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The Good Critic's Guide:
'
I. Introduction:

   I have noticed that many critics on DA tend to leave rather harsh and sometimes subjective critiques on the pages of the artists being critiqued. Their rationale for doing so is based on the concept that 'we shouldn't molly-coddle each other and instead "tell it like it is"'. However this type of critique reflects poorly on one who is critiquing as opposed to the one who is being critiqued and I will explain why throughout the course of this guide. In essence I hope to use this resource as a way of teaching potential critics how to properly focus their abilities and direct their critiques in a manner that will allow them to be rated as a good critic.  

Note: Before reading on, take note that this guide is only for literary works as I have no experience judging visual art and therefore cannot create a rating scale for those.

II. The Purpose of a Critique:

   The first question that we must ask ourselves is this: "Why does an individual want to be critiqued?" The answer to that question should be fairly obvious, "because the artist wishes to receive feedback and suggestions for improvement." However, unless a piece is truly absolutely dreadful – perhaps at the level of troll pasta, is there really any reason that we should be harsh with them? Is it not possible to create a purely objective critique that assesses technique and leaves out any personal feelings? I believe that this possibility is definitely something that we can make a reality, but only if we understand the subject.

III. Beginning Your Journey As A Critic:

   Before you even write the first words in a critique, you must understand the criteria that will earn you an instant failure (and thus result in your work being legally and fairly rejected):
1. Inflammatory Comments: This needs no elaboration, if it's flaming, douse it and throw it out.
2. Spam: Similarly you can throw out spam
3. Not Objective: This is the one criteria that many individuals completely miss when doing a critique. A critique has absolutely NOTHING to do with your opinion on the subject matter nor should the concept of the 'I' be present at all during the critique (i.e. it must not be subjective in any way). What this means is that, if you're writing a sentence that sounds similar to: "I feel that this isn't good because…"; "I would have done following because…"; "It just doesn't sit well with me" Then you've done it wrong already. 'I' should only be used as a part of a demonstration: 'I have a piece that can show you how to properly apply the technique, see the third stanza and watch how the rhythm flows from one line to another.' Remember, a subjective point of view is a reason for an instant rejection and you do not have a right to contest it.

   Now that we've understood these criteria, let's move on to the rating system as a whole.

IV. Rating - Overview

   Stars are very important to any artist. Anyone producing a work that has to be rated, would love to get more stars. While the subsequent sections will go through each type of rating, this section deals specifically with what an artist should/should not do, based on the overall star count received.

1 Star – If you receive an overall one-star rating, then ninety-five percent of the time you can confidently throw it out as useless spam/inflammatory comments and/or for bias and lack of objectivity. There is never a reason for an artist to accept a one-star rating or to show their thanks for such a rating. The only time that such a rating should be accepted is:
1. You honestly think your work is terrible
2. The critic is highly ranked and respected with either numerous awards to his name or has a genuinely strong background to his work.
3. The critique comes from an established company with a strong ratings background and trusted knowledge.
With factors two and three it is up to the artist to investigate the critic and determine on the balance of probabilities if they are truly good, or if they just hate for the sake of hating.

2 to 3 stars - If you receive a rating between two to three stars, then you are not required to accept the critique. Instead, defend your work and where possible counter the points that the critic raised. Most of the time, critics will say that 'X is lacking and that you need more X'. The question to ask is:
1. Has the critic practiced what they preach? I.e. can they show proof where they demonstrate the use of their recommendation?
2. If they cannot offer proof, on what basis are they suggesting that you should follow them?
3. Are they established/successful enough to be giving that level of advice (assuming that they have not demonstrated that they practice what they preach)
4. View their other critiques; under what circumstances do they give a higher rating? Does it show bias toward your particular style or technique?
I personally make it a rule never to tell someone to do something I haven't tried myself. If I tell someone that x works better than y, it will be because I've tried both x and y methods and found x to be better.
Remember that most 2 to 3 star ratings often contain very subjective statements. In these circumstances the key thing to do is to educate the critic about the fact that a subjective opinion is not allowed and they should rate you on an objective scale and are politely invited to redo the rating based on this.

4 to 5 stars - A four or five star rating is a very strong rating and most of the time you should accept it and it would be strange/unfair if you didn't. However, before accepting the rating, have a look at the comment; consider the advice given and how useful it really is. Rave ratings are always good, but you also want to ensure that you have a positive relationship with the critic. If the comment is too negative or seems suspiciously derogatory despite the high rating, then you should reject it on good faith and ask them why they said such things despite the higher rating.

   Now that I've gone through the overall ratings, I shall now demonstrate how to properly assess and use each rating criteria.

V. Rating – Vision

   Most of the harsher critics that I know of, actually have little to no idea of what "Vision" means. If one took the time to read the FAQ section on deviant art, the definitions are stated rather explicitly. This is a copy-pasted definition:

"Vision – Does the artwork present or reflect a point of view, theme or idea?"

   Now most people find this definition to be a little too open and thus I'll write a more specific definition that I believe should be applied. However, the critic should exercise professional judgement in determining which definition to apply (either mine or the DA standard):

   Chen's Definition - "Vision represents the artist's ability to demonstrate his/her perception of the scenario/setting used in the art-piece. An artist can do this by staying true to the character and demonstrating the feelings of the character through the character's eyes, without personal or outside influence (unless the character possesses similar traits to the author). Similarly the author can show vision by staying close to the original theme and/or the original idea without deviations that are unrelated to the core theme."

------
Example of an artistic deviation:

Softly, softly, locked the door,
Quietly, quietly, on the floor,
Whisper, whisper, so he won't hear,
The midnight man – he must be near!

Will I be free or left to die.
Is this the coward I am inside?

----------

   In the example shown above, we see that the artist has deviated from the horror theme and the perspective of the poem (it was 3rd person then jumps to 1st). This is considered an artistic deviation and should not impact upon vision. The rating scale that I apply in such situations is demonstrated below:

1 star – No clear theme or idea, just a mish-mash or collage that WAS NOT INTENDED (some mish-mashes are intended like abstract art and therefore should be graded differently)

2 star – Some underlying idea is present, but most of the piece is noisy/unrelated.

3 star – A clear idea/perspective is presented, but the execution is poor and the artist deviates a little.

4 star – A clear idea/theme is presented and artist does not deviate, but does not demonstrate anything special.

5 star – A clear idea/theme is presented, artist goes above and beyond the common perspective reaching into something different without deviating from the core.

VI. Rating – Originality

   This is the rating that gets a lot of people down. Automatically these days, critics seem to rate you low on originality. Why? The standard answer is as follows: 'Ith been done befuuur like ermahgerd!'

   Now then, let's examine the deviant art definition of originality:

   "Originality – Is the artwork fresh or new in its style, execution or approach? Is it something you haven't seen before in its particular genre? Does it surprise you?"

   Based on this definition, a new technical style, a new method of execution (even on the same theme) should rate highly on originality. For the purpose of simplifying things however, I'll offer the Chen definition of originality.

   Chen's Definition - "Originality reflects NOT upon the theme presented, which may already have been written hundreds of times before, but rather upon the artist's way of presenting something. One should judge each piece based on how similar it is to pieces that you've seen before. If it is less than thirty percent similar, then it should be counted as a wholly original piece."

   In order to demonstrate this, I shall now show two simple stanzas:

---------
Example 1:

As a glimmer of light shines through the door,
The war in the shadows begins.
Though your hands are numb and your feet are lead,
The fire burns within…


Example 2:

Oh light that shines through the my solitary window,
Piercing the depth of my very soul.
You numb my hands with - your pious light,
Stoking the fire of the morning that comes…

   With both of these examples it is easy to see that they are original ideas, even though similar wording is used. Let's add a third example that has the same theme as the first:

Example Three:

A blade is drawn in the quiet shadows,
As adrenalin stifles my inner scream.
A glimmer of gold is what leads me to it,
The golden throne of my obsessive dream…
---------

   Now, if you examine example 1 and 3 you'll see, very little wording is used that is similar.  However the core theme is the same, a war in the shadows and the fear of the executor. Does this mean that example 3 which came after example 1 is unoriginal? No, of course not! Remember that just because something has been done before, doesn't make the idea unoriginal. You might find it boring but the artist might be presenting his/her own personal/original take on the subject matter, and that should count toward a higher rating. As I did before, here is the scale:

1 star – There are about 4 to 5 pieces that are similar (remember the 30% benchmark) to the artists work. It is therefore something wholly unoriginal.

2 to 3 stars – There are 2 to 3 pieces that are similar (> 30%) to the artist's work. Therefore it is somewhat unoriginal.

4 stars – There is 1 piece I've seen that is similar (again >30%) to the artist's work. Therefore it is original but perhaps not completely.

5 stars – There is nothing that is similar to the artist's work. It is therefore considered to be completely original.

   Remember when assessing according to this scale you must take into account technical presentation in order to assess the 30% similarity benchmark. If the works have differing rhyme schemes, differing poetic styles and perspectives then it should be less than 30% similar.

VII. Rating – Technique

   Again this is something that receives low ratings and that can't be helped as most modern poets are unfamiliar with older poetic devices. Before discussing this issue however, I would like to display the DA defintion:

   "Technique - Was the artwork skilfully created? Does the artist exhibit advanced knowledge of the medium and/or bring special focus to the craft of the medium used."

   Again, this definition cannot be applied to everything and leaves so much open to interpretation that I'd like to offer a more in depth Chen definition.

   Chen's Definition - "Technique refers to the artists execution of his work and the consistency of his execution. It should also be based on any notes the author has left in the description regarding potential deviations from the technique based on artistic choice. Where a specific technique has been stated, the critic must judge based on the criteria. Where no technique is stated, exercise professional judgement after taking into account the age, skill and general style of the author from previous works."

   Technique is not something that needs examples, but rather it requires a good judging scale. Therefore, I'll get right into the scaling system:

1 star – The author demonstrates no technique and/or structure in his/her works. This is not intended for artistic purposes and it is clear to see that the author is just writing something that looks like a wall of text. Based on that, we can determine there is no technique.

2 star – Author demonstrates some basic structure either through the use of a semi-fluent rhythmic scheme or some form of rhyme, but the work still appears very rough and with no clear form. This is not intended for artistic purposes and the author is simply not applying proper technique for the execution of his or her poem.

3 star – Author shows some use of technique, but it is not applied consistently throughout the piece and this was not intended by the author.

4 star – Author shows some technical skill and demonstrates that they can apply it. If the technique is not applied consistently, the author has stated why and made this clear in the author's description section of the deviation.

5 star rating – Author shows the use of a proper technique (either of his own or of a traditional standard). He applies the technique consistently and states clearly a reason for the change if any is found (it must be artistic and purposefully intended).

VIII. Rating – Impact

This last criterion should not be defined at all, because it is a raw feeling. However, the problem stems from the fact that this raw feeling is, by its very nature, a subjective criterion. Hence it would be nearly impossible to asses this in an objective manner. Based on this conclusion I will instead make a recommendation.

We are individuals with very different backgrounds, gore would be very traumatic to an individual who leads a shielded life where they have seen very little of it, yet to the individual who has lead a life amongst the rougher edges of society, knife wounds, gunshot wounds, these would mean relatively little to the individual (it is not shocking and thus carries less impact). Therefore, when assessing the criteria of impact, I feel that we should attempt to take into account the feelings of the general public and the majority of individuals. It might also be prudent to delay your critiques until you get some sense of what the commentators and public are feeling about the piece. This is the most ideal way of objectively rating 'Impact', however I must acknowledge on the grounds of fairness that the critic has a right to subjectively judge 'Impact' based upon its impact on them as an individual.

IX. Closing Comments:

Becoming a critic is a relatively easy undertaking, you need only click a button in order to become one. Being a GOOD critic however, takes both effort and time on your part to understand the nature of your work and the impact that you will have on the authors you critique. No one can learn a completely different style in a single day and if you were to claim that you are capable of such a thing, then by all means display your talent worldwide, if however you acknowledge the fact that you cannot do such a thing, then it is reasonable to expect that others have the same difficulty. Help them improve in a step-by-step manner and build up your relationship with them. Yes, your duty is review their work and point out errors, but it need not be done in a manner that is callous or harsh. Instead, a professional crisp critique with just a hint of friendliness and without arrogance is quite possibly the ideal kind of critique to write and it becomes a pleasure for the individual writing and for the individual/individuals reading.

If you wish to become known in this world, let it be for the positive things you've done, rather than for a display of animosity and arrogance toward others.

-Chen Yuan Wen, 24th November 2012
Hey there, faves comments and shares are greatly appreciated ^^ Each one helps me get a little better known and/or a little better at my art, plus I rank for popularity, so clicking those buttons are the best way to help :3

If you'd like to hear me do some live comedy, answer questions and read poems LIVE then check out the latest two episodes of my show:

Episode 5: [link]

Episode 6: [link]


Author's Comment:

Alright mates,

Today I'm releasing this guide that I wrote way back in October, but actually never had the chance to post. It's simply a way of sharing my methodology of how to give a good review that actually keeps an individual coming back for more. Being overly aggressive or delivering harsh critiques only shows how much of a poor character you are in general.

Instead, those with experience should slowly guide an individual through this world and help them build on their works. If you can't stay true to that, don't offer a critique. I personally know that I can't offer a critique in most situations because I am either biased or lack knowledge, in which case I choose to stay silent. If you want to write a critique then you must be prepared to study up a little bit about how to be a good critic.

Better to be known for being positive than for being a grouch eh?

-Captain Chenbeard of the Black Fedora Pirates :iconwordofchen:

Other Poems by Me:
I Am A WriterI Am A Writer:

Gentlemen, today I speak to you
To convey an issue that has plagued the core of our community.
For so long have we been considered second-class;
To this day there are those who still believe that we are not artists.
But today is not about freedom, today is about honour,
Because there are many writers that still seek to shame us all...

I speak of those individuals, who take art from others.
Covers, photos, paintings, digital art, anime and manga.
It matters not where you draw your source from,
But every action impacts upon us as a community.
Why?

BECAUSE I AM A WRITER!

When I craft my works, when I write each and ev
You Left Me StrongerYou Left Me Stronger:

Hey there, it's been awhile, do you remember me?

I guess you might not, since I wasn't very important to you.

You know, I spent so many days thinking about - what I did wrong

I questioned if maybe, I was at fault or if I was screwed up.

I thought a lot about the things you said...

The things that were my fault, my problems.

I took them to heart at first, but then I realised you were wrong.

I realised that you are selfish and ugly on the inside.

On the surface you pretended to care, but like a cancer;

You amputate someone the moment you think they've gone bad.

You hide from the rigours of life and only emerge l
Machine ManMachine Man:

It began with but a simple command, "to do as we are told".

Never to deviate from this path - never to nurture the soul.

We are told that we are given a purpose; "a part of something great!"

Yet why oh why am I so weary of that which is my fate?

Am I an error, a single anomaly, unable to feel intact?

Or am I missing some special attribute - a facet which I lack.

In a society made of fleshed machines; robots wearing skin,

Perhaps I'm simply seeking something, to fill this metal tin.

-Chen Yuan Wen, 16th November 2012
They Watch UsThey Watch Us:

Perched high upon the mountains;
With wings as black as night.
They watch us in the hour,
Before darkness turns to light.

I've seen them in my visions;
In dreams they come and go,
But the things they seem to tell me
I guess nobody should know...

I've seen children that are buried,
Beneath a frozen lake.
A maiden sits there weeping;
Her heart is soon to break.

The crows flutter downward,
A noose amongst their hands.
They take the maiden away,
To a dark and distant land.

And even if I follow -
Even if I try...
I'll simply end up buried,
Where the frozen children lie.

-Chen Yuan Wen, 10th November 2012


Other Literature by Me:
Mercenary 1-1MERCENARY

Chapter 1: Blood is Beauty

Release One: Pages 1 - 3

THE COLD AIR in Baron Rorke's study did little to calm his nerves. He was expecting visitors this night and they were not the best of company. A shiver of dread ran down his spine and he spent most of the twilight hours staring out of a large window which stood behind his writing desk. It was amazing, he felt, how quickly a man could become attached to a life of luxury; only to be made painfully aware of how easy it was to lose it. War was always a frightening thing, even more so when one had the knowledge and sense to realise that it was no longer an exercise of glory, but a si
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:iconriannoodlton:
RianNoodlton Featured By Owner May 27, 2014
How do you get something critiqued?
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:iconwordofchen:
WordOfChen Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Professional Writer
If you're a premium member you can ask for critiques on your work. It's a feature ^^

-Chennie :iconwordofchen:
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:iconriannoodlton:
RianNoodlton Featured By Owner May 27, 2014
Oh okay. Thank you =) 
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:iconanunfoldedpapertiger:
AnUnfoldedPaperTiger Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Student Writer
Alright, I'm disagreeing with this one man that's decided to critique my work, and I feel like his review is, for the majority, unfair.

Here's what I know about him: He only has 4 pieces on display, only joined just today, has given 6 critiques (most of them with the same rating range of 2.5-3.5 stars, with a 4 on only one piece), and doesn't seem to understand the finer points of writing. Now, this is merely speculation, so it's only fair I let others develop their own opinion.

The link to his critique can be found here: [link]

I'm simply unsure as to how to classify his critique as. I personally think that it isn't really objective, but I'd like to hear what you guys think so I can make a proper decision.
Reply
:iconwordofchen:
WordOfChen Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Professional Writer
To be honest he's not wrong about a lot of the conventions of prose. The fragments he named do indeed require a lot of reworking. Never put an and after a period and use semi-colons when you want to say something different in the same sentence.

"Their broken bodies lay shattered, as Naroth smiled; perfect sacrifices to his queen of death."

Something like that. I think that most of his recommendations are pretty good, the only thing I disagree with is the first part where he cites that your writing can be long and tedious. That should not impact on rating since it is a style based choice, the other stuff is correct and he actually took the time to read your prose which is something I would say...most deviants would not do.

-Captain Chen of the Black Fedora Pirates :iconwordofchen:
Reply
:iconanunfoldedpapertiger:
AnUnfoldedPaperTiger Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Student Writer
Well, I'd have to disagree, Captain. As much ire as fragments receive, they do have their place in prose. It's a feeling of emphasis behind them, with clarity and a enforced feeling in their driving force. They do have to be place correctly, under the right emotions and situations, but they have a purpose nonetheless. The additions that he wrote about Ellen as a character, I believe, are fragile and under-researched.

First, I never stated that Ellen's occupation was in the world of art. I merely stated she was an artist. His assumptions weaken his argument and critique. He feels that she wanders into the frozen wasteland for mere knowledge, when this is not the case if the reader pays attention to the text. Subtle it may be, Ellen's inner monologues reveal a character that demands order and logic; in her situation, there is none, giving her reason to continue.

I state once more: his critique (in my opinion) was somewhat fragile, not taking into account the multiple points of view that must be used when reading a piece of prose. The rating of a 2.5 stars was unwarranted, and I feel the critique should've gone under revision.

But again, it's just my opinion. Should an argument escalate, I will humbly step down with my pride (and dignity) intact.
Reply
:iconwordofchen:
WordOfChen Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2013  Professional Writer
Well thing with prose is, what you see is from your point of view. You can disagree all you like, but at the end of the day its what the audience sees. If someone is reading something one way, sometimes it pays to listen. You don't have to accept their critique, but there's nothing wrong with rejecting a critique due to an unfair rating and still listening to the advice.

Remember, most deviants don't understand the rating system, hence why this guide actually exists. Rather check the value of the comment. He was not wrong grammar and punctuation wise. The rest is subjective detail and grammar and punctuation criticisms should always be taken into account even if the rest is rejected.

-Captain Chen of the Black Fedora Pirates :iconwordofchen:
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:iconanunfoldedpapertiger:
AnUnfoldedPaperTiger Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2013  Student Writer
True, true. And yes, I did correct the mistakes (outside of the fragments. I'll have to take another look at what he pointed out and choose what would work) he listed. And for a critique that earned a 2.5 star rating... well, it wasn't exactly constructive.

That said, what did YOU think of the piece, Captain?
Reply
:iconwordofchen:
WordOfChen Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Writer
Didn't read it except for the portions he mentioned. Honestly not my cup of tea at all and if I did read it I wouldn't be able to provide non-subjective feedback, so I can't tell you what I thought of it =P.

For me I only like two kinds of prose. Extremely funny ones, or ones that contain copious amounts of fantasy mystery and in-depth mythology xD. Anything else in my eyes is dead boring (also why I tend to only review poetry over prose).

I personally suggest you listen more to the readers (your frequent readers) and try to find out what they think (if the majority likes it, then more or less you're on track). Build up from there and improve on your own work (rather than working to benchmarks that others set since they aren't you and you aren't them). Honestly, listening to other people only works if you're the type that doesn't get worked up about anything (and I can tell you from first hand experience that I get worked up easily xD). Hence, it's better to set your own goals and benchmarks in writing and attempt to overcome that.

-Captain Chen of the Black Fedora Pirates :iconwordofchen:
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:iconanunfoldedpapertiger:
AnUnfoldedPaperTiger Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Student Writer
Understandable, Captain.

Unfortunately, the viewer that do read my work tend click the fav button and jet without another word. I don't get that much feed back outside the usual "great job!"
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