Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing Reviews

1. A review is not a book report.

In a book report, you’re letting the teacher know you read the whole book, so you have to tell the
whole story. In a review, you’re telling the reader whether they ought to read this book, or go to this
movie, or buy this product.

Don’t tell everything that happened -- just enough so the reader has a sense of what it is about and what it is like.  Especially, don’t give away surprises, endings and other parts the reader will enjoy discovering!

That’s called a “spoiler” because it spoils the experience for the reader. Usually, you won't tell what happens after the first third of the book or movie, though you might give a hint like "But he's in for a surprise!" or "Her troubles are only beginning."

2. Do your homework.

If a book is the third in a series, you should be familiar with the other two. If a movie is based on a popular book, you should be familiar with the book so you can tell the reader how much it is the same, and how much it has been changed.

3. Tell us what you’re talking about!

The name of the book or movie belongs somewhere in the first three sentences. Don’t keep us guessing, and don’t think putting it in your headline does the job.

4. Use comparisons.

If a film contains a lot of magic, is it like a Harry Potter movie? Or is it more like “Princess Bride?”

If it’s part of a series, is it like the other books or films in that series? How is it different? Try to compare it to things your readers are probably familiar with.

5. Who is this for?

Not every book or movie is for everybody. If it’s more likely to appeal to action fans than romantics, say so. If it’s too complicated or too scary for younger kids, say so.

6. Give us warnings when we need them.

You’re doing your readers a favor by giving them a heads up over something that might lead to a less-than-good experience. When a movie doesn’t make sense unless you’ve read the book, let them know. And if a book or movie contains content that might be offensive or too adult for some people, say so. "This movie is PG-13 and there are some pretty bloody, scary scenes."

7. Don’t forget the details!

If it’s a book, we need to know the author and the number of pages, or at least whether it’s long or short. Tell us the main stars of a movie, and let us know if the movie is unusually long or unusually short.

8. You don’t have to like it.

Don’t be a wiseguy about it and don’t look for reasons to hate something, but be honest. And, if it might be fun for someone younger, or someone who likes that kind of thing (even though you don’t), be sure to say that. But don’t feel that, because you got a free copy of the book or got to attend a movie preview, that you have to say it was wonderful.

9. Remember why you are doing this!

The point of a review is to let people know if they're going to be like something. Don't let your readers waste their money on something that will disappoint them, and encourage them to try it if it's something they're likely to enjoy.