Applicants of the Fanon Review Squad will ask me every now and then to give them some pointers for future test reviews. I received such a request again following the addition of our newest member 2 days ago, and thus this blog came to be.
Judging a fanon with scores can be a more complicated ordeal than you think, as all authors are sensitive to their work. Therefore one has to be careful when turning a critical eye upon another's writing, and this is just a summary of my own perspective on the matter. For this round, here are my thoughts regarding Test Review of Heiress of the Nile (by Lady Lostris).'s recent
- "Plot:" I advise against making deductions that you know are "purely based on your own interpretation." Ideally, deductions in a fanon review should be things that the general reader - everyone - will see the same way as you do. And if not, then strive for that to the best of your ability. If you feel that the prologue is slow for you and not for others, then avoid counting that in scoring. If you feel that it's slow for a non-subjective reason, then explain that reason rather than just telling the author that you "personally" found it slow - and most importantly, suggest ways to pick up the speed. Improvement for the author is difficult when you leave it like this.
- "Characterisation:" Pretty well done here, though again it would be better for author improvement if you could suggest ways to fix the things you deducted for. Also, try to keep your tone as neutral as possible when it comes to criticizing; even saying you're "disappointed" can affect an author's feelings. Remember that you're not here to reveal whether or not you personally dislike what you're reading, only where its flaws are and what it could improve. A positive, if not neutral tone is the best you can do to encourage improvement.
- "Action:" Try to remind the author that you're trying to speak for "the general reader population." It's a minor note, but always suggest how it could negatively affect a reader rather than how it affected you. But aside from that, try to make your examples of 'how to improve' work for more of an overall flaw in the action aspect of the fanon, rather than such specific instances. It's okay to use specific quotes, but it's good to tie them to a bigger meaning, a bigger indicator to the author that this deduction truly stands for a consistent flaw.
- "Spelling/Grammar:" Tell the author exactly which "unnecessary punctuation (particularly commas)" mistakes that you deducted for. Aside from the fact that they would want to know where this criticism is coming from, the only way for them to improve is for them to be told where and how to do it. Solitary criticism should be avoided. As for your coverage of odd word choices, it may also help to explain to the author how these mistakes will impact readers and why it's possibly important to fix them at all; writers sometimes need this incentive to revise.
- "Language:" If you find yourself deducting for exactly the same reason here as you did in the last category - without being able to 'customize' the explanation of the flaw to show that it fits more than one category - you may want to consider omitting this section. Authors are sensitive to every criticism and may feel like this is an unnecessary repeat-deduction.
- "Believability:" Your last sentence in this category begins to stray again from a neutral tone, which is important to retain in order to keep an author from being discouraged. In addition, your questioning of believibility may be interpreted by authors as more accusatory than a "suggestion for improvement," the latter being the vibe you should strive for. Authors have no obligation to believe or follow any of your advice, so it's critical that you make that clear to them and remain objective.
- "Execution:" Always remember to tell the author where the deduction came from. Most writers will wonder how it came to be in a category that speaks nothing but praise.
- "Organisation:" Even if you're not addressing the author's fanon directly, avoid subjective-sounding words such as "skimmable" - and if they're there, be sure to let the author know what that means. Furthermore, make it clear that it's not the kind of definition that varies depending on the reader (such as yourself). This further assures writers that your judgment is purely (or to your best ability) objective. Aside from that, be more specific about your deduction. Is this a flaw that can stretch further than Chapters 7 and 8? The best way to bring about improvement is to target it from the 'root' of the flaw, or to define a pattern that the author can pick up himself/herself in the future.
Summary of my advice: Remember that FRS reviews are more about improvement and less about flaws, so be sure to emphasize the former. Aside from that, do your best to keep as many personal feelings out of your deductions as possible.
My commentary regarding Fruipit's reviewing style: I truly admire the amount of improvement you've shown since your last test review. You display all the signs of a great author as you critique, and I have confidence that you'll have no problems evaluating fanons in the future. Hopefully the ramble above shined some light on the FRS's decision, and I speak for the rest of my usergroup as well. Best of luck in the next round of applications!