Thursday, December 29, 2016

Meet Your Judges

Who are these people who think they're good enough to critique my work? I know you've been asking yourself that, and I'm here to answer your questions. I've asked each judge to write a bit about themselves to allow you the opportunity to get to know them a little better before the start of the competition. Continue reading for more information.

Hi everyone, I'm Becka!
I began writing pretty much as soon as I was able to type something out on Microsoft Word.  I can still remember sitting in front of my computer with Word 2000 open, creating stories without knowing what "plot" was or understanding any of the basic rules of creative writing.  I didn't really begin taking my writing seriously, at least not looking at something that I could do as more than just a hobby, until sixth grade when I won my first writing contest.  It was funny, how I only entered the contest because my teacher offered me extra credit, and how winning made me realize that maybe I was actually decent at what once was just a hobby.  Now it's six and a half years later, I have a few poems published, and I'm working diligently on a novel, which I hope to finish in 2017 (hope being the key word here).  While most of my writing experience has been in fantasy and sci-fi (I especially enjoy urban fantasy and dystopian literature), the writing contest that I won was a historical fiction contest, so I have experience in that area as well.
I'm not the best judge of what my strengths are in writing, but I like to believe that one of my talents is writing believable characters and good dialogue.  I'm a psychology major, so I work hard to make sure that every aspect of each of my characters is entirely believable.  What they say and what they do has to match the personality traits I want them to have, and it all has to fit in well with whatever backstory I write for them.
A great story to me has pieces that fit together perfectly.  I like what characters do to make sense for what the author has tried to portray them as.  I like the dialogue to flow and fit in with the characters' personalities.  I like to see real character development, not just sudden changes in how the characters behave without much explanation for why things have changed.  I like unique motivations.  I like unique things in general.  I know that it's almost impossible to write a story with no cliches whatsoever, but I hate seeing a story so riddled with cliche ideas that I feel like I'm just reading a mashup of a bunch of other books.  And no matter how great the concept of a book is, if it doesn't have these things, I have a lot of trouble enjoying the story.
When I review, I tend to focus on a lot of the things I've listed before.  Do I believe your characters (are your characters realistic)?  Does your dialogue make me happy, or does it make me cringe?  Am I finding original ideas?  I also do look at grammar a lot.  There are a lot of mistakes that I see over and over again on Figment, and I hate that I'm constantly correcting people on these things (coughdialoguepunctuationcough).  Obviously, mistakes are going to be made, but when I see someone consistently making the same little mistakes I do try to point it out and give a mini-grammar lesson.  I want to see everyone improve on all of these things, and I try to help as much as possible.
I decided to become a judge because honestly, I love doing stuff like this.  I love reading people's stories and critiquing them.  It's something that I do for fun.  I figured that joining Figgy Idol as a judge would give me an excuse to do it.  I also became a judge because I think that doing this will ultimately help me in my journey as a writer.  Understanding what people enjoy reading, finding the things that I do and do not like, and seeing all of the things that you all come up with might help me get better, too, and I'm always up for improvement.
Thank you so much for giving this a read.  I'm really looking forward to this season of Figgy Idol!

I have been writing for about fifteen years, starting out with mainly Harry Potter fan fiction and poetry, focusing more on the former. I used to be a member of a Harry Potter community and a frequent poster in the fan fiction section. It eventually evolved into a more basic format of this website. What I learned there I have taken with me here--both in terms of my writing and sense of community.

Most of the writing knowledge I've gained and kept over the years was given to me by my fellow writers. Sure, I learned the basics in school, but I retained the rest of it because it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to get better, and knowing that there were others out there that wanted to help me with that was encouraging. And when that website was, unfortunately, shut down a few years ago, I gravitated to Figment because it shared the same values I believed in--a writing community where writers help each other.
That is the main reason why I started Figgy Idol in 2014. Aside from the fact that I have always loved hosting writing competitions, I wanted to bring together like-minded writers in a friendly competition to challenge one another and grow from it. I want the chance to help other writers in the way that other writers have helped me. Give back to my community and whatnot. And if we have a little fun along the way, that's just icing on the cake.
For me, reading and especially writing have always been emotional escapes. I really got into writing following the death of a loved one; it was my outlet. I tend to throw myself completely into my stories and let go of my emotions. It is my theory that writing is the greatest form of manipulation in that we as writers can force our audience to feel whatever we want them to with a few simple words. With that being said, if I can't make my reader feel something, then I'm not done. There's work left yet.
I've adopted the same tendencies when I read. I like to be fully immersed in the tale I'm reading; I want to be right there with the characters. I don't want to feel for them, I want to feel with them. There is a difference. The trick is finding and understanding it. I would say that an emotional connection is the biggest thing I look for when reviewing. I'm a firm believer in showing, not telling. Don't know what that means? This article describes it in great detail. Fully immerse me in your story, pull me into your head, and make me forget that the real world exists. Do that, and you'll have won me as a loyal fan.
Aside from that, I do tend to focus on detail, flow, and continuity. Do your homework! Make sure you have your facts straight and that everything works together to create a plausible scene. Otherwise, I will call you out on it. If you want to have humans breathe in outer space without the aid of a space suit, great. Make sure you have an explanation to back up your storyline. Additionally, be sure that your details at the end of your story match those at the beginning. Small details are what will hurt you if you ignore them.
Grammar is another area I'm a little more sensitive about than most readers. It took me a long time to learn these rules, and I may be a little proud of that fact, so yes, I will point out your more frequent mistakes. We all make them; it's part of being human. I get it. However, we can't learn from our mistakes if we don't know when we make them, now can we?

Ahoy! I’m Grant Evan Nordine. 25 years old. Published poet & lyricist, primary script writer/voice actor for The Adventures of Amphibiman and Banana Boy, and terribly poor in spite of all of it.
My first poem was published when I was 17 years old, so you could say I’ve been writing more professionally(ish) for eight years. I contracted a case of the writing bugs when I was very young though. Since that time, the writing bug has burrowed under my skin, laid eggs, and started a small colony of other writing bugs. (Writing this paragraph made me very itchy.)
As a writer, I take pride in dialogue writing. Over the last year, I've been having to write a plethora of scripts and as a result my dialogue skills have been significantly honed. (Keep that in mind, I'm a stickler for believable dialogue.) As a reader I think it’s important to have clear, identifiable characters reveal themselves in more than just description so I try to reflect that when I write dialogue, but also when I write descriptions and settings. I love stories that can put you in the environment. I love reading books that take me places. There’s no particular genre that means more to me than another, I just want to be transported. (But I will say that my favorite novel is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)
I tend to look for character when I review. I don’t mean that in the sense who the story is about; I mean that in the sense of your personality, style, flow, and if this is the greatest way to tell your story. I prefer not to focus on grammar and punctuation (unless it hinders the story telling) and I instead focus on the story itself. 
This is my 3rd year on Figgy Idol and my 2nd as a full time judge. I became a judge because I wanted an avenue to help good writers get better. I think that's the endgame of any competition of this nature. I don't profess to be the best writer ever, but I've been doing this stuff for a long time. I've dealt with editors, publishers, other writers, and worked hard to make my work presentable, readable, and accessible. I want to help others do the same thing. Especially if you're serious about this stuff like I am. 
The nature of the peer review has been tainted in recent years, I feel. People either nitpick on grammar or give empty comments such “This was great! I liked this!” I’m here to tell you why things were great, what can be improved on, and how to grow in your craft. I’ve been published and am currently moving towards getting a novel ready and finished. I try to look for things that any other publisher would look for and can push you to challenge yourselves and discover things you never knew you were capable of. Yeehaw! 

I've been writing as long as I can remember honestly, but I'd say it's been at least nine years. I got really serious about it when I was eleven, though, and have wanted to become a professional author since that point.
I've never really thought about my strongest skill set. I'd say fight scenes are definitely what I'm best at and I'd like to think character development.
To me, a good story isn't completely full of cliches and obvious plots. I've noticed many, many similarities between some of my favorite (published) books and sometimes it's really hard to steer myself away from those cliches, so I'll definitely be looking out for those. And the characters are definitely important, because I hate when major characters are two-dimensional or feel entirely unrealistic.
Characters, description, and plot are actually what I focus on the most in reviews, though I do tend to point out spelling or grammar mistakes if I find really noticeable ones. If a character doesn't have any real substance to them, then it'll lessen my interest in the story. And if the character is good, I'll become more interested in the plot. And I definitely find a lot of plot holes based on what the character could have or should have done, so I'll probably be looking for those. And conspiracy theories. That's a major problem for me. Expect me to be looking for them everywhere.
I didn't really have a motivation for doing this. I just thought it could be a fun challenge. And if I hope to gain anything from this, it would be experience through reading other writings, which frequently gives me inspiration as well.
I think if there's anything I can help the competitors with, it'd be more along the lines of character development and paying attention to description, as lack of description bugs me and I'll probably talk about that a lot.
Well, thanks for reading, hope this helped :)

I'm Tilda. I've been writing for a considerable amount of years now and probably won't stop anytime soon. I tend to linger in more serious, dark fiction of all kinds and love creating whack-o characters. The more twisted, the better.
My strong points lies in building characters and balancing them, finding flaws to fit with their skills and good sides to go with their bad. I strongly believe that the characters can make or break a story - no matter how fab your writing is, a bad character will bring it down. I spend a considerable amount of time fretting over that very topic, almost daily, but due to my unusual interest in text-roleplay I need to be fairly on point. Underdeveloped characters can murder any good roleplaying plot, after all.
I'm quite picky about what I like and it's a lot touch-and-go. It's all about the feels. Oddly enough, good dialogue will often be the thing that brings a story from good to great in my eyes. I'm not very genre-focused in that sense and will devour most stories as long as they catch my attention. 
Whenever I do reviews and feedback and things like it, I tend to linger in my strong points. I pick apart characters, question their motives and try to figure out if there's anything that would make a characters personality really pop better. I also have my fun questioning dialogue, tripping over the flow and probably poking continuity. I also have a sick issue with flaws in facts. I will freak out if someone starts saying 'serial killer' about a person that's only killed twice. It's stupid and nitpicky, sure, but I can't let those things go.
I didn't really 'decide' to be a judge. I participated in Season One and, through dark magic and coffee, I came out on top. Don't ask me how, though. I'm still not sure. I got to be a guest judge after that and, somehow, I've been allowed to stick around. Not that I'm complaining, I love Figgy Idol. It's great. 
I hope to, perhaps, help someone improve their writing and boost some confidence. I know Figgy Idol did that for me. I want to see people make it work and perfect their writing. And I want to find a whole load of stories to read and get lost in. I want to be inspired and awed and mystified - I want to be impressed. 
In my head, I believe I can supply fairly varied feedback. I try to cover flow, characters, dialogue and general thoughts. There won't be any short, vague feedback happening. And while I may not dig too deep into grammar and technical buildup of things, I can help out with the overall picture. I can tell you why I ended up feeling this or that way. I may not be a pro at anything, but I know what I feel and I know why. 
Looking forward to see what ya'll come up with! :D 

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