level of experience, and really the person you hope will be there when you go to a critique session for the first time.  This person is very likely to become your closest critique partner, and the only person in the world aside from an Ideal Reader that you can actually discuss whether that unicorn sacrifice scene really works or not.
Strengths: The Soldier is looking for a buddy, someone to get down in the trenches with and defend.  They like passion, and really like when other people write what they write.  They guide you through rejections, tell you you're a good writer, but are also a good enough partner to tell you when you suck, too.
Weaknesses: A lack of experience means that this person has nothing to really teach you, unlike the Sniper or the Wrecking Ball (or a Pit Bull, depending.) Soldiers can sometimes have a flip side, such as a Validator side or an Inarticulate side.  Soldiers like company, and sometimes that company has misery.  While the Pit Bull is a rough but loyal companion, sometimes Soldiers lock onto you because you were that only port in a storm.  It's okay to learn together, but make sure this type isn't cramping your style or your growth as a writer.

The Ideal Reader
Most likely to be: A best friend, close sibling, someone who reads what you write
"You write fantasy?  I love fantasy!"
Attributes: The Ideal Reader is just that: the person you think will buy your book.  They know what they like and are capable of saying so, in addition to why something didn't work.  Ideal Readers are who you write your second draft for.
Strengths: Ideal Readers are an absolute necessity in order for someone to get equilibrium as a
writer.  No critique is as valuable as that of an Ideal Reader.
Weaknesses: Ideal Readers are not always writers, and this can leave a gap in their knowledge.  Also, beware of an Ideal Reader crossed with a bad type, such as the Vapid or Inarticulate.  They will make you tear your hair out.  (On the other hand, a Pitbull Ideal Reader or Soldier Ideal Reader is probably the best thing that will ever happen to you.)

The Literary Sniper
Most Likely to be: Well-read, a long-time author, a critic, someone with a Master's in Literature or Creative Writing
"You're in the Resurrection stage of the Hero's Journey, but your problem is you're distinctly lacking a 'taste of death moment' that has to take place in order for the hero to have a symbolic rebirth ..."
Attributes: The Literary Sniper is the older brother to the Logic Bomber, except they have an intimate knowledge of storytelling and craft.  They know the beats and rhythms of story, and use the jargon freely.  A Literary Sniper knows why something doesn't work, and is able to articulate it in ways you probably haven't ever dreamed of.  They may not be a hands on writer, but they get what makes for good story.
Strengths: A Sniper is second only to a Wrecking Ball, and can sometimes be just as helpful. Clarifying what makes a story work is an invaluable skill.  
Weaknesses: Snipers are, unfortunately, very rare.  In addition, their level of knowledge can easily go over the head of less serious or experienced writers


Receiving Types:

The Stylistic Sucker/The Defender
"Everything makes sense on page 50.  You just don't understand; I'm writing this way on purpose!"
Attributes: This type doesn't want to hear what's bad.  The most obvious trait is the fact that they will talk your ear off explaining why their writing really does work and you just don't see it.  They can't do it on the page, but they'll sure do it in person.
How to Handle Them: Let the Pit Bull have fun with this type.  Also, remind yourself that it's not your job to reject.  Leave that to the literary agents and the publishers.  But feel free to tell this type that good writing needs no explanation, bad writing deserves none, and that they won't be there to explain to an agent reading their work.

The Cutter/The Sulker
"Woe is me!  Not everyone liked the words I bled out onto the page!"
Attributes: This person doesn't want to hear what's bad, either, but that's because their self-worth is fragile.  When they do hear the bad, they shut down, and hate themselves.  They close up, lose their flow, and won't write anything for ages (or swear they won't, in extremely dramatic fashion.)  I have seen people of this type who threaten themselves with bodily harm if their writing isn't wonderful.  Also, this type is very likely to be a teenager.
How To Handle: This type needs an Ideal Reader or a Soldier to coax them out of their shell and build their confidence, but keep them the hell away from a Validator or a Toxic Snark.  They will feed like vampires on the former, and probably quit writing after encountering the latter.  Pit Bulls will chase this type out of the group.  Wrecking Balls and Snipers are too much for them right here right now.

The Trooper
"Hit me again!  HIT ME!"
Attributes: This type fully embraces no pain, no gain.  They take notes on what you're saying and actively rewrite, and come back to get bloodied again.  They're not afraid of critique, but sometimes they can be dismissive of genuine praise.
How To Handle: Pit Bulls tend to have this attribute; two in the same room will gleefully rip into each other.  Since this type is a cynic, the Toxic Snark can do real damage, because they're likely to believe the criticism and may well destroy a genuinely good piece of writing.  Keep an Ideal Reader or a Sniper on hand to balance out the  Trooper's negative tendencies.


The Willfully Ignorant
"Uh-huh."
Attributes: This person disagrees with your critique.  Plain and simple.  You can hound them, talk until you're blue in the face, but they're not going to fix anything.  They think it's just fine.  Which wouldn't be so bad, but they're doing it to everyone in the group!  
How To Handle: Avoidance is the best tactic.  You can't change anyone's mind, and you shouldn't try to.  If this person isn't willing to learn, something beyond the writing group will teach them down the line, either a rejection letter or vanity press with horrible reviews.  Now, if this type combines with a negative type like a Toxic Snark, get them out of the circle.  

The Student
"So how should I approach this?"
Attributes: The student is the most well-balanced reaction type, the positive aspect of the Trooper.  They are able to accept and concede to the bad, but also genuinely appreciate and value praise.  Sometimes they can be inexperienced, or terrible writers, but they're actively trying to get better.
How To Handle: Make this person your leader or second-hand man.  Students often have an infectious enthusiasm that can encourage meek types like Cutters and mediate harsher types like Pit Bulls.  The genuine honesty of a Student draws other writers to them.  Look to Students for interpersonal strengths, not necessarily writing ones.
  • Mood: Content
  • Listening to: Lupe Fiasco - Show Goes On
  • Reading: Charles de Lint - Seven Sisters
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:iconohineedtea:
OHiNeedTea Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2013   Writer
I know which i am, and i'm awesome :) ^.^
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:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2013
An amusing read. And very true, too. I've met lots of these types at my workshop classes, which makes reading this hilarious. Well done!
Reply
:iconarhasen:
Arhasen Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I am a Student Soldier, I think. I don't like to be overly agressive in critique, though I prefer to be honest, but at least share an encouraging remark or a leading suggestion (If I feel that I might have a better grip on a concept). However, I would rather listen and take in critique rather than give it, as being a student I really don't have the experience to give it confidently. Thank God at least, I am not afraid to turn my own writing inside out for the sake of bettering.

Also, am I the only one who is morbidly suspicious of Validators? If I hear nothing but "BECAUSE YOUR AMAZING JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!!!" I tend to think "oh no, I messed up" rather than "Yay! Success!". Also, I strive for Vapid's Strength in all of my writing, because the worst that could ever happen is writing a story that makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE TO ANYONE (except the writer.) [cue childhood memory of mom saying that my story of the Cat named Bubbles was 'confusing' and she couldn't make out what was actually happening... the quirks of having a non-validator mom...]
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:icondastenna:
DasTenna Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
Very helpful. Thank you.
Getting rid of Toxic Snarks or at least to avoid too much contact with them is the best thing people like me can do. They can be handled, even tamed a bit if you know which topics not to mention while they are around ;p
Some Toxic Snarks hate only certain matters, I guess. There attitude can kick your self-confidence down a cliff nonetheless even though they might not offend you but others. Because they know it all better and are so sky-highly perfect... *rant*
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:icondreamnest33:
dreamnest33 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012
This was so true and so funny. I would add a character to your list - The Grammar Nazi. this type will find every un-dotted i (if that were even possible with a word processor) bore you to death on the various uses of colons, semi-colons and the ellipsis. They will never have anything to say about your concepts, your characters or even if anything you wrote makes sense. If you have a serious case of unlearned 8th grade English, this person might be helpful but otherwise they completely miss what ever point you were trying to make. For most of us, the spell checker is a better reader.
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:iconembrynstormcat:
EmbrynStormcat Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2011
hmmm... I think I'm Ideal Reader and Student, but I might be fooling myself...
On artworks on DA (I usually only look at the visual art here because... well, no offense to anyone, but the writing I find is often pretty crappy) I always try to find something to say that the artist can use. I recall an incident with anthros with a bit of a messed up sense of balance because of the shape of the rear legs. I am not an artist. I can barely draw a recognizable cat. So I always make absolutely clear that I have no idea what I'm talking about - humility was a MAJOR point in my upbringing.
I do think that in writing I would get past the Inarticulate, but maybe barely... I will easily think to myself that a certain character or scene is rediculous and then the humility thing will keep me from saying it, as I barely have a right of speaking myself.
I'm also pretty tough on logic, and I'm actualy quite worried about that in my own writing too; I always want to see how things fit. So maybe I'm a bit Logic Bomber-ish, though I don't like nonfiction and I wouldn't say that running upstairs with a killer in pursuit is dumb without looking at the rest of the situation - maybe you have a gun in your bedtable drawer. So I don't know.
Receiver... pretty sure I'm a Student; always asking my friend who is also my critic to tell me what's wrong instaid of saying "it's good" =P... though I must admit I easily start justifying too. Guess I myself should think more about the fact that I can't explain to every reader who might buy a book of mine. Then again, I don't see it as a real possibility that I might ever get published... Writing is just what I have been doing from age 13 in order to keep my sanity... And though my little sister would disagree, any God that exists might know it did, and still does.
I must say the first couple of things of yours I read quite offended me because of the arrogance, the hyperbolic ecplanations of examples and the hacking away at books that I liked reading when I did because of some of the ideas in them - yes, Twilight - without looking at the bad parts because that's not what I read for. Then I started reading exactly WHAT you had to say about Twilight and really appreciated the fact that you don't, like everyone else I know who hates Twilight, hate it because "vampires DON'T SPARKLE!". So, thank you for giving me Valid reasons for people not to like both Twilight and Eragon (yes, it's for the Good ideas that I read), for boosting my self-image when it comes to finding Harry Potter brilliant, and for being pretty funny and interesting once one looks past the sneering and hacking.
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:iconvigilo:
Vigilo Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2011  Student Writer
Found this from =zebrazebrazebra's favourites and agree: this is brilliant! I want a SIR - Soldier Ideal Reader. [Pretty sure I'm an Vapid Inarticulate Reader, though!] Brilliant journal. :heart:
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:iconzebrazebrazebra:
zebrazebrazebra Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2011  Professional Writer
Is there any chance you'd consider submitting this as a deviation? It's super awesome.
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:icontalajade88:
Talajade88 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
I just found this and it is wonderful! I would like to know how you would categorize those people who always refer to existing literature, both well-known and obscure, in comparison to you work. You know, those people who always make you feel like you've inadvertently plagiarized something you had never even encountered when you wrote the piece...
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:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
Those would probably fall under Vapids or Inarticulates. That kind of crit is not helpful in the least. The only way it becomes useful is when you're pitching to an agent "It's Twilight meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre ..."
But for someone to say "Oh, this is a total ripoff of Redwall" would probably not be anything I'd wanna hear in a crit circle. It's not helpful, unless the crit is "Here is how to be less like Redwall ..."
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