Story Reviews and Ratings For Novels, Screenplays, and Plays

A review is a critical assessment of a story for prospective readers, not a “book report.” It’s a judgment on how well the author engaged and entertained the reader, and to a lesser extent practiced the craft.

The purpose is to give prospective readers a good idea of whether or not they might want to read, see, or hear the story. It can also provide valuable feedback to authors to improve their work. It isn’t to find something to criticize, disparage, or boost the writer and story, it’s a complete assessment of both done well and not done well.

Qualifications for being a reader

Readers agree (honor agreement) that you aren’t a writer (competitor), someone with an axe to grind, won’t plagiarize, are not paid or associated with the writer, are not just trying to get a free read, will read the entire book, play, article, or screenplay (or not leave a rating or review), and that you will leave a rating and possibly a review unless you were not interested in the story.

Reviewing isn’t an easy task – don’t shortchange prospective readers and the author.

Editing is not part of this, but if you see a problem you are welcome to report it.

Review Criteria

Use the Template (coming). Use the following criteria as a guide:

Important data

  1. Title, Author, Genre.
  2. Review length: Generally 50 to 750 words. Less is more, but back up your opinions with examples.
  3. Overall rating (average of other ratings 1 to 10).
  4. Recommend to others rating 1 to 10.
  5. How much would you pay to see, hear, or read this story? (Assume you would pay. Enter a number from $2 to 35.00)
  6. Short summary of the story – 6 lines maximum, citing the plot and main character motivations, what’s at stake, and what’s to be learned or achieved by the main character(s).

Your opinion of the story – A short summary telling something that would compel or intrigue others to read it, or maybe not.

Did the story fulfill its promise to you? (Rate on a scale of 1 to 10)

  1. Did the story compel you to read from the first page on? Did it sag and not hold your interest?
  2. Was the story true to the genre (or blended genre) – what you expected?
  3. Was it entertaining?
  4. Was it outlandish and unrealistic?
  5. Was the end of the story satisfying?
  6. Were the main themes or ideas consistent within the story?
  7. Was the book emotionally moving to you? Why?
  8. Was the story original, or some stale idea that is overdone?
  9. Was there too much exposition? Not enough dramatic action?
  10. Was there conflict between characters that engaged you?
  11. Did the story and the scenes establish mood?

Were the significant characters well drawn? (Rate on a scale of 1 to 10)

  1. Not cardboard stereotypes, but had dimensions like real people?
  2. Not too many characters to keep track of, especially at the beginning?
  3. Main character resolved the difficulties on their own?
  4. Did you care about the characters and the outcome?
  5. Were the characters well motivated?
  6. Was there a dramatic arc of main character change (not true in all genres)?
  7. Were the character’s actions consistent with their beliefs and attitudes, and true to life and themselves?

Was the plot intriguing and well developed? (Rate on a scale of 1 to 10)

  1. Was the plot predicable?
  2. Was the plot Serpentine with twists and turns?
  3. Consistent with the character’s motivations?
  4. Does the story have unresolved loose ends?
  5. Were there surprises?
  6. Was there rising tension throughout the story?
  7. Was there a series of situations which were obstacles to conquer?
  8. Was there a subplot that helped make the plot? Did a side story detract from the plot?

Writing (Rate on a scale of 1 to 10)

  1. Does the narrative create a mental picture in your head, or is it just words?
  2. Does the story create moods that support the scenes?
  3. Does the story create a world in which the characters complete their tasks?
  4. Passive tense rather than active?
  5. Writing style and grammatical correctness?
  6. Did anything jolt you out of the story, changing your focus to the words instead of the story, like grammatical errors and unrealistic behavior? Was this frequent?

Dialogue (Rate on a scale of 1 to 10)

  1. Was the dialogue to the point, or a long and laborious to read?
  2. Did the dialogue fit the characters?

Setting (Rate on a scale of 1 to 10)

  1. Was the world of the characters interesting?
  2. Was the world appropriate for the characters to act within to tell the story?

Summary of the story, with no spoilers

  1. What were the overall strengths and weaknesses?
  2. Quotes and anecdotes are appropriate
  3. Adjectives that describe the tone of the book?
  4. Avoid comparisons to previous works by the authors or others: The book will be unique to many readers.
  5. Keep yourself out of the review – it isn’t about you: no axe to grind, don’t show off of your literary knowledge.
  6. Summary of opinion.

See the Visual Writer movie critique form

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