Basic Advice For Giving Useful Feedback To Creators
Just a simple and basic guide to giving writers and character creators feedback and advice that will help them create better works in the future.
Give Constructive Criticism
In essence, constructive criticism gives creators an idea of how to their stuff better, rather than simply tells them it's awful and needs to be burned with fire. Telling people things like "your story is bad/boring" or "your character seems like a Mary Sue" does nothing to help creators - all it does is tell them that something is wrong, but doesn't actually point them toward what it is that needs fixing.
To give constructive criticism, you first need to identify exactly what it is you don't like about something so you can highlight the issue and thus give them an idea of what to change and improve. If you're having difficulty figuring out exactly what it is about a story or character that's bothering you, ask yourself:
- Was there something you hoped to see that didn't happen?
- Did someone act in a way that felt forced, unrealistic, or out-of-character?
- Did a plot or story element feel forced, contrived, or too convenient?
- Were things confusing or unclear because certain things were omitted or rushed over?
- Or was there too much time or detail spent on something?
- Did it take too long for anything interesting to start happening?
- Did a character you were supposed to root for act in a way that made xir difficult or impossible to like?
- Was the story so straightforward, formulaic, or so much like another story that you knew exactly what was going to happen?
- Did something that was supposed to evoke an emotional reaction fail to do so, or evoke the wrong emotion? Why?
Once you've got it narrowed down exactly what's got you annoyed and discontent, you can describe and elaborate on what it is and try to shed some light on how you think it could be improved. For example:
"I find it difficult to believe that a group of criminals who are accustomed to being cheated and backstabbed by other criminals would trust and follow an escaped convict so easily. I think Lex needs to do something to earn their trust first."
"As dangerous as the scepter is, I find it hard to believe that they'd store it someplace where a servant could just walk in and take it with nothing more than a few basic spells. Given how many enemies they have who probably tried to steal it already, I'd find it more plausible if security was a lot tighter."
"Lana takes down her enemies so easily that there's no real suspense in any of the fights, which made them all predictable and boring to read. It would be more exciting and interesting if she faced some real difficulty and didn't win every time."
"The way everyone talked about Derek being the most dangerous sorcerer ever, I was looking forward to an epic fight with him at the end. The way he was taken out with a single magic fireball without getting to put up any real resistance felt anticlimactic."
Thus is the essence of constructive criticism - it identifies and highlights flaws, explains why and how these flaws hurt the creation, offers potential solutions, and never resorts to petty insults or attacks on the creator.
Give Constructive Praise
Telling someone that a creation is awesome and that you loved it is definitely nice and will make the creator feel good, but if you can use the above advice for criticism and apply it to praise you can also do creators huge favors by shedding light on exactly what it was you liked about something so they have a better idea of what to put into future creations. As before, stop and ask yourself a few questions if you're having trouble putting your finger on exactly what it was you liked:
- Was there something that made the characters or setting feel especially real?
- Was there anything that made you really like or connect to the characters or setting?
- Did a clever or well thought-out solution, resolution, or twist really impress you?
- Was the story's pacing just right - not too slow and not too fast?
- Were characters, objects, or events described with just the right amount of detail - not too little and not too much?
- Was there something that felt particularly emotionally gratifying to see play out? What made it so gratifying?
- Did something evoke the right emotions for the right reasons? Why?
- Was there something that made it just plain fun? Why?
Some examples of constructive praise:
"The way the two leads occasionally bantered about silly things like cartoons they watched as children and the way they were shown as being comfortable in each other's spaces and easily picking up on each others' feelings really helped make them feel like a pair of old friends."
"I really like how after the captain died in the attack, Elise was able to stay calm and direct people on what they needed to do to keep the place defended. That, to me, really made her feel like a leader I could respect."
"The complexity and diversity of the cultures in your world really helped to make them feel more like real people who really could exist somewhere."
As it is, many creators and companies with works that became popular knew that their works were liked, yet didn't quite have a full grasp on why they were liked. When they later tried to replicate the success of their first works they ended up putting out something that let people down, as they emphasized things that hadn't really been a major factor in the success of the original while minimizing or excluding many of the things had made the original work. So by telling people precisely why you liked something, you can help them avoid falling into this trap.
Also, these might be relevant to you:
Tips To Help People Improve Their Creative Work
Before You Go Declaring Other Peoples' Characters Mary Sues...
A Few Things You Really Need To Know As An Anxious Writer And/Or Artist
Dealing With Criticism & Negative Reviews