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Stories & Scripts

Source: Adults

Author: Hugh of Avalon

Title: Review THIS!

You'll have seen the e-mail? There's to be a Best Reviewer of the Month Competition? Brilliant! Almost, one does feel bound to say, about time! Because reviews really are the threads which for much of the time bind us keen amateur word smiths together. And if you just stop to think about it for a minute, they really make for an interesting study in their own right ...

Long, long ago when I was still at school (yeah “the world was different then” we know!) we had a headmaster who got paid a lot of money for writing single four letter words on pupil's term reports. Mine was anything but a good school even then and 'Old Tiddles' as I shall call him, since that was his universal nickname due in part to its similarity with his actual name and in part again to his habit of shamelessly taking two hour naps on an old Victorian chaise longue in his study after one of the girl prefects had served him his lunch, had been gently coasting up to his retirement for the previous thirty years. Class positions were the order of the day back then, every single term, and if you came within the top ten Old Tiddles would write: 'Good'. The next ten down to place 20 got 'Fair'. And anything after that 'Poor'. And that was it. If the system ain't broke don't mend it, and Tiddles never did. Never during the six long years I was there anyway.

But surely he could have said so much more? “If Sandra paid as much attention to her Latin as she does to her face she might get somewhere.” “Tommy must understand that the universe does not revolve around Brighton and Hove Albion football club.” I'm sure you see the point? And we Writebuzzers can and will do better!

So why do we review? Well, we're supposed to aren't we? And there's the process of symbiosis involved: Tommy stands a better chance of getting that Christmas card he so craves from Sandra if he sends her one first. Oh come on, we've all done it! Well, I have. But then, those clever back room boys of Writebuzz have provided us with some further cosmic sub-dimensions in which to expand our creativite genius still more: The Stars!

Five Star: First off there's the Five Star! The Gold! “I'm like saying that I really rate your work here! Excellent! I can see a trip to Pick of the Month beckoning from here! (But don't forget who gave it to you ... ”) And don't we just love getting these? I know I do! After all, doesn't each and every one of us like to feel appreciated now and again? Human nature, innit? I was up till turned one this morning finishing it, you know! But hey, it was all worth it now! Oh yes, and if you're a Schools member posting on the Adults Channel, you can get loads of these ...!!! :-D

Four Star: Next the Four. The Silver. Statistically these seem the most numerous, and would seem too to be the province of the more genuine (sensible?) reviewer who's basically saying, “I have read and enjoyed this piece. In my sincere opinion it is good.” Or (having to speak from personal experience here) “I've read your poem, I didn't understand it because this avant garde stuff is quite beyond me (at my age) but I'm going to give it a Four anyway because it doubtless deserves that, but I'm afraid to go for a Five in case it actually doesn't (I really don't have the faintest idea you see, but I liked the rhythm - sorry - meter) and if I gave it a Three then what would I actually be saying here? Plus this way we can stay friends.” Yeah. Right. I was still up to turned one. But okay. :-) And have you sometimes noticed how if the first reviewer goes for the Four then those following ones will tend to follow suit? Don't be swayed. Make your own judgment. Go for the gold! But try to avoid ...

Three Star: What, forgot to click the bit at the top first then did you? The neutral star rating. Hope that doesn't mean indifferent? But then you wouldn't be putting anything on at all if that were the case ... would you? Confused of Writebuzz here. Definitely a 'Fair'. Oh well. :-[

Two Star: Now we come to that rarest of animals, the Two Star Review! Talk about hen's teeth. I've personally never yet managed to add one of these to my collection! (There is a hint there by the way, Christmas being a time for giving and all ...) So what do Two Stars say then? “I think every single thing you've ever put out on this site is banal crap except this one exceptional piece for which I cannot be so extreme. So here's a pair to hang round yours.” (Christmas tree presumably?) Or then again: “This is quantum leagues better than a One ...!!!” :-(

One Star: They happen! I've only ever had the 'one' myself till now. There was a Plot Thickens shortest horrors thing a while ago. Being the total none poet I am I used the highly original nomme de plume of 'Anonymous' to publish a couple of four liners. One, which went something like this ...

'Twas on the bridge at midnight,

Her figure stood a quiver,

I kissed her and head fell off,

And floated down the river

... gained a Four would you believe! But its hapless companion, strongly based on a girl's skipping chant I remembered from my back street childhood, was awarded a One along with the comment: 'I didn't know retards could write poetry.' I mean come on, that's hardly fair on the retards is it. You really couldn't begin to imagine how much I treasured that review! But then round about Christmas last year someone famously put out a spoof three liner about roasting a puppy for Christmas (it is in China where they actually do that isn't it, or am I thinking of The Philippines?). Result outrage and four, yes four One Star reviews all in a neat verticle line! Dit, dit, dit, dit. Am I envious? You bet the hell I am. :-{

Black Hole: Now this is strictly an unofficial category. Have you ever had a review for a piece of work you've put out so utterly bizarre that you're left scratching perplexedly? These are great! I've had one written in 'Jamaican Rap Talk' (at least I think that's what it was; I remember when Reggae hit the disco scene round about '69 and it sounded similar). Another wherein a couple of our allies from across The Pond started debating with one another about vernacular dialects (the bonus being ten extra stars for me so I can't think why I'm complaining) and yet another which tangented off into a discourse on dissecting bull's retinas - I kid ye not! No doubt others will have similar experiences of their own to tell of. But we can, and will, do better!

So what really is the point of reviewing? Plenty, I'd say. For a new member posting on the site for the first time, a first review is a confirmation that their work actually is being read, and secondly a welcome first sign of acceptance into 'The Gang' so to speak. When I tentatively put my own first story out quite a time ago now, I can't tell you what it meant to find a Five Star review there the very next day. It can be said with truth that it was mostly due to that, and the totally splendid individual who gave it, that I felt sufficiently encouraged to carry on (no don't roll your eyeballs back like that while wishing what you are - it's bad for your optic nerves). Reviews offer encouragement, and for the most part, constructive criticisms. Writing is after all a form of communication, and a response of any kind is infinitely preferable to none at all. Plus reviews are a really great ice breaker when it comes to getting some Pen Pals! How many of us started out along the lines of: 'Dear Mr or Ms So-and-So, Just a swift e-mail to say thanks very much for your most kind review of my recent piece about yuletide canine immolation ...' And back comes the reply: 'No problem. Just horsing around. But I broke my little finger nail typing it out so I'm off to litigation to get the compensation that I'm now owed from you ...' From such beginnings are made friends for life.

But enough from me. This is supposed to be about reviewing after all. And there's a prize at stake now too. So come on Gang, sharpen those nibs, form a disorderly queue, and get reviewing! For one talented person the road to victory could even start here! Anyone taking bets on an eventual winner?

(Author's afterword: Hugh of Avalon would just like to point out that he is not, repeat not, a pen name for that story writer fella with the same forename, and even if he were 'Hugh of Avalon' truly is the invention of a completely different Writebuzz reprobate anyway, and the fella you're thinking of knew nothing at all about it when he didn't adopt it.)

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