criticism, intelligence, misunderstanding, reviews, writing

How Reviews SHOULD Be Done

Not too long ago I got a 2-star review about my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real. It wasn’t the 2 stars that angered me; it was the reasoning behind it. Here is what the review said:

“REVIEW TITLE: You can’t blame everyone for everything…

Every so often I come across a story that I find hard to review, and this was one of them. The main character wasn’t likable, and I found it hard to empathize with his plight. He was written as an awkward kid short on friends who grows up to be cocky and opinionated. He blames everyone for how he turned out in life, taking little responsibility for himself. The story had some very graphic scenes, more than I found enjoyable, which is saying a lot since I spend most of my time reading horror stories.
The synopsis stated, ‘This is a story about the dangers of depending on others to give you a sense of self-worth, taken to the extreme.’ This is probably why the world is full of psychopaths and unbalanced people. To hinge your feelings and views on the world on the feedback of everyone you meet in your life can only lead to disappointment. To blame all past interactions as the reason for your current and future behavior is a problem and the situation the main character finds himself in. If you want a dark ride through the eyes of a crazy person this is the book for you, for me it didn’t hit the mark.”

Right off the bat, this reviewer shows he didn’t get the entire idea behind the story. He is critical of the main character for not being likable and not taking responsibility for himself.

Um…well…yeah, that was kind of the idea of the story. That is why the my synopsis says, “This is a story about the dangers of depending on others to give you a sense of self-worth.” He wasn’t meant to be likable.

In fact, I want to talk about this whole idea that main characters are always meant to be likable. It’s foolish, and it hasn’t been the case ever since the whole “anti-hero” motif came along. To base a review on whether or not you and the main character could be best buddies seems a bit odd to me.

That shouldn’t be what informs a review. What SHOULD inform are two simple questions: (1) What was the author trying to achieve? (2) Did they do that? I mean, can you imagine if every reviewer based reviews on whether or not they liked or could identify with the main character? Books like A Clockwork Orange and By Reason of Insanity would have nothing but 1- and 2-star reviews.

Look at it this way: I bet Roger Ebert was not a fan of every genre of every movie he was sent to see, and yet his reviews were not based on whether or not he liked horror movies. They weren’t based on whether or not he liked the characters. They were based on how well the filmmakers made their world believable. End of story. For example, if a movie was about a character who was insane, he didn’t give it 2 stars and say, “The main character was crazy, and I couldn’t identify with him.”

Thankfully, there are still some people understand this rule. They know how to look at the story without any personal biases. They know that depending on others for a sense of self-worth is the EXACT downfall of this main character, and they understand I’m not asking anyone to empathize or feel sorry for him.

I’m not sure if the majority of reviewers write like the quote above, or if they know how to separate those emotions. The jury is still out on that one. However, I am grateful for those who do.

 

intelligence, life, misunderstanding, peace, quotes

When Good Quotes Get Horribly Misinterpreted

A few months ago, I posted the following comment in a social group on Facebook:

I thought it was a beautiful, powerful quote, something that we desperately need to hear, understand, and implement. Sadly, the reaction I got to this quote shows that many people have accomplished only Step 1 of 3.

Why do I say that? Well, consider these two responses:

  • #1: “Yeah, okay, well…I’m not going to like someone who treats me like shit!”
  • #2: “I disagree. If everyone liked everyone, the world would be a boring place.”

***sigh***

Okay, let’s start from the very beginning.

#1: My dear, you completely missed the mark here. If everyone liked everyone, then NO ONE would treat you like shit. It’s not advocating that you should be friendly toward those who do you harm. It’s saying that those who do you harm SHOULDN’T.

#2: I think you were thinking of something else when you read the quote, buddy. It doesn’t say, “Everyone SHOULD BE LIKE everyone.” It says, “Everyone SHOULD LIKE…” The word “be” is not in there. Yes, I agree that if everyone was the same, then the world would be boring. However, if we had a world where everyone was kind to one another, where there was no mockery over silly things like the kind of clothes a person wears, how they look, how they talk, what gender/sexuality/religion they were, and so on, then that would be a world full of light and positivity. Compare that to the way the world is. If a world with less violence would be “boring,” then please…sign me up to live in THAT world!

It’s a sad thing when good quotes go misunderstood. For my part, I try to educate when these things happen, but if the windows of perception aren’t open, then people can’t see things for what they are.

(PS: You get crazy cool bonus points if you recognize what I am paraphrasing there.)

~~~Steve

 

 

 

 

compliments, everyone, intelligence, lesson, life

Being Able to Take a Compliment

Consider this a bookend of sorts to my last blog about taking criticism. Like I said, I can take criticism…when it is intelligent and has some validity to it. However, there are times when I find it just as difficult to take a compliment.

This isn’t true 100% of the time. For example, if I’m at my martial arts class and I execute a move well, I have no problem taking a compliment if the other people in class express admiration for my technique. Having said that, this wasn’t always true. I used to react with a shrug of the shoulders, a lowering of the eyes to the ground, a blush rising in the cheeks, and a response like, “It was all right, I guess.”

The same holds true of someone complimenting my writing and guitar playing. What I always thought was weird about not being able to accept a compliment about these things is that, whenever I wrote something or played guitar, I would think that it was good IN MY HEAD, but then if someone complimented me, I’d start feeling awkward and shy about it.

These days, I’m okay with accepting compliments about writing, guitar playing, and martial arts. As you may notice, these are compliments about things I can do. However, what I still struggle with are compliments about ME. This could be remarks about my physical OR mental being, or any kind of statement that expresses admiration of me.

EXAMPLE OF THE PHYSICAL: My girlfriend will ask me, “Do you know how cute you are?” My automatic response is, “No.” By that I’m not saying, “No, I don’t know how cute I am to her.” I’m saying, “I don’t think I am.” In my eyes, I’m just plain.

EXAMPLE OF THE MENTAL: Someone tells me how smart they think I am. I can’t handle it, even though I HAVE had my IQ tested by a professional and know for a fact I am no slouch in that department.

EXAMPLE OF ADMIRATION: My son’s school had an open house where we got to meet the teachers. When his homeroom teacher was done with her presentation, we got to walk around the room for a few minutes. They had schoolwork on the wall, which was a questionnaire where the kids had to fill in the blanks. For example, it would say, “On summer breaks, my favorite thing to do is: __________.” One of these fill-ins started out by saying, “My biggest hero is: __________.”

And what was on the line on my son’s sheet?

“My Dad.”

I got choked up. My eyes watered. It felt like I was going to have a full-blown panic attack. The only remedy was to leave the room in a manner that was both quick and yet discreet. On the ride home, I kept thinking back about what I read. I thought to myself, “How can I be his hero? I’m no one to look up to.” That was two school years ago, and I still can’t shake the feeling that sentence gave me. Hell, I’m getting it again even as I write this!

What I can’t understand is WHY I can’t accept it. Why do I react the way I do? What fear do I have of admitting that I am a good person? Am I worried that, if I come off a little too proud, someone might come along and say something to knock me off my throne, so I want to make sure I’m not too high up there to begin with?

In previous blogs, I will start by writing about a problem where I don’t have an answer. However, by the end of it, I come up with a solution. That will not be the case today though, folks.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

everyone, inspiration, intelligence, life, universal

No Patience for Dumbidity

What’s that, you say? “Dumbidity” isn’t a word. Well, I know this, but I had to give that title to this blog because that is the way I feel about the levels of intelligence I encounter sometimes: it’s so low that you have to make up a new word to describe it. Seriously. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to Archie Bunker all day, and I expect to hear them end the conversation by saying, “Well, I gotta go. My wife is late for an appointment with the groinocologist.”

At my day job, one of my duties is to answer questions people have about civil service tests and jobs. Believe me: I understand that these exams and jobs and civil service rules can be confusing. I’m not saying these people are idiots for not understanding all of that, because NO ONE would grasp it all unless they worked behind the scenes like I do. However, there are certain aspects that you should grasp even if you are just a “layperson,” and yet I am still astounded by the things I hear.

Here is one example.

CALLER #1: I’m calling because I took the test.

ME: Which test?

CALLER #1: The civil service test.

ME: (taking a deep breath to calm down) Well, ALL state tests are civil service tests. I need to know the title of the exam.

CALLER #1: Oh…I don’t know that.

This blows my mind because in order to take a state exam, you have to:

  • Go to the website.
  • Find the exam.
  • Go through a lengthy application process.
  • PAY for the exam, and then…
  • Go sit in a high school classroom for several hours on a Saturday to take it.

And yet despite all that, they can’t remember what test they took?

Another example.

CALLER #2: I interviewed for a job two weeks ago, and I was just wondering if they made any decisions yet.

ME: Unless you interviewed for a job with our agency, we wouldn’t have records of that, but I can still help you out because I can get you the phone number for the appropriate human resources office. Where did you interview?

CALLER #2: Oh, uh…I don’t remember.

ME: (rubs eyes in disbelief) You don’t remember where you interviewed for a job?

At this point, I’m thinking, “My God, I HOPE this person showed the same amount of intelligence at the interview that they are showing on this phone call, because that would tip off the agency to rule him out.” I mean, can you imagine someone like that in a position of any major responsibility, like a Correction Officer or something? That’s the kind of person who would neglect to lock some gate, and the next thing you know, all the prisoners would be out running rampant in the street!

Let me restate what I said earlier: I don’t expect everyone to know the rules like I do, but I think these two examples illustrate what I mean. The average IQ of the world is either (1) dropping sharply, or (2) lower than I ever thought it was.

Now it might seem like I am an intellectual snob, and I’ll be honest: for a long time, I was. However, lately I’ve been rethinking this. I don’t know what it was, but something just clicked in my mind recently, and I realized that my snobbery makes me no better than skinny people who mock fat people, or pretty people who mock ugly people, or tall people who mock short people.

What I’m saying here is: no one asks to be fat, ugly, short…or less intelligent. Therefore, I have no damn right to look down my nose at them for it. I mean, it’s the equivalent of all those bastards that I hear mocking people for being “retards.” It sickens me, and I’m sad that a part of me was like that.

But now, that part is gone. I used to get very irritated when faced with these things, but I’m learning to be patient. If people can’t understand something, and someone else does, then I think it is a moral obligation to HELP them understand instead of mock. Like the guy who played Dr. Octopus in SPIDER-MAN 2 said, “Intelligence isn’t a privilege, it’s a gift, and you use it for the betterment of mankind.”

Well, going forward, that is what I’m going to do. If you don’t understand something that I do, I’m not going to be looking down my nose at you. I’m going to be looking right at you, eye to eye, and I’m going to say, “Well, this is how that works…”

Intelligence can be used not just for the betterment of mankind, but for the betterment of yourself as well.