Can You Appreciate a Story Despite Its Flaws?

Good criticism pairs the good with the not-so-good. There’s a balance.

There is no such thing as a perfect story.

Even published stories aren’t as great as they might have been with just one more revision.

But at some point, you have to call a story finished and release it into the world.

The internet, of course, doesn’t usually take this into consideration when critiquing a book or a movie or a T.V. show. I mean, it depends on where you’re looking, I suppose. But if you aren’t reading a professionally published review, chances are, anything negative is going to go heavy on the negative.

Why? Because people love ripping things apart for the fun of it. It is what it is.

It has become very clear to me over the past few days that too many people don’t know how to be critical without completely dismissing the value of a story.

Yeah, I’m talking to you, The Last Jedi haters.

Okay, okay, let’s be clear. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and I really don’t care whether or not you enjoyed the movie. (Even if I did. Very much.)

But my favorite reviews of the movie so far have been the ones that have clearly stated, “This movie had a lot of flaws, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie.”

Because I agree. The movie had a lot of flaws. There was a lot of wasted potential. There were many things they could have executed differently.

That does not mean there were not good things about the movie that made it worth watching (more than once) anyway.

It was not a bad movie because of its flaws.

This obviously isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen, and it definitely won’t be the last. But it really doesn’t help aspiring creators remain confident in the potentials of their drafts when they see so many people tearing apart imperfect stories, you know?

While it’s a good reminder that people are always going to over-criticize your work — and you can’t take that personally unless they make it personal on purpose — those criticizing would still do well to learn that good criticism requires balance. Not that most people criticizing movies in Facebook comments care whether or not their criticism is good, but you get the point.

Don’t dismiss a story’s value because it’s not perfect, especially if it’s your own. Maybe you could have done better. Maybe things could have turned out differently. That doesn’t mean that what’s out in the world is a terrible pile of trash. 

Yes, there are stories that are mostly bad. Fine.

But I think every story deserves a more critical look. A chance to be praised for its strengths despite its weaknesses. Remember, someone took the time to write and rewrite and edit and polish that story. Even if it isn’t everything it could be, at least they made the effort.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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