Monday, August 22, 2011

7 Arguments for Assessment

I totally stole this from Janna at Rarely Dusty Books, because it's just such an amazingly good summary of what to look for in a book. I found this after I started reviewing, and it really made me think, and I hope it made me review better.

The seven arguments:

1.Realistic argument -- A book is good (or bad) when it’s projecting the world (un)realistically, when the story’s reality is (un)believable.

2. Moral argument -- A book is good (or bad) when it contains certain ideas about sex, religion, morals or politics.

3. Structural argument -- A book is good (or bad) when its structure is (not) solid, when the story is (not) built/paced well, when there’s (no) consistency.

4. Stylistic argument -- A book is written in a good (or poor) writing style.

5. Innovation argument -- You can learn something from the story. The book contains original ideas and provocative thoughts.

6. Emotivistic argument -- A book has to touch you emotionally. It has to entertain you, move you and captivate you.

7. Intentional argument -- The reader/reviewer assumes that the writer has a certain purpose/intention with his story and assesses whether the author has managed to achieve that goal.

It's probably not possible to touch on every argument in every review, and some of them just don't apply all that much. #5 isn't nearly as big a reason for reading a romance as #6. But still, who wants to read the same sort of take on Subject X from 32 authors?

If #1 isn't on, I'll notice it. Usually that's what I notice first when something isn't working for me. Consistency matters, continuity matters. Adherence to the laws of physics, or at least the laws of that world, matter.

#3 is important to me too, but I can be a little more flexible there if #6 and 1 are working. And if #3 is working really well, I can be flexible even on that highly important #1. # 2 usually isn't an issue in my romance reading unless an issue pops up to beat me over the head: it's happened. And for some reason, #7 is usually an accident for me, and I notice it when some happy author says I noticed it. I guess I figure if #1-6 are humming along, #7 will come automatically. Maybe that isn't a good assumption.

#6 is kind of a given for a romance, but do any of the others especially matter for you?


  1. hmmm...I think I'm with you -- either 1 or 3 HAS to work for me, or the whole thing just breaks down. #6 is fairly important, but depending on why I'm reading, not necessary. The others? Well, it really depends on what/why I'm reading...

  2. For me, it's #1 realisim, #6 emotional engagement, and #3 structure -- in that order, but almost equally important and non-negotiable. Everything else is a bonus. :)

  3. #1 is important to me. I worked in a classified environment for about a decade, and a writer who has characters working in a classified sort of job had better get at least the basics right. Yes, they do expect you to keep secrets from your spouse/parent/sibling/etc. [huge freaking eyeroll] And anyone who writes BDSM had better either 1) get it right, or 2) make it clear that this is meant to be a fantasy-universe sort of setting. Presenting us with what comes across as a real world story but then leaving the sub bound and gagged and helpless while the so-called Dom wanders off to another room to watch a loud TV for a few hours (just a random example [cough]) makes me want to track down the author and explain exactly what's wrong in long and painful (for them) detail. :/

    #3 and #4 in various combinations can make me bail out of a book. If it's awkward, inconsistent, focuses on boring irrelevancies while skimming over the important points, and just generally comes across as Bad Writing, I'll DNF the book and probably not give the author another chance.

    #7 is only a problem if it's pretty clear the writer is trying to achieve some goal but fails. The most obvious example that comes to mind is if the author is trying to write a parody but the story isn't funny and doesn't make any particularly pointed comments on the topic. I'll call out the Henry Potty books (or at least the first twenty-some pages of the first book, which was as far as I got) as an example here -- I bought what I thought would be a funny parody of Harry Potter, but it wasn't funny nor was it much of a parody. [shrug]

  4. Thanks to Janna, then for putting such a useful list your way, and now mine. It's really hard to turn off my author switch when I'm reading; this puts words to what bugs me sometimes. And I think I'll share this with my beta readers too, just for another set of eyes to keep me from falling down on any of these.

  5. I'm so glad you shared this. It's great information that I'll be referring back to.

  6. This is a great list - thanks for sharing it!

    Although it's not the most important, I do find #4 makes a real difference to me. If I like the style of a book I can forgive certain inconsistencies, but a book that in every other way is working well, except for the style, will frustrate me endlessly.

    I'm view 1, 3 and 6 as being key, but I wouldn't like to have to order them in any priority - although perhaps 6 would win out if I was captivated.


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