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Fanon Review Squad Principles: A Review of a Test Review

Minnichi January 11, 2013 User blog:Minnichi
FRSimage The following are the personal principles I use when evaluating fanons, and do not necessarily have be taken word for word. These are only the things I encourage from both Fanon Review Squad members and applicants, and it's in my hope that anyone reading this may gain something from it. - Minnichi

This started off as a request from a FRS applicant in a message wall thread, who admirably desired to know how to improve his quality of reviews after the Fanon Review Squad's recent addition of two new members. Being the rambler I am, however, my evaluation ended up extremely long and formal, and suddenly it occurred to me that I could use it as a reference blog!

I felt the need to post this only because there will surely be more FRS applicants in the future. Judging a fanon with scores can be a more serious ordeal than you think, and all authors are sensitive to their work. Therefore one has to be careful when turning a critical eye on another's writing, and this is just a summary of my own perspective on the matter. Without further ado, here's a different kind of review: my evaluation of Kyoshidude's recent Fanon Review Squad test review. You can reference the blog as needed to understand anything I say from this point on :P

  • Interest level: If it were up to me, honestly I'd say a review would do fine with or without this category. It can be quite discouraging to an author if you elaborate on why you weren't interested in their fanon - and the goal of a review is always to encourage authors to improve without losing motivation to write. If you keep this section in, however, I would avoid talking about subjective things like the measure of how "exciting" a plot summary is; every person will think differently about something like that, and thus your personal opinion can't be counted as a truly accurate description. If something disinterests you, give a reason that you're positive anyone else can see. 
  • Flair/Creativity: My principle is that as long as there's a deduction in points, no matter how big or small, you have to say why. In this case, we saw nothing but compliments in this section, and yet Kuzonkid mysteriously lost 1 point out of the possible 10. When a fanon is being evaluated like this, you can be sure that the author will care about each and every deduction he/she receives. Therefore you have to convince them why it was necessary. 
  • Action: Again, I advise against using subjective terms to describe the writing. Also - just my two cents - always avoid saying something along the lines of, "This was bad." As a reviewer, you have to keep a neutral tone. There is nothing "good" or "bad," as all of those things are judged depending on the reader; there are only areas in the writing to improve, and that's the only thing you should talk about. You don't directly call anything "bad," but saying things like, "Now, where do I start?" or, "It's nothing special," easily creates that vibe. Also, it's fine to use excerpts, but posting extremely long ones that take up half your commentary in this section may not necessarily help the author improve. If you're going to repeat their own writing, don't just leave it as an excerpt; you have to be able to identify exactly which part of the excerpt needs to be changed, and why. Finally, try not to include an example for your critiques unless it's really necessary and really short; the author doesn't need to be shown their writing in order to understand that their sentences are long, for example. 
  • Character Development: Again, avoid talking about yourself personally or what readers would "rather" see. Every reader prefers different things, like I said. Also, it's critical that if you're calling out an author's characters for "just fighting all the time and saying cliche things," you have to provide proof of why that is. The statement itself is already harsher than necessary, so the only way for an author to benefit from your words and not have their feelings hurt is if you can tell them specifically what to improve. Lastly, I strongly suggest refraining from the last statement you made about "not feeling for the characters at all." As a reviewer, you have to remember that anything you say is for the sole purpose of improving someone's writing and actually making them want to improve their writing. Always ask yourself if your statement accomplishes that, or if it's just a declaration of your personal opinion. 
  • Genre: Even if the genre is action, try not to take shortcuts by saying things like "refer to the action section to see what you can improve." It can make one question the purpose of this category, if you leave it like that. Furthermore, there's a difference between critiquing a genre about action and critiquing action itself. This section, I think, usually covers things like how well an author stays focused on their chosen genre, or how well the genre fits with the story. It can also include critiques over whether or not the author's fanon even fits the genre it was supposed to be, and whether they overplay it at times. So in conclusion, don't leave references to other sections as your sole commentary in a review, and don't always assume they're that similar. If you find two of them too similar, however, eliminate one instead of leaving it there as an unecessary redirect. 
  • Believability: Again, there's a deduction without an explanation. The commentary you have there is fine, but make sure to specify to the author which part you found unrealistic, so that the score becomes more - and benefits more - than just a deduction. 
  • General Writing: You critiqued the right things, from what I've seen. However, your tone must be kept more neutral if you want to come across as encouraging to the author. Avoid caps, on that note, since that can already suggest a patronizing tone. Another important thing to remember is that a review is not meant to compare yourself as a writer to the author you're critiquing. Which of you is a better writer is highly subjective, and that's why it's best to avoid statements that suggest something is simply "bad"; it virtually also suggests that if you find it bad, you believe yourself better. Therefore I'd say that your suggestions should be made to an author as exactly that: suggestions. Putting some words in caps and pleading to someone to improve something - anything that contributes to a negative tone - may hurt their feelings and actually decrease their chances of listening to your advice. 

Summary of my advice to Kyoshidude: You just need to work a little more at separating yourself and your personal opinions as a reader from what you're reviewing. Think of another's fanon like your own, and only say that which is most likely to motivate the author to write and to help the fanon reach its full potential. 

My commentary on Kyoshidude's reviewing style: In all honesty, you're identifying the right things to improve, and I really do think you know what good writing is made of! You chose to critique excellent things in the fanon, all of which I generally agreed with. Therefore it's not so much whether or not you're capable of accurately reviewing a fanon, but just a matter of keeping things neutral and elaborating more on your reasoning. I think you could very well be a great reviewer! :) Hopefully you find some of my rambling here helpful, if anything heheh. And that's all I have to say.  Hope to see you in the next round of applications! 

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