Lecture Lecture 3: The Completely Optional Critting Checklist


Savvy Crew
  • Feb 4, 2020
    This purely a YMMV kind of thing. If you LOVE checklists then this may work for you, if not then no worries!

    The Completely Optional Critting Checklist

    Did I mention this is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL....?

    So, we offer this critting checklist as something that might help you in your critting.

    Some people, the ones who get a frisson of delight at bullet lists and prioritized tasks (and I am sooooo one of these), will find this checklist a helpful tool. Some of you will consider salting the ground it rests on. Either way is fine. You do not need to use this checklist, like all the lessons here, it is offered as a possibly helpful tool for you. Use it or not, it is totally up to you and your critting style.

    This checklist was started by Theresa Bodwell and has been lovingly refined over the years here at Savvy. We love suggestions to improve this! So please do let us know if you have a suggestion!

    What is your first thought when you open a document for critting?

    Do you read through it looking for spelling errors, typos, and missed punctuation? Do you mark the awkward sentences and call the rest good????

    Typos and errors are easy enough to spot. One way to find more subtle problems in a submission is to use a checklist.

    Try reading through one time without marking anything. This is always the first step in any crit. Then stop to think. How did the scene or chapter strike you? What's your overall impression?

    If the scene is missing something, maybe you've spotted it easily. Lack of emotion or lack of a goal are things that tend to jump out at us. If something confused you, like a lack of dialogue tags that left you wondering who is speaking, that usually jumps out at you too. But there are many things we miss unless we step back and really look for them. A checklist can help you spot problems in addition to identifying what is working well.

    You could cut and paste the checklist onto the end of the submission. Or you can read through the list thinking about each of the items. Then on your next pass through the submission, you can mark items with the checklist in mind.

    For example, looking at characterization we see the following:
    • Are character's actions, dialogue and internal monologue consistent with the character's personality, background, goals, and conflicts?
    I love the way the narrative reflects the POV character's personality. You really nailed that here by applying football analogies to babysitting his sister's kids.

    Would this big ex-football player really notice she was carrying a Prada bag?

    You could, pull out the checklist when you're having problems finding items other than nitpicking sentence-level
    issues. Remember this is a suggested checklist, if you have one that works better feel free to use and to share or do not use one at all.

    Our Checklist
    Critique Checklist shared as a Google Doc.

    1. Physical description –is the physical description clear and appropriate to the point of view in the scene? Is it necessary – enough or too much?
    2. Portrayal of emotions – does the author show rather tell what the character is feeling?
    3. If the author uses internal monologue does it advance the story, without bogging down in backstory or other matters that take the reader out of the story?
    4. Are character’s actions, dialog and internal monologue consistent with the character’s personality, background, goals, and conflicts?
    Conflict (internal/external)
    1. Do we have a clear sense of the internal conflict for the POV character?
    2. Is there a clear scene goal and an obstacle keeping the POV character from achieving her or his scene goal?
    3. Does this scene address the external conflict and help to move the story along?
    1. Does each character have a unique voice consistent with his or her character?
    2. Is there sufficient action and setting description to avoid talking head syndrome?
    3. Does the dialogue seem natural? (Appropriate to the time and place, no info dump, normal use of contractions, conversational word choices, minimal naming of other characters).
    4. Is any dialect easy to understand?
    5. Are there sufficient dialogue tags to let us know who is speaking without becoming intrusive? Is there a mix of dialogue tags and action.
    1. Does the scene move at an appropriate pace for the story?
    2. Is the pace appropriate to the scene’s position in the story?
    3. Is there a good mix of dialogue and narrative to keep the story moving forward?
    4. Is any included backstory woven into the narrative or dialogue, or is backstory stopping the forward motion of the story?
    Point of View
    1. Has the author chosen the right POV for this scene (usually the character with the most at stake)?
    2. Is the POV consistent?
    3. If the POV shifts, is the transition smooth from one POV to the other?
    1. Is the setting described in a vivid manner that helps the reader visualize the scene?
    2. Are descriptions distracting or overly detailed?
    3. Does the description use the five senses?
    1. Does the author maintain a consistent voice that fits the tone of the story?
    2. Does the author use word choices to enhance the mood of the story?
    3. Do sentences and paragraphs flow smoothly to keep the story moving forward?
    1. grammar
    2. spelling
    3. sentence structure
    4. paragraphs
    5. formatting
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