Sunday, March 10, 2013
Before my husband and I watched the new Oz movie last night, he told me the critics were not kind. During the show, which I found enjoyable, I wondered what standard they used to review the movie. Were they comparing it to the original Wizard of Oz? The first time I watched the black and white version turn to color I was in awe. Of course, I was a child, but it was magical. We didn't have amazing special effects back then.
Mila Kunis was a wonderful wicked witch, but in my mind, no one can beat the original. If the critics didn't compare it to the original, were they comparing it to other children's films shown over the past few years? Were they comparing it to all fantasy films?
After discussing the matter with my husband, I began to wonder about book critics. With the Internet, there are many places books can be reviewed. An author on one of my Internet writing loops shared a bad review of her book with the group. Her writing friends gathered to console her. This was in the back of my mind when I watched the movie. When book reviewers, who are sometimes writers, review books, are they comparing it to their own work? Are they comparing it to Nora Roberts? Or Stephen King? Are they comparing it to great literary masterpieces? Or are they just letting us know if they were entertained?
Then there is the reviewers mood to consider. Were they happy or did they just get a divorce? Is your hero's name Steve. Guess what? Her ex-husband's name is Steve. Is your hero named Emma. Her older sister she can't tolerate is named Emma. Is your book set in Miami? She got divorced in Miami. Did the reviewer promise to get the review in on Monday and she didn't have time to read beyond the first chapter? Was the reviewer sick? Was the reviewer mad at the world? Was the reviewer upset that your publisher turned down her manuscript? Did this reviewer seek you out to bash because the boy she wanted to attend prom with in high school chose you instead?
Unless you know the reviewer and unless she explains how she reached her conclusions, you are rarely going to know what goes into the review. I am grateful I had excellent reviews. I quote them on my bookmarks and link them from my personal blog. However, I did have a friend, an aspiring writer, review my book on an Internet site. Overall, it was a positive review, but she did have one comment that was less than positive. She thought the romance, in the mainly suspense novel, was a bit stilted. Another friend, a much better writer than the both of us, was outraged. She claimed that wasn't true and was surprised I was still speaking to the other friend. I considered the review and the fact my book isn't heavy on romance. The heroine is a tough agent, not a woman who gives in to her emotions. The next time I saw my friend, I told her I saw the review and I could see how she came to that conclusion and I would watch for it in the future. My advice to my writing friends is to take what rings true as a learning experience and toss out the rest. After all, you never know if the reviewer just burnt dinner, fought with her boyfriend, lost her dog, or broke a nail.
Until next week,
keep reading and writing.
Tina Swayzee McCright