For the Criminally Inane

For the Criminally Inane

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to Write a Helpful Review

My husband and I are contemplating laying down a month's worth of income for a piece of furniture.  Yes, we are buying a couch.  For the first time in our married history, we can buy furniture, real adult furniture, something I actually like and not just given to us, scrounged out of the trash or found at thrift store.  I didn't think it would be this hard.  Now, don't get me wrong, we both agree on style and color, but finding exactly what we want is harder than finding a movie we want to see.

We ran into a little trouble when we started looking on-line.  How can you know if you like a couch by seeing it in a picture?  If you haven't sat on it, punched the pillows, lain supine to see if your feet hang off the end, how can you know if you like it, if it's comfortable?  You depend on reviews.  But only if the reviews are helpful.

I clicked on a few reviews.  I was deeply disappointed.  Review after review written and I still have no more information.  An example of a five star review and it says something like this:

Love this piece.  I just got it! Looks great with my decor.  The color was what it looked like on the screen.

There's a little tag at the bottom: Was this review helpful?  In my frustration of scrolling through sometimes hundreds of these vapid reviews, I want to scream,  no!  Why did you bother to take the time to write such drivel?  I don't care about your decor!  I don't have the same computer screen you do and if you just got it, how can you tell if you love it?  You love the design?  I can see the design from the picture!  Not helpful!

So, I've decided to write a tutorial about how to write a helpful review.  First off, what do people want to know when they read review? 

1--Tell me something about the object that I cannot see/feel from the computer screen. Ie, the fabric is soft/rough, the cushions are dense (don't just say that you like them, say why!) or fluffy.  If the couch is comfortable (comfort is an opinion) but give facts, like, I'm 5'5" and my feet dangle a bit, but still it's comfy.
this goes for anything you buy on-line.  When I wrote a review of a pair of leggings I bought my daughter from Children's Place, I was specific about the lace around the bottom of the pants.  They were too tight.  She complained about them constantly.  And my daughter is a twig, skinny long legs.  I can only imagine if someone who wasn't rail thin buying these, the pants would probably  cut off the circulation to their feet.  But I digress.  I just wanted the buyer to beware that these were made for malnourished children.

2--How easy was it to install?  Some furniture needs legs, or other details that need to be put on after shipping.  How difficult was it?  Did it make you want to swear like a sailor married to Howard Stern or was it intuitive?

3--Time.  If you've had this couch for over a year, write a review.  I want to know how it wears, do the cushions hold up over time?  Does it sag?  Do the buttons come off?  Does the frame stand up to your toddler or teenager jumping on it.  Or whatever!  When it's brand new, it's harder to predict the life of the object.

As much as I like positive reviews, this is the one time I want to hear you complain, but be specific.  I want to hear what you have to say, just not about how much everyone raves about your cool couch when they come over unless they happen to say "This is the most comfortable couch I've ever sat on!"



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I Write Novels

I've probably done a post on this before.  But I think I can't say it enough, writing is hard.  It's not the hardest thing I've ever done.  A few other examples come to my mind for that category: serving a foreign mission for my church for 18 months, rehabbing a house, raising three kids would top my list.  But nevertheless, writing is hard.  Sometimes I don't want to do it.  Sometimes I doubt myself, my characters, my plot.  I feel trite, cliche', hackneyed, shallow.  I feel like a fraud.  So why do I write when I could be scouring pinterest for the latest and greatest craft for my house?  Why do I write instead of getting a night shift job that I would actually get paid to do?  Because writing benefits me in so many ways.

I learn patience.  I am so impatient.  Ask my husband.  I can't keep a secret, I snoop in Christmas presents, I want it and I want it yesterday.  Writing a novel takes a great deal of time, effort, energy to see the finished product.  It stretches me to my limits of my patience with myself and the story.

I learn to appreciate detail.  I am a big picture person.  I get bogged down in the details. I give up easily (see patience above) if there are too many little things that have to be done.  Writing is all about detail.  There's big picture stuff there, too.  I mean plot is pretty big picture.  But I have to make the scenes come alive with detail.  It's not that I don't observe detail, I do.  But to be able to replicate, explain detail to where the reader can see, feel and smell the scene takes great talent.  I'm working on that.

I learn about myself.  Sometimes when I'm dealing with something upsetting, I don't even realize until it comes out in my writing. This is my therapy.  I can write it out on a page, often in tears, and deal with it.  When I am angry about something someone said, I can retaliate in my writing.  Heartache becomes gold.  My best scene in my current WIP is a scene where her boyfriend breaks up with her.  Every heartache I've ever felt went into that scene.  It's burns off the page.  I can explore topics I can't talk about even with trusted friends, I can face fears I've never told anyone about, I can right wrongs.  It's healing.  It's cathartic.  It's like blood letting, but it makes for good fiction.

I learn about other people.  When I spend an afternoon or so in someone else's head, I learn to understand their motivations, their fears, their pain, their insecurities.  Writing gives me understanding of human nature, compassion.  It is as close to walking in someone else's shoes as I can get.

I play.  I'll admit it.  I write unrealistic realistic fiction.  What happens to my characters wouldn't happen in real life.  But wouldn't it be cool if it did?  I like to go to exotic places, or even places I've been but miss.  I can reminisce, relive, make alive, recreate, examine, explore places I can't in real life in the safety of my laptop.

If I happen to sell some stories, that's even better!  But I love my characters, my stories, my experiences with my stories.  I cherish the inspiration I receive, the laughs and the tears I've had.  Reading is powerful.  Writing is creation.