Guidelines for Fiction Critique and Revision

By Your Salonniere

Pulling out an oldie but goodie, below lists the criterion for critiquing colleague’s work or revising your own. In Rosemary Graham’s fiction workshop at Saint Mary’s College, we were also required to give “a *description* of the work, an attempt to neutrally (without evaluation) say what the thing before us is and how it is structured” before diving into the critique. This helped both the reader and the writer see whether they were on the same page with the project, or not.

  • What is the story about?
  • What kind of format/structure is it in? Is the story supported by strong organization and structure?
  • Which characters are grounding the story or leading it? Are they consistent? If they’re not consistent does it work?
  • Is a vivid sense of time and place evoked?
  • Is the story told from the best point of view?
  • Does the narrator have a commanding voice?
  • How does narration work in the story?
  • Is there any weak spots in the point of view? Strong points?
  • Does the story open and close with power and grace?
  • What is the mood of the story? Does it stay consistent and if not does it work?
  • What is the plot? What are the subplots? How well do they work together?
  • Do all the characters sound distinct from one another?
  • How does dialogue add or work in the story?
  • Is the story presented in the right sequence of events?
  • Are characters well developed? Sufficient complexities, desires, obstacles, weaknesses and strengths?
  • Does the reader understand sufficiently the motivation, fears and actions of the characters?
  • Does the setting work in synergy with the story/plot/characters? How does it lend to the characterization? The plot?
  • Does the story start at the right moment? Too early? Too late?
  • Does it end at the right moment?
  • How does time work in the story? Is the pacing right for the theme/story/character?
  • Is the dialogue complex enough?
  • Are the right scenes dramatized and the right ones summarized?
  • Is there too much going on in the story?
  • What questions are raised in the story? How are they answered or left unanswered?
  • Is there a sense of unity, everything well married, a single pulse?
  • Are the right questions answered?
  • Do all the pieces gel together?
  • Is the author’s hand too visible? Does it stick out?
  • Do you lose the character in the story?

Are we missing some important points? Have any suggestions to add or emend? We’d love to hear from you!

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