LKM (lkm_soi) wrote in seaofinsanity,


Comic-production has been delayed by a rather shitty weekend, attributable to calling the paramedics for my mother Friday night. She is now fine with no apparent long-term effects (tests came back clear and all that), but nothing ruins a Friday night like watching a normally stoic parent crying in pain. It's all cool now and I've started pencils, but I lost a few days to stress-aftershocks so it'll be a bit slow.

Because pockyimp asked me yesterday and I have no entertaining content of my own to contribute, everyone gets a link to El Santo's explanation of why a reviewer would do negative reviews (in this case, referring to webcomics) rather than sticking by the old adage of "Don't like, don't read".

Personally, I appreciate negative reviews (or, ideally, negative aspects of a review which also makes note of the positive) because they're often more helpful than "Your comic's great, keep doing what you're doing!". Don't get me wrong, the latter is good for keeping the creator from feeling like all is for naught, but from the standpoint of improving negative criticism is far more valuable. Sure, the particularly harsh types can evoke a prolonged twitching spell, but it's worth a little discomfort if the content is ultimately useful.

However, the seriousness with which I take the criticism is in direct proportion to the degree of effort the critic puts into delivering it and his eloquence when doing so; "Your comic sucks" with no elaboration isn't going to get much of a reaction from me one way or another. El Santo's reviews, even the negative ones, are not of this sort. I find him quite entertaining and you should give him many hits. (You may find new comics.)

Bonus Characterization Exercise: Write different characters performing the same action (packing for a trip, going about their morning routine, etc) to get yourself more grounded with their behavior. Personality informs behavior. If you're writing one go-getter morning-person and one drag-ass slacker with identical morning routines, you're doing it wrong.
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thanks for posting this. as a creative type myself, nothing bugs me more than someone saying "THAT SUCKS". I mean, it's okay that you think it sucks, but tell me WHY it sucks! Give me concrete reasons WHY it sucks.
I tend to think that constructive criticism is very useful. Straight negative criticism, however, just makes you a) feel like crap, or b) very angry (or both). Generally to me, if the criticism comes off as an attack, I respond with the fight or flight reflex, and mine is to fight. I get very angry, flip out, and generally fight back.

It's funny, but phrasing can make all the difference (at least to me). You can tell me that X is completely useless or looks like crap, and if you say it that way, I'm going to flip out. However, if you say 'I'm not sure X is very helpful, or you might want to [insert alternative here]', I'm likely to take that in and at least consider it seriously (even if I don't take the advice). I tend to think that most people react that way. If something feels like an attack, the majority of people are unlikely to do anything with it other than responding as if someone stabbed them.

I spent a lot of today trying to figure out why I do this (since I got some poorly phrased negative criticism from my fiancé on something I've been working on), and all I could come up with was that if something feels useless, I'm going to treat it as such, even if what you're saying makes a lot of sense. I wish more people could really work on the constructive portion of the constructive criticism. Help me improve it, don't just tell me it's awful.

However, that might just be me.

And in other news, I adore your comic. I've been reading it for years, kept checking back when there were long gaps due to real life interfering, and the Ancient History/Classical Studies major in me finds it very satisfying that a lot of the stuff (if not all of it) that should be accurate is. You've managed to take something that really isn't current or modern, and make it so without completely destroying the heart of it, and that makes the classics geek in me very very happy.

Also, both the storyline and the artwork have been steadily improving. I would say that the original stuff (particularly the art) looked like some of my first comics (and I gave up on comics and stuck to just writing - mostly stuff that the world in general will never see), and it has become something very well done. A lot of the time when you put in your LJ 'X looks awful', it comes across to me like how most women look in the mirror and see nothing but the flaws, but most of the world sees the beauty and completely misses the flaws.

And yes, I realize that this isn't constructive criticism, but I couldn't really find anything negative to say about your comic. It warms that super history geeky part of my heart while still taking place in the present, and that's a very hard thing to do. Just ask my fiancé, I sit through movies and nit-pick. The only way I could enjoy 300 was to sit there and remind myself that it was based off a comic book that was loosely based off the history, and to enjoy it as a visually pretty creation rather than a storyline.

Just thought I'd share my love of your comic for the above-mentioned need to keep you feeling like your work is for naught. It's not, it keeps me entertained and gives me a semi-regular dose of my favorite mythos.

It is also the only comic that has had fairly long gaps in updates that I am still reading. The rest I gave up on because I was far too impatient to wait for the artist to have time in their life to update again.

Sorry about the repeated posts of this comment, it's about 3am here. My best to your mother, I hope she's back to 100% soon.
Glad you like the strip.

There exist people able to accept criticism without batting an eye or taking it personally, regardless of how harsh the phrasing. These are very few, and I'm certainly not one of them. It is, however, something you have to learn to choke down if you want to improve -- perversely, sometimes made difficult in workshopping settings when other people are afraid of hurting feelings. (It's really not that hard to administer, though -- make sure you've got something positive to say, even if the thing was so horrible you actively want to avenge yourself for being made to read it, and explain why you don't think something worked with as much detail as you can. People feel less slighted if they can tell you were at least giving it serious thought and attention.)

When I get constructive criticism I find the best thing to do is to shut down my emotions and be objective. It does take some doing but I think the main reason people have trouble accepting it is because creative work of any streak feels very personal and it can be difficult to feel criticism of your work is entirely removed from criticism of yourself. I take criticism of my art far better than criticism of my writing because it isn't really a personal exercise for me, so objectivity is much easier. Writing, on the other hand, is something I value enough to blow a college education on, so if something goes wrong I don't have the excuse of "I'm just doing the best I can". Fortunately I've worked on SoI long enough I can write off some problems as the folly of youth and not feel too upset when they're pointed out, me agreeing and all.

300 becomes more bearable if you keep in mind it's being told as a propaganda piece by Unreliable Narrator Faramir. I was fine with that. Troy, on the other hand, actually had me writhing in pain with its advertisement of "historical accuracy". At least you knew going into Disney's Hercules it would be massively sanitized.

As one of the longer-lasting webcomic critics out there... I have to say that I rarely do negative reviews. Part of this reason is time. I'm reading over a hundred comics a week. I'm adding to that (and subtracting from it as well) periodically so that I'm talking about new stuff as well. If a comic doesn't catch my attention and then keep it, I'm not going to write about it.

Part of this has to do with my philosophy of "read the entire thing before you review it." If I'm not enjoying a comic and can't be bothered to finish it, then it's not going to get reviewed. It's not fair to the comic (or the cartoonist) to review something I've not fully read. Yes, there are "critics" out there who do that... but I have a very poor opinion of them (along with those who "review" to launch personal attacks on the comic creators).

I've written negative reviews before. Often I'll find something of redeeming value in the comic... but there's one or two where the comic managed to piss me off and yet not drive me off. Those get the negative reviews; and even then, I go after content, not the artist. Because I was in that boat once. I managed 33 updates before the comic went into permanent hiatus (and then the files got lost due to a hard drive corruption). I know the hard work that goes into creating comics... and respect the effort, even if I don't like the comic content itself.

So maybe my reviews are predominately softball specials. I have a love for the medium, and I do try to find constructive elements to talk about in the comic, even if they're often positive. And when I do get out the claws? I still try to show what works, so that those areas can be focused on more.

Besides. Even a negative review will garner you extra web-traffic. It's funny, but people will visit to see if it's as bad as the critic says. And some of that traffic will stay, unless your work is truly atrocious. (Which isn't the case with SoI.)

Rob H.
Honestly I don't tend to stick with a work I find uninspiring either -- the only exception is if someone recommended it to me or asked me my opinion. Movies or books I'll usually tough out because they're short and I probably paid for it (and even then there have been things I just turned off or flat-out abandoned from sheer Awfulness, like Black Dahlia).

Though I might have been overly simplistic when I said "negative reviews". IMO, a review predominately negative can still be a good review if the reviewer makes a compelling case, is eloquent in his reasoning and admits to what does work (assuming something does). I also respect reviews which can separate "this blows" from "this just isn't my thing", which can sometimes be difficult.

Though reviews that go out of their way to tear into a creator will immediately negate the credibility of the reviewer for me. If something's bad, it's enough that it's bad on its own merits. Personal insults, on the other hand, are unnecessary and puerile.

Regardless, I don't have anything against softball reviews. Both are good to have on hand, especially from a creator's POV. Helps keep the ego balanced.