I know that it’s generally bad form to respond to any kind of criticism in a public manner, and so with that in mind, I’m going on record to say that this isn’t directed and any person or entity (Unless there’s a god of shitty buzzwords that do not quite mean what everyone seems to think they mean, then we’ll have to have a discussion later.) This is a post about what makes constructive criticism and why buzzwords aren’t always helpful.
Constructive criticism is essential to honing and perfecting a craft. It’s one part opinion, one part learning tool and it is 100% up to the person receiving the criticism whether they want to take the criticism to heart or to ignore it.
“Instead of having Jane Foster doing nothing but drooling over Thor, I think it would work better if she used her astrophysicist knowledge to pinpoint how and where Thor or Loki would be coming to touch down on Earth next time and would develop her into a more realistic character” is constructive criticism.
“I fucking hate Jane Foster, she’s a twat and a whiny bitch who only wants to get into Thor’s pants” is not constructive criticism and can be considered abuse.
The first is helpful to a writer’s fragile ego (remember, your writer has spent a lot of time and effort making the thing you’re reading and has put their heart into the work and is probably feeling nervous about sharing with you) and can actually be used to improve the character or story. The second is abusive self-entitled opinions that can actually hurt your writer’s feelings and are not helpful to the writer. The second example can even make your writer never want to talk to you again, let alone share their work with you.
The second example shouldn’t be something that a writer (or artist or creator of any kind) should ever have to “grow a thicker skin” to deal with, and it should not be as common as it is because honestly, it’s just rude. But, this is a rant for a different day.
Now, having had my share of both examples, I have to point out this trend that I’ve been seeing int critiques and criticisms. It’s the emergence and constant use of buzzwords.
Okay, I get it. Buzzwords are things that marketing executives dream up and use their black magic to put in the general population’s minds to sell more things. These are words that become popular terms to describe things.
“Epic” or “Epic Adventure”
I’m sure there’s a hundred more but these are the ones I hate the most. Especially “quirky”. It’s gotten to the point that I have actually NOT picked up books because the word “quirky” was used in the back cover synopsis. I’ve skipped TV shows that people otherwise seemed to love because a character was called “quirky.”
And now, I find that there’s buzzwords sneaking their way into the writing field, ESPECIALLY int he editing and critiquing process.
The one that gets me the most is “infodump”.
I hate that word SO MUCH. Just writing it makes me grind my teeth and kinda want to throw up. I see red. It’s not even a word. Grr.
Here’s my I hate the word “infodump”: it has become a catch-all, meaningless word used to describe “too much description or back story” which, in most hard Sci-Fi or Epic fantasy is also known as “world building” and is something that every beginning writer is taught that they need to include. Furthermore, I have had several critique partners and beta readers tell me that I have had at least one passage that was “too much of an infodump” in my stories.
I’ve asked every single one of them. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. “How can I change this important back story that you call an infodump into something that isn’t an infodump?”
The usual replies I’ve gotten are “I dunno” or “delete it.”
Think about that.
Usually what gets qualified as an infodump is back story or world building. How can one delete something critical to the continuation of the story?
Furthermore, calling a passage an infodump with nothing else to say about it and no suggestions on how to make it less of one is not constructive criticism. It’s also a lot to do with the genre, too. And let’s face it, we all still read Stephen King even though his style of writing is quite literally having 2/3 of the book be nothing more than infodump world building that leads up to the action.
So please, if you’re gonna use that damn buzzword “infodump” to describe a passage you don’t like or feel needs to be edited, make sure that you’ve got some constructive words to go along with it. Because I’m not gonna let anyone get away with that crap ever again and I’ll never ask you to beta read my work if that’s how you think I’m gonna fix the issues.