The following are the bullet criteria for effective examination and analysis of fiction narrative in the novel. Workshop members will employ each of the following and rate (1-5) each bullet, including at least 50 words of text to support the rating.
The goal is not to be hypercritical at all costs. The goal is to be fair and insightful with an aim towards improvement rather than rejection.
- Michael Neff
1. Scene length and structure (1-5) : Does the scene open, evolve, and close properly? Is it clearly differentiated from the narrative before and after? Does it have a cinematic show-not-tell quality to it? Is there a discernible purpose to it? Does it push the plot forward while also performing other functions, e.g., characterization? Is the setting chosen for the scene doing its job of energizing the narrative or is it too generic or blah?
2. Clarity of spatial set (1-5) : Related to above. Is the scene or inter-scene narrative/flashback set properly right from the start? Does the reader know where they are and how they got there? Do they know how the POV character is oriented relative to other characters, objects, and scenery in the set, or do the POV character and other characters feel disembodied, appearing out of nowhere?
3. Comprehensible prose narrative (1-5) : Is the narrative on the page delivered in such a manner as to make comprehension easy, or does the reader have to stop and rewind in order to try and figure out the meaning of something? This can be especially important with passages of description and instances of "over editing." Does dialogue appear out of nowhere or is there effective transition?
4. Tension on the page (1-5) : Does the author use character interaction or interior monologue, external complications of various sorts, craft techniques, or situational/plot circumstances to create a feeling of suspense or tension on the page?
5. Dialogue mastery (1-5) : Is the author creating dialogue that compares favorably to the best writers in the genre? If so, how? Explain. Is the dialogue serving a specific purpose in the scene? Is it energetic or too quiet? Do the voices sound different or generic?
6. Exposition delivery (1-5) : Does the author deliver exposition using dialogue and appropriate brief (150 words est max) blocks of narrative, or all in a lump?
7. Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) (1-5) : Combining much of above, is the composition of the narrative (i.e., what is depicted by the narrative) such that it will assure the reader keeps their eyeballs on the page? If the narrative were filmed, would the audience keep their eyes on the screen? Are the circumstances, scene sets, and characters creating a synergy that persuades the reader to keep turning the page? If not, why not?
8. Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) (1-5) : Is the author displaying interesting or provocative imagery on the page, or does it feel generic and possibly in need of adrenaline? Has the author shown they are capable of writing dynamic imagery, i.e., setting a scene and showing objects and/or characters in interactive or non-interactive motion? If not, should this be happening? And how soon?
9. Point-of-view dynamics (1-5) : Is the author using the right POV for the story or might a different POV be more effective? If so, why? If 3POV (third person), is the author working through all four levels or confining themselves to the uppermost two levels. See this article for answers to these questions. Does the author change POV or stay in the same POV? If first person, is the voice sufficiently vibrant and authoritative to be effective?
10. Wise use of craft technique (1-5) : Does the author use identifiable craft techniques to enhance the quality of the narrative in any number of ways? If so, what are they? Techniques include seeding of complications (anything that "complicates" the existence of the characters on the page), unique character qualities, establishment of a tone that properly augments the scene or narrative, interior monologue that creates suspense or emotional energy, etc.
New York Pitch Conference Novel Analysis and Execution
This forum to be utilized for methodically posting 500 to 1000 words of narrative (one post at a time) for critique based on select coverage criteria. Workshop group will adhere to rules of honesty and integrity in their dealings with fellow writers.
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