Have you ever felt the frustration of having someone read your story for you, expecting a thorough critique and getting, I really liked it, it was really good. When you are asked to critique a story for someone there are certain things that you should be watching for.
Characterization – Do the characters have depth? Are they believable? Do they have understandable motives?
Dialogue – Does the dialogue sound real? Does the conversation flow smoothly? Could you imagine people you know talking that way?
Setting – Details are important. If the scene is about a tropical island, you have to be able to see, smell, hear, taste, touch, what the character does. If the the scene is in the lap of luxury it will be a whole new set of images. Your reader has to be able to place themselves in the location of the character that they are reading about and be able to feel like they identify with him.
Point of View – What is your point of view. In first person your character is limited to his own thoughts and opinions. In third person, the narrator can tell the opinions of other characters. It is important that POV stays consistent throughout a story or the reader can get confused.
Development – Is the development of the story logical? Do the changes progress in a way that makes sense or are they so random that the reader gets lost?
Pacing – How quickly does the reader get pulled into the story? Is there action right away, or is it qradual? Is the story based more on character development or action scenes?
Text – Are there lines that are too long or too short? Are there enough paragraph breaks? Are there places with too much description and not enough action to keep the reader engaged? Is it too wordy, or are all the words put to good use? Are there unnecessary adverbs such as “In fact”? Is it written in active or passive voice?
Mechanics – Watch for problems with sentence structure, verb agreement and aspects of basic style. Check for misplaced modifiers, mixed metaphors and dangling participles. (For me this means go back to University)
A walk in the park, right. I believe it is one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. You will come to recognize things that are out of place as if they were a button missing on a favorite sweater. Okay, they might not be that obvious, but you get the picture.
So go ahead and critique. Be honest, but don’t be brutally honest. Remember how you would like to have your own work critiqued. As a bonus your editing skills will get better each time you critique another writer’s work.