Friday, January 29, 2016


Reviews play an important role in the publishing industry.  Their primary function is as a marketing tool.  Glowing reviews are quoted and put on or in books to help them sell.  Positive reviews on Amazon (and the like) promote the sale of books, whereas negative reviews denounce the sales.  Published critical reviews are also residual marketing tools.  They examine the quality of a work critically and influence sales/exposure indirectly.  The type of review I write is similar to these reviews.

I call my reviews "literary criticisms."  If you click the tag of that name on this site, you'll be able to read the dozens of literary criticisms that I have written.  These criticisms are almost invariably written in the same format.  The outline I have chosen is based upon what I believe is most important about stories.

My criticisms are not analyses like you might find in a literature class.  I really don't care much about sub-text unless it's right beneath the surface.  If it isn't clear, it isn't there.  Theme and "meaning" can be very important, but only insofar as they are properly displayed by the three main aspects of any story: plot, setting, and characters.

The first paragraph of my criticisms is an introduction.  I usually give the title of the work I'm criticizing, the name of the author, the length of the work, and where the work came from.  Typically I'll give some indication of what I thought of the work as well.  The next three paragraphs deal with plot, setting, and characters.  The order varies depending upon what jumps out at me the most.  I try to position my paragraphs to allow the best transitions possible.  Ideally, the plot, setting, and characters of a story are interwoven so tightly that I can transition from any of them to any of the others and then over to the third; if this isn't the case, I will place the two paragraphs with connections to one another next to each other.  Sometimes the body of my critiques will get a fourth paragraph.  That forth paragraph is used if I have something specific to say about the prose (the words, the authorial voice, the style) of the work.  For most stories I will give a quick remark or two about the prose in the first or last paragraph and leave it at that, but for some stories the prose either makes the work immensely better or immensely poorer.  My final paragraph comments on what I wrote prior to that point.  I often give the work a grade, such as 95%, and then I provide some means of finding the work if I haven't already.

I don't read a lot of critical reviews, but I should.  I would really like to write some some day within a professional capacity.  Two of my reviews appeared in the High School Highlights section of the Somerset Daily American during my high school career (one for the movie Gravity and the other for the novella Perfect State); however, I was not paid for either.  It's not truly professional unless money changes hands.  In any case, I hope that if I am able to write reviews professionally some day, that I will be allowed to use the format that I currently use.  Why would I use it if I didn't think it was the best?

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