Introduction

It is important that I frame this article correctly. It is not a response to any specific incident, or any specific writer. This article responds to a broader issue, which appears to have been met with some confusion lately. What is this site for? What is it suppose to do? Woe is ImpishIdea, the existential website. Actually, we aren’t holed up reading Søren Kierkegaard in the least—we have a very clear vision for this place, one that we’ve been somewhat unable to articulate. I’m to blame for that. This site is for criticism. And it is solely for criticism. Other effects are intentional side-effects of criticism, but they are not the focus of the site.

What we mean by criticism

‘Criticism’ is a word that carries such unnecessarily negative connotations. It gets a lot of criticism itself. Take a look at some quotes on the topic of criticism.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” —Benjamin Franklin

“Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.” —Jean Sibelius

Perhaps the most damning.

“When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.” —Unattributed

So, fair enough. But I feel as though these quotes talk about the other kind of criticism, the one that I’m not so interested in. Here is a quote on our brand of criticism.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” —Winston Churchill

I find the negative connotations attached to the idea of criticism to be entirely regrettable. The importance of criticism should be obvious. If I learned to play the piano with my hands crossed and no one lets me know this is incorrect, then I’ll fail to learn piano. This seems self-evident to me, yet critics are met with incredible resistance when we point out the flaws in Inheritance or Twilight. If Paolini isn’t informed that his writing is purple, he’ll never know. Of course, in our day to day interactions we hesitate to criticize our friends and co-workers. We know how much cognitive dissonance can hurt, and as sympathetic people we shrink away from actions that would cause hurt. Avoiding pointing out flaws works out about as nicely as tons of white lies, however, and I believe we should embrace open honesty about mistakes and problems.

It’s important to point out that the criticism here is not for bringing down, disparaging, belittling, or insulting anyone. Some people have expressed the ideas that Paolini or Meyer didn’t deserve their success, and we should be somehow making up for that. No. These people do not represent the whole of ImpishIdea. I wish Christopher Paolini and Stephanie Meyer the very best in all their endeavors. We simply hope they put their remarkable position to good use. Nor do we wish financial ruin for their publishing companies. Then, one might ask why we discuss these two authors with such intensity.

What we are doing, or, side-effects

Well, we have picked out these two authors in particular. For simple reasons: mistake density, and popularity. That’s all there is to it. Mistake density because we might as well catch as many problems as we can in a single book. It’s a very pragmatic measure, for the most part. And some mistakes are so glaring that we can’t ignore them. The popularity really helps. Here’s where those side-effects we mentioned come in. You can certainly learn from other people’s mistakes. Sure, it is more instructive to learn from your own, but you might as well get an extra boost from reading Eldest for mistakes. The criticism we level isn’t actually instructive unless you’ve read the books, hence targeting books with the largest audiences. I am somewhat of an entrepreneur, so I also think this is where the opportunity is (as much as I’ve tried to separate II from commercial interests). The main idea is connecting to an audience, so they can relate, and learn something about writing through it.

This is really the reason ImpishIdea exists. As a goal we’ve picked promoting better writing, and its something we do through our criticism. Yes, we do occasionally run writing articles that aren’t that critical. Chiefly this is to deflect criticism that all we do is bitch from sun rise to sun down. We don’t; most of us are amateur writers who have a personal interest in the subject. As amateur writers we like to help each other out, and we want to see the craft as an institution improve. Improvement is spurred by the suggestions of criticism.

Comment

  1. Ari on 24 March 2009, 02:12 said:

    I hope other people read this. It explains very nicely what II is here for- improving writing. This is not a bashing-authors website.

    Cheers to you, Slyshy.

  2. falconempress on 24 March 2009, 06:58 said:

    Thank you for clearing that up. Many people get the wrong idea about II.

    Anyways, great job:)

  3. WiseWillow on 24 March 2009, 07:57 said:

    You quoted Churchill. This wins you points forever.

  4. Nate Winchester on 24 March 2009, 09:10 said:

    This should be stickied somewhere.

  5. Ty on 24 March 2009, 18:04 said:

    Well done! Isn’t clarity just the most beautiful thing?

    This article also lends credence to my theory that well-placed quotes are the cure to all evils. Next stop: Shakespeare-isms in a war zone.

  6. Jeni on 24 March 2009, 18:05 said:

    “It’s important to point out that the criticism here is not for bringing down, disparaging, belittling, or insulting anyone. Some people have expressed the ideas that Paolini or Meyer didn’t deserve their success, and we should be somehow making up for that. No.”

    I actually half-disagree with that, not the first part of course, the first part is so vitally important to understand that any view is not held with malice or of a desire to do harm towards these people. And they are people, and to bully them in such a way is wrong.

    It’s not that CP and SMeyer don’t “deserve” their success, rather, that they should not be hailed as God And Goddess Of All Writing That Ever Existed.

    I suspect that most “antis” (for want of a better term nowadays) really actually wouldn’t have joined the Anti Brigade Movement Thing, if the respective author’s fans hadn’t tried to turn them into something they’re obviously not.

    If CP had become a moderately successful and interesting fantasy writer, then I would have no problem with his success. I would probably enjoy Inheritance more, after all, worse writers have plagiarised more than he did. But when he is hailed as a child genius, shoved forward onto the stage and starts believing his own Marketing Created Image… that is when I have issues.

    I must be a book snob, these are fine brain candy books, but Classic Literature they are not. And this is when the “not deserving” part comes in. This is mostly, I guess, in comparison with authors who have worked incredibly hard for their success. They have polished their writing and stories to a mirror shine, and it shows.

    Blame the fans. Blame the publishing companies for wanting, no, needing to make money. But to some extent, CP and SMeyer must take a portion of the responsibility with success and to not act like Best Writers Of All Time Who Have No Need For Criticism.

    Just my two pennies worth.

  7. SlyShy on 24 March 2009, 18:19 said:

    In so far as we find as much to criticize as we do, we are already deconstructing their images as masters or geniuses. What I’m saying is that we aren’t going out of our ways to topple Paolini or Meyer, or should we. We’ll state our criticism, and that’s more than sufficient to show these people are not The Great Masters of the Old.

  8. Jeni on 24 March 2009, 21:52 said:

    But as part of that, there is still an inherent recognition that these writers do not deserve such success. I don’t say that in a malicious way (and I fully appreciate that ii needs to hold a firm stance on this, to avoid falling into that dank pit), but in, as I see it, factual way.

    They (writers/publishing company/media) are jumping on the Harry Potter fantasy bandwagon ride to Oz, and it stinks.

    I guess I’m just putting forth the view that not all those that hold the view that CP* and SMeyer don’t deserve their success are petty, spiteful bastards. Is actually one reason why I refused to buy Brisingr, CP didn’t deserve my money. His publishing company didn’t deserve my money. If they don’t put enough effort in to polish the book (and actually edit it), why should I waste my pitiful grocery store slave wages on them? And I know that sounds spiteful, but, it’s the truth. If you’re going to be a published author, you should put out your best quality works, and not lead the sheep around the paddock a few times.**

    And no, you’re very right, criticism is, and should be, the limit of any Anti’s actions. Anything more than that and that’s when I see people straying into the dark side. Take a while back, on the old AS, when there came reports of people writing in Inheritance books telling people not to buy it and to visit a-s.com. That is wrong beyond belief, and quite frankly digusting.

    Besides, when done properly, fairly and constructively, it is the most effective tool for good. When you play with people’s money, it’s something an author should always be aware of, and not make his readers think “I paid money for this crap?!”***.

    *Ask me later, and I’ll tell you how much I admire the work that CP and his family put into promoting his novel. Yeah. Go figure. I’m hypocritical.

    **Which, oh em gee, Jacques is doing so often now, but, sometimes you just have to unconditionally love an author because they’ve been with you for so so so so many years.

    ***I’m looking at you, James Patterson.

  9. Eragon'sShrink19 on 25 March 2009, 15:03 said:

    Dude, you should get rid of the b word. It’s unprofessional, unless you’re in combat.

  10. SlyShy on 25 March 2009, 16:12 said:

    When used as a verb to mean “gripe” it can hardly be construed as offensive. I don’t get what it is with people seemingly confusing the meaning of a word and the sound of a word.

  11. Reggie on 25 March 2009, 17:49 said:

    One of the quotes also contains the word “erected.”

  12. Jeni on 25 March 2009, 19:32 said:

    “petty, spiteful poopheads” just didn’t carry the same weight and effect.

  13. exitpoint on 26 March 2009, 18:36 said:

    I disagree, but only partially. Sometimes insults are a delightful way to criticize something. Sometimes being told up straight that you are a bastard is the most constructive criticism ever. Sometimes, instead of nagging and criticizing and holding your breathe for months and years, just bluntly putting it up front is the best way to go.

    I don’t mind saying it. Paolini is a shitty writer. Isn’t that what everyone is thinkinbg here anyway? I even have points to back up my claims, so if you disagree argue the points, not the presentation by which I state my claims.

  14. Snow White Queen on 27 March 2009, 19:50 said:

    Well, we all understand that the point of this site is not to completely devastate authors. It’s the fans who think we’re evil party-poopers who need to read this.

    But well said all the same, Sly.

  15. Anon on 28 March 2009, 00:47 said:

    el oh el

    The “we’re not envious but merely appreciators of fine literature” slant in getting very old. If that were the case you would have no need to smear authors at each and every opportunity you got in addition to your critiques. You would have no need to ‘jokingly’ suggest that fans are idiots for enjoying their books. Maybe once in a while—if it’s funny. Often it really isn’t genuinely funny anymore—it’s lame, and it seems like the laughter is not fueled by as much by amusement as by derision. How many people still think it’s hilarious to change a few words from a passage of Eragon for the nth time? How about making ‘classic’ Orimus and Brom jokes? What about continuously referring to readers of Twilight as Twitards? I can’t for the life of me see how that lameness can be considered laugh out load humorous anymore, unless you have a really constrained sense of humor.

    Give it a rest already.

  16. SlyShy on 28 March 2009, 01:02 said:

    Show me where I smeared an author.

  17. Kitty on 28 March 2009, 01:02 said:

    Say, I think I recognize you.

  18. Anon on 28 March 2009, 01:07 said:

    Not you. This is not a comment about you, but a comment about other commentators.

    Tell me when was the last time referring to CP as PaoPao was actually humorous and not a sarcastic nickname? If it’s not humorous anymore, why do you still do it? What else do you get out of it?

  19. Kitty on 28 March 2009, 01:14 said:

    Is that even addressed in this article? Go post in the forums or something.

  20. SlyShy on 28 March 2009, 01:14 said:

    The phrase “PaoPao” has been used twice on this site. One of those times was by you.

    Search for PaoPao on Google, restricted to this domain.

    Other commentators here aren’t calling him that. I don’t understand what you are recoiling at. Here I am, trying my hardest to set a better tone of discourse, and make a community that doesn’t screw up like the previous ones have. But people aren’t helping me. So thank you a lot. What are you getting out of disrupting an otherwise harmonious online community? Why are you pinning the blame for things UBF and AS did on me? I wasn’t even a member of either forum.

    If you want something here to change, or you have suggestions on how I can improve the site, just email me. Everyone knows my email, because I’m not hiding my identity.

  21. Reggie on 28 March 2009, 01:16 said:

    As to the people who think changing around words in Eragon is funny, well, there’s obviously me, and I’m sure there are others, but mostly me, and I think that’s funny in most ways because it illustrates how drastically and comically different the meaning of a sentence can be with the alteration of just one little word.

    You are right, however, to point out that continuously referring to Twilight readers as Twitards is indeed unfunny — hence our development of many other and more degrading nicknames for them.*

    There are those who pose the legitimate criticism that some of the Twilight and Eragon commentary is redundant and/or defamatory. There are others who act as if anything to do with the criticism, mockery, or even literary discussion of the two books is equivalent to some driveling moron preaching their ignorant and misguided opinions on the internet. The latter should perhaps see the irony that all of their criticisms of this and other such websites are as redundant and tired as they claim the websites themselves are.

    *Note: This is a joke. Take my joke, please take it.

  22. Anon on 28 March 2009, 01:21 said:

    I did email you at the impish gmail account. That’s what it said it said on the contact page. Is there another email address I should use?

    And why is it you suspect I am blaming you? How can I blame you for what others say? I can only point out something that is disturbing about the site and what issues I feel need to be addressed. I even wrote it in my email. I guess next time I send out the email I will cite everything that in specific details, even though my issues are with general things.

  23. SlyShy on 28 March 2009, 01:25 said:

    Well, I looked through my spam folder and everything, but I’m not finding your email.

    If you need to be sure to reach me, use mkbunday AT stanford DOT edu.

  24. Kitty on 28 March 2009, 01:34 said:

    Say, you’re not Zahano, are you?

    Come out from your rock, we’re not going to bite if we know who you are.

  25. Anon on 28 March 2009, 01:35 said:

    I agree. Criticism is good. Unlike other people who may draw offense, I do not think it is a bad thing. I can follow the criticism of something based on reason alone.

    One trend I do notice though is how often people almost suggest that fans must be total idiots. No, no one out right says they are idiots. But there are many comments that put on airs of suggesting it. I now need to browse the site to find those specific comments. But I don’t know about you, but I think calling people who may or may not like something you do probably incapable of thinking straight really suggests they are foolish.

    There are many comments that really begs the question, why do users constantly find the need to disparage fans and the authors if there is not some degree of hatred behind the calm, objective criticism? Is there really more to it that nobody wants to talk about or admit?

  26. SlyShy on 28 March 2009, 01:41 said:

    I agree. Criticism is good. Unlike other people who may draw offense, I do not think it is a bad thing. I can follow the criticism of something based on reason alone.

    Cool.

    One trend I do notice though is how often people almost suggest that fans must be total idiots. No, no one out right says they are idiots. But there are many comments that put on airs of suggesting it.

    This is something I’m definitely guilty of, especially early on in my response to comments on my Brisingr review. After some reflection, I felt really ashamed of it though, and I’ve been trying to improve. It’s not my intent to come off as an arrogant smuck.

    There are many comments that really begs the question, why do users constantly find the need to disparage fans and the authors if there is not some degree of hatred behind the calm, objective criticism? Is there really more to it that nobody wants to talk about or admit?

    I don’t think it is hatred, but it very well could be elitism. Elitism is bad too, and I’m desperately trying to cure this place of that. I think one good way might be to invite more fans of Twilight and Inheritance over here. It’d force us to behave nicely, and also to evaluate our opinions against their’s. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

    When you do find specific comments, I’d prefer if you left the name of the commentator off, so you don’t rustle feathers. Unless I wrote the comment, in which case, you can definitely call me on it.

  27. Anon on 28 March 2009, 01:46 said:

    All right. I actually had the whole email in my clipboard and now copied over it, so now it is lost forever. Maybe I made a typo while sending the email. So when I do make an email next time, simply send it to your stanford email address?

  28. SlyShy on 28 March 2009, 01:51 said:

    Yeah, that’d be great. The problem with the other one is all the email from it is forwarded to my main email account, but that means if something gets sent to spam accidentally, I’ll never see it.

  29. Anon on 28 March 2009, 01:56 said:

    Then in that case there maybe a very high chance that is might have ended up as spam as well. I sent it from a temporary email account.

  30. Shadowheart on 29 March 2009, 13:01 said:

    Being wannabe writers, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “show, don’t tell”. I’ll take your word as to the site’s intentions, but I can see for myself what it is.

    Another phrase you’ll have heard before is “constructive criticism”. It’s the reason writing forums are never as active as their users would like. Being constructive is a drag. Being destructive, on the other hand, is a blast. Eragon/Twilight bashing might be spiteful and what not, but people have fun doing it and that makes it enjoyable to watch (some of the time, anyway).

    I don’t believe for a moment that people showed up here because they had an itch to improve the common standard of literacy. That they were disgusted by Paolini and Meyer’s success and disturbed by the lack of negative response to it, that I can see. That’s the kind of important thing that gets people using the internet.

    “Promoting better writing” is dull. I want to see a site that has “making little fangirls cry” as its mission statement. Call me sensationalist, but at least that gives you attitude and an angle. Wishing Paolini and Meyer “the very best in all their endeavours” is the opposite of that.

    I’m not clear on what ImpishIdea’s (new) identity is supposed to be. Where does the site stand? What kind of approach to writing does it favour, what literary/genre corner does it sit in, stuff like that. I don’t expect a full-blown manifesto, but something more specific and committed than what you’ve got here.

  31. Jerk on 29 March 2009, 16:54 said:

    Hey now, at a funeral you don’t start grinning because the dead guy was a tool, do you? You’re at least supposed to pretend you are sad in public, even if you go home, sit down, and end up having a perfectly normal day regardless.

  32. SlyShy on 29 March 2009, 17:43 said:

    Shadowheart,

    I see no reason why we couldn’t make fangirls cry and take the highroad. In fact, knowing that the anti-fans are better people than they are would add to the misery. :P

  33. Kitty on 29 March 2009, 17:46 said:

    I don’t believe for a moment that people showed up here because they had an itch to improve the common standard of literacy.

    Do you know us personally? No, you don’t.

  34. Snow White Queen on 29 March 2009, 18:05 said:

    To answer Shadowheart’s question, or one of them, I think most people here who submit do so along sci-fi/fantasy lines.

    Which reminds me, I’ve been incredibly lazy and must start writing again. I have gotten some great con-crit on this site (thank you, SSD).

  35. Yei Long on 11 August 2009, 03:19 said:

    Well, if this site’s aim is criticsm, then could someone please tell me what does ‘purple’ mean? It’ll help me with future criticsm if I know what it means.

  36. Jeni on 11 August 2009, 05:22 said:

    It’s a description of a writing style, short for purple prose.

    If something is written in an excessively ornate fashion, including details that have little bearing on the story, then that passage is said to be “purple prose”, or simply calling it a very “purple” passage.

    The wikipedia article is a good place to start. :)

  37. Snow White Queen on 11 August 2009, 16:16 said:

    The starry azure orbs of her stunningly radiant countenance sparkled with a conflagration of sparks.

    And that’s ridiculously bad, even for purple prose. I just can’t do it!

  38. Steph (what is left) on 11 August 2009, 23:57 said:

    Uh, Sly…

    In fact, knowing that the anti-fans are better people than they are would add to the misery. :P

    Didn’t you just say that you were trying to cure II of elitism?

    Like Nate said, this article needs to be stickied somewhere.

    For my part, most users of the forums would have seen my post about my intention not to participate in author-bashing anymore. Which is still going on, despite this great article.

    However, the constructive criticism on II is quite active, and there are way more writing threads now, so I have no complaints in that area.

  39. vivek gokhale on 10 June 2014, 06:00 said:

    criticism is to help you to appreciate a work of art in a better way.

  40. Tim on 10 June 2014, 15:29 said:

    “Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.” —Jean Sibelius

    But plenty have fallen down for want of one.

  41. Dr. Vivek Gokhale on 28 July 2014, 21:05 said:

    As there can be difference between the intention and what is done so there can a difference between the purpose and effects of criticism and the difference between a disagreement and a disrespect. Criticism should help one to achieve his purpose and intention; and for this a critic should not impose his views or intentions on the performer. Effectively, a criticism should help any one to see how the thing could have been in its perfect or ideal form.

  42. Tim on 29 July 2014, 19:25 said:

    That’s called structuralist criticism and postmodernism kind of discards the whole idea of there being a singular perfected form of the work.

    And if the critic does not use their own views as to what the performer should be doing, who’s views should they use? What’s the point of criticism if it amounts to auto-self-analysis?