LitCrit Monday: Critique Session Guidelines

Taken from the LitCritter Google Group pages: a very brief summary of the philosophies and methodologies for LitCritter Critique readings.
If you're planning on attending any of the LitCritter sessions this year, here's the current draft of the LitCritter Session Guidelines for newbies:

Before the Critique Session

  • Read the text the first time purely for enjoyment - Read the text like you would have before learning anything about literary criticism. Keep track of your reactions, whether they are "good" or "bad" but don't dwell too much on the reasons why just yet.
  • Read the text the second time using a critical lens - Read the text looking for plausibility and consistency. Analyze which elements make or break the story: character, tone, plot, language, POV, etc. Take notes or write up your critique so that when it's your turn to speak, you don't fail horribly.

During the Critique Session

  • Respect my authority! - The moderator's job is to make sure that the text being discussed is thoroughly critqued, that everyone in attendance gets to speak their mind within the time constraints, and to prevent too much digression from to topic. Please be kind to the moderator, because some cruel day it could be you!
  • Everyone's entitled to their own enlightened opinion - At LitCritter sessions, there is a mixture of newbies and old hands, a melange of readers who are narrow of focus and readers who are wide of vision, a cacophony of congruent and contradictory opinions. Remember that the goal of these sessions is to learn from one another, not to shoot down differing opinions. It often helps to ask questions and find out why your opinion differs from that of the speaker's.
  • If you never ask, you'll never know! - if something's bugging you about a text, ask the group about it. If you think there's a literary term for something, but you can't remember it or don't know it, ask  about it. If you hear a term that you're unfamiliar with or we reference a story or author you're unfamiliar with, ask about it. If you think we're just making up terms as we go along, ask about it.

When Delivering Your Critique

  • You gonna hafta 'splain yerself! - Avoid broad statements without clarification, such as "I liked it" or "I didn't like it". Explain why you liked or didn't like it, and try to use traditional (and non-traditional) literary terms during your critique. If people still don't seem to understand, other ways. The act of explaining things sometimes crystalizes our reasons for enjoying a text. And besides, rants are always more fun when they're longer than just one sentence.
  • Hey! Author! Leave that text alone! - When critiquing a text, minimize discussion on the author's history, the author's intent (whether actually stated by the author or recounted by some other source), the time period that it was written in, etc. While these can be helpful in understanding the text, the LitCritter stance is that the story / the text must be able to stand on its own. Our own stories won't always have us available to explain to each and every reader, so if we want to learn to write stories that work without the author (or editor or fans) explaining things, we critique stories with the same philosophy. In literary speak, privileged reading trumps authorial intent.
  • Rules? Where we're going there are no rules! - While some books may claim that there are certain rules to storytelling, we don't believe that; many stories have been criticized for being "formulaic" and "trite" and not just by us. Taking a page from business, there are no rules, only 'best practices'. So don't criticize a text for breaking the rules if it works, and don't stress over a text that does things by the numbers but fails to engage or entertain. Try to find out why.

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