Top Ten Articles – December 2019

Well, it’s the end of the month (and the year), so I thought that I’d do my usual thing of collecting a list of links to the best ten articles about writing etc… that I’ve post here over the past month (plus a couple of honourable mentions too).

Although some this month’s articles didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped (and, looking over them again, there’s even a bit of repetition – in the sense that I wrote two articles about adding humour to fiction), some of them turned out reasonably well though. I don’t know, I guess I was going through a bit of an uninspired phase when preparing some of the articles that appeared in the later parts of this month.

In terms of reviews, I was still getting back into writing occasional computer game reviews πŸ™‚ And I ended up reviewing about twice as many games as I’d expected, namely: “Remothered: Tormented Fathers“, “Skylar And Plux: Adventure On Clover Island“, “Dex: Enhanced Version“, the 2013 remake of “Shadow Warrior” and the “Wanton Destruction” expansion for the original 1997 “Shadow Warrior” in addition to the usual “Doom II” WAD reviews.

On the other hand, this meant that I only had the time and space to review nine novels this month. My favourites of these were probably: “The Haunting Of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson, “Idoru” by William Gibson, “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Sins Of Commission” by Susan Wright, “Kill All Angels” by Robert Brockway and “A Wanted Man” by Lee Child.

Anyway, here are the lists πŸ™‚ Enjoy πŸ™‚

Top Ten Articles – December 2019:

– “Old Fiction Vs Historical Fiction
– “Shock Value And Storytelling Mediums – A Ramble
– “Three Reasons Why Authors Write Book Series
– “One Strange Reason Why Your Novel Might Feel Lifeless
– “Why Good Horror Novels Include Comedy
– “Using Contrast To Improve Your Story
– “Why Are Thriller Novels So Long?
– “How Scale Progression Makes Thriller Stories Gripping
– “Why Humour Is Important In Every Genre Of Story
– “Three Game Design Techniques That Writers Can Use

Honourable Mentions:

– “Why Movie Novelisations Exist
– “Artistic Inspiration And Focus – A Ramble

Six Things I’ve Learnt From Running A Blog For Six Years

Woo hoo! This blog is six years old πŸ™‚ I know that I say this every year, but back when I started this blog in 2013, I had no idea that this random, impulsive project would keep going for so long πŸ™‚ Seriously, I’m surprised that it has only been six years since I started this blog since it feels like it’s been a part of my life for longer than this.

Anyway, like I do on each of these anniversaries (eg: 2014 [part one, part two], 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 ) , I thought that I’d share some of the things that I’ve learnt from running a blog, in case it is useful to you too.

So, let’s get started:

1) Good rules have multiple uses: Although I’ve set myself various rules about this blog over the years, I’ve noticed something about the rules that I’ve actually kept following. If a rule is good, then it will often quickly turn out to be useful for other reasons too.

For example, a few months ago, I got back into reading books regularly and I also started posting novel reviews here every 2-5 days. However, after the first eight book reviews, I set myself a rule that I wouldn’t read two books by the same author directly after each other. But, why?

Simply put, the only way I could get back into reading was to start by binge-reading eight thriller novels by the same author (Clive Cussler). But, by the end of the eighth review, I didn’t even want to look at another Clive Cussler novel. I was completely and utterly bored with them. Which was a shame, because they were so much fun to read. So, I initially set myself this rule so that I wouldn’t end up ruining the works of my other favourite authors for myself.

But, after following it for a while, it turned out to have a lot of other benefits that I hadn’t expected. It pushed me to look for authors I hadn’t read before (and I discovered some really brilliant ones, like Jocelynn Drake, Jack O’Connell, Jodi Taylor and Neal Stephenson). It also meant that I read books in all of my favourite genres, rather than just focusing on just one or two of them. I could go on for a while, but it’s a really useful rule πŸ™‚

So, yes, one test of a good rule is that it will often usually have more than one benefit.

2) Keep a link directory: If you’re writing blog posts/reviews quite far in advance of publication, then it’s usually a good idea to keep a directory of links to some of your upcoming articles in case you have to link to them in future articles.

Most blogging sites will often include a “permalink” description for scheduled and drafted articles. For upcoming articles that you might link to in other future articles, just copy these permalinks into a text file – like this:

This is a screenshot of my link directory, containing permalinks to all of the book reviews I’ve posted since 2018/19. At the time of preparing this article, all of these reviews hadn’t been posted yet (and were draft articles).

Not only will a directory like this make it easier to link within your site, but it can also be useful for your own reference too. For example, by keeping links to all of my book reviews, I’m able to work out how many books I’ve reviewed since I got back into reading regularly. This helps to keep me motivated to read and review more.

3) Know your limits (and work around them): In addition to writing regular book reviews, another thing I got back into was writing fiction. Although most of it hasn’t appeared on this site – all of this extra reading and writing meant that I had less time than I’d had a year or two ago.

And, well, something had to give. But, I didn’t want to reduce my posting schedule or anything like that. So, I had to be a little bit sneaky. It took me a little while, but I realised that one of the largest time-drains was trying to think of ideas for paintings. And, since I’d recently got a second-hand digital camera and had practiced making photo-based paintings in the past, the solution to this problem was a little bit of a no-brainer. Most of my art over the past few months has been photo-based paintings, like this one:

“Fareham Creek – Window” by C. A. Brown

This is a photo I took of Fareham Creek last May (and, yes, I make these photo-based paintings quite far in advance).

Yes, these are a bit different to my traditional sci-fi, gothic horror, 1990s etc.. paintings, and I really miss making these kinds of art [EDIT: These types of art will return more regularly from mid-June onwards πŸ™‚ ], but it’s allowed me to keep painting when I’ve had less time. Likewise, my monthly comics have become a bit shorter and visually simpler for time reasons.

Plus, in order to fit in the reading time for the book reviews, I’ve been watching far less TV and playing fewer computer games (which is why there are fewer TV show-based articles/reviews, no film reviews, no game reviews other than the usual “Doom II” level reviews etc… [EDIT: Game reviews will also return more regularly in November πŸ™‚ ]) over the past few months.

So, yes, know your limits – and find ways to work around them.

4) Experiment: Over the past few months, I’ve been messing around a lot with an open-source graphics program called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Not only has this given me numerous ways to improve my usual digitally-edited watercolour paintings, but it’s also meant that I’ve been able to make things like dramatic digitally-edited line drawings and even the occasional 100% digital piece of art:

“Westbrook – Sleeping Sun” By C. A. Brown

“Low Light – Silent Hall” By C. A. Brown

So, why have I mentioned this? Simply put, it’s to remind you that it can be a good idea to experiment with different things occasionally. If you want to keep up your interest in the things that you’re blogging about, then don’t be afraid to experiment with different stuff every now and then.

5) Review notes: Although this isn’t exactly something new that I’ve learnt, it’s something I’ve been reminded of over the past few months. Basically, if you’re reviewing something, then take notes. Even if you don’t use literally everything in your notes in your review, then take notes regardless.

There are lots of ways to do this. For example, when reading a novel, I’ll use a small square of note paper as both a bookmark and a space to note down what is happening. Having small handwriting helps here (and, yes, ballpoint pens are annoying for tiny writing – but the ink doesn’t soak through the paper like with rollerball pens).

Here’s an example (which contains SPOILERS for Jodi Taylor’s “A Symphony Of Echoes):

This is one side of my bookmark plot notes for Jodi Taylor’s “A Symphony Of Echoes”. Hooray for micro-writing!

After each reading session, I’ll also make more extensive “impressions so far” notes in a notebook. Instead of focusing on writing down plot details (I’ve got the bookmark for this, after all), these notes tend to focus on things like themes, techniques and my general impressions of what I’ve read.

Yes, stopping to take notes can get in the way of enjoying the thing you’re reviewing, but it’s important because it not only helps you to remember more stuff about the thing you’re reviewing, but it also means that you can look back at your notes and see how your views about the thing you’re reviewing have changed whilst you’ve been reading, watching, playing etc.. it.

So, even if you don’t end up using literally every detail in your notes, then taking notes will still result in better reviews.

6) Always have a buffer!: When I was writing some of the daily short stories (like these) that were posted here early last year, I forgot one of the earliest lessons that I’d learnt when I started this blog back in 2013.

Back then, I didn’t have a buffer of pre-made/ pre-scheduled articles, so the early days of my blog were a chaotic, stressful, rushed and panicked time. Over time, I thankfully built up a fairly large buffer of articles – meaning that I didn’t feel anywhere near as much time pressure or deadline stress.

Since these daily short stories were a spontaneous idea, I foolishly forgot this. As such, I was constantly panicking about finishing and posting a story at the end of every day. Eventually, I was able to build up a small 5-7 day story buffer but, because of all of the time stress before this, I ended up abandoning the idea of daily short stories after a month or two. In retrospect, I should have built up a buffer before posting any stories here.

So, yes, always build up a buffer before you start posting regular features on your blog! And, yes, it can be easy to forget this when you’re eager to start a new project. But, it’s very important!


Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Three Basic Tips For Writing Book Reviews

Well, since I’ve written quite a lot of book reviews within the past few months, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about how to write them.

I’ll mostly be focusing on book reviews that are posted online (since this is what I’ve had experience with), but hopefully most of these tips will be general enough to be useful for all kinds of book reviews.

So, let’s get started:

1) Take notes!: Yes, note-taking can be a bit of a distraction when you’re reading, but it will really come in handy when you’re writing your review – especially if it takes you a couple of days (or longer) to read the novel that you’re reviewing.

Having some notes prepared can help you quickly find important parts of the book you’re reading, in addition to helping you gather and clarify your thoughts before writing your review.

Different things work for different people, but my usual approach to note-taking involves taking two types of notes.

First of all, instead of a bookmark, I’ll use a small square of paper that I can quickly jot down page numbers and 1-3 word descriptions on. This means that I have an instant reference if I need to go back and look at any important parts of the book whilst I’m preparing the review. Plus, since I use it as a bookmark, these crucial notes are less likely to get lost.

Secondly, after every reading session, I’ll usually make some slightly more extensive notes in a notebook – mostly focusing on my general impressions of what I’ve read so far (eg: is it what I expected? What does it remind me of? What techniques does the author use? etc…). This is useful for coming up with the more general descriptions in the reviews that I write and it also helps me to remember the experience of reading the book in question too.

Of course, your ideal approach to taking notes might be different. But, nonetheless, it is a very good idea to take notes if you are going to review a book.

2) Watch and read reviews/criticism of other things: One of the best ways to learn how to write reviews is simply to watch and read as many reviews as you can. And they don’t have to be book reviews either – seriously, a lot of what I learnt about reviewing came from watching videogame reviews on Youtube, reading games magazines when I was younger etc..

If you can see how different people review things, then you’ll be able to see the sort of things that good reviews have in common with each other, what you look for in a review etc…

But, it is also a good idea to look at criticism as well as ordinary reviews. Criticism is where someone takes an in-depth look at something and analyses it in detail. Although this may sound boring, it can be fascinating if it’s based on things you love. And it doesn’t have to be about the thing you’re reviewing (in fact, it’s better if it isn’t – since it might influence your review).

So, why look at criticism? Simply put, because it teaches you how to think more deeply about things. If you look at enough criticism, you’ll learn to look for things like themes, motifs, references, literary techniques etc… in the books that you’re reviewing. You’ll be able to think more deeply about the book you’re reading. You’ll be able to look at why the author does certain things and how the story “works”.

So, look at both reviews and criticism. Looking at reviews will teach you how to make your reviews more interesting to read, and looking at criticism will teach you how to add depth to your reviews (so that, even if someone has already read the book you’re reviewing, they can learn something new from your review).

3) Have a template: One of the things that helps me when I’m writing book reviews is to have a general template that I can fall back on if I can’t think of how to structure the review. This helps to keep my reviews more focused, in addition to ensuring that I cover everything important during the review.

The one I currently use is something like: Title graphic, background information about why I read the book, spoiler warning, book cover scan, premise summary/partial plot summary, initial impressions, genre features (eg: why is this horror novel scary?), writing style, length/pacing, how well the story has aged (if it’s more than about 20 years old), a summary and then a rating out of five.

This does change somewhat between reviews, but having a basic template can be incredibly useful nonetheless. So, working out a basic template before you write your book review can really come in handy. Your template doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s something to fall back on if you can’t work out how to structure your review.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Why Do Critics Have A Reputation For Being Cynical ? – A Ramble

Well, for today, I thought that I’d do something a bit different and talk about critics. This is mostly because I’ve had something of a slight insight into being a critic due to the occasional reviews that I write on here. When I first started writing reviews on here about 4-5 years ago, I was determined not to be like those critics. You know the ones I mean, the snooty ones who never seem to like anything.

In other words, I often only reviewed things that I really, really liked and could give positive reviews to. Of course, this has changed over the years.

In fact, this article was prompted by the fact that this review of mine ended up containing a lot more criticism than I originally expected. Yet, I don’t consider it to be a “bad” review (seriously, it’s a good show!). But, in a sudden moment of clarity, I realised that I’d turned into the type of critic I once wanted to avoid becoming.

So, why do critics have a reputation for being cynical?

There are several reasons for this. The first is simply that they’ve had more experience with reviewing things, not to mention that if someone is even vaguely interested in criticism then they’ve probably seen/watched/read/played quite a lot of stuff (or they will in the course of finding things to review). What this all means is that critics often have a larger frame of reference when making comparisons and judgements.

For example, one of my regular review features on here is reviewing fan-made levels for “Doom II“. When I started doing this, I hadn’t really played that many of these levels – so, I was amazed by what people could do with this classic game. But, once I’d played a lot more levels, I started spotting things like commonly re-used graphics, common changes to the game, common level design techniques etc.. So, I was less amazed by these things than I used to be. This has probably led to mildly less awe-struck reviews, even though I still consider “Doom II” to be one of my favourite games.

Another reason is because I’m not a professional critic (nor would I really want to be). Whilst professional critics getting free advance review copies from film studios, game developers etc… is a good thing for a whole host of reasons, there’s also a place for critics (like me) who don’t get these – and don’t want them. But, both professional and amateur criticsm can result in more cynical-sounding reviews for different reasons.

Since I’m not a professional critic, I mostly review things that are older, second-hand, discounted, free (for everyone) etc.. Although this means that I get to review more interesting/random stuff and can look at things that are overlooked by professional critics who have to review the latest things, this has also forced me to pay more attention to whether something is worth the time and/or money that the audience needs to invest in it. And, as such, this can sometimes result in more cynical-sounding reviews.

Professional critics, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about the cost of the things they review. In theory, this ideally means that all products are on a level playing field and can be considered purely on their artistic merits. Likewise, advance copies given to professional critics mean that they can inform consumers on the day that something is released.

All of this stuff is a necessary counterbalance to things like manufactured hype and advertising (and it’s why you should be very, very wary if a film studio or a game developer refuses to give professional critics advance access). But, seeing the contrast between a more formal professional evaluation of something new and the idealised, rose-tinted portrayal of it in advertising can make a more “realistic” review look cynical by comparison.

Finally, one reason that critics can sound cynical is because reviews often serve a dual function these days. As well as being a guide for consumers, they’re also often a type of entertainment too. This often means that reviews include humour more regularly than they used to a few decades ago. Of course, one of the best sources of humour is joking about the thing that you’re reviewing, which can include everything from occasional affectionate humour to constant merciless ridicule.

But, when this isn’t done in the right way, it can often make it look like the reviewer is some kind of bitter cynic who can do nothing more than point and laugh at things other people make (and some reviewers can actually make this genuinely entertaining, but some can’t). Likewise, if you’re a fan of something, then you might not appreciate critics ridiculing it. So, humour can sometimes explain why critics appear to be more cynical than they actually are.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

PREVIEWS: What To Expect Here In 2018

First of all, happy New Year everyone πŸ™‚ Since I prepare the articles, art, comics, reviews etc.. for this blog ridiculously far in advance, I thought that I’d give you a summary (with previews) of what you can expect to see here this year.

Comics! Although you probably know this already if you’ve read the comics index page, there will still be groups of comics appearing here every month or so.

The highlights will include a series of highly-detailed “Wordless Comics” during the spring, a vampire-themed Halloween comic, a slightly more ‘intellectual’ series of “Damania” comics later this month and a series of remakes of “classic” comics from 2012/13 in late November.

In fact, it’s probably easier if I show you. So, here are a few previews from this year’s upcoming comics:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] (And, yes, I know that the first two are already on DeviantArt).

I’ll also be moving back to the “traditional” square format for my comics from April onwards. So, if you don’t like the current A4-size format, then it won’t be around for too much longer. However, this year’s Halloween comic will have A4-size pages because, well, it’s a Halloween comic.

Art! When I’m not making comics, I make daily art and the main improvements that you can expect to see later in 2018 are slightly more realistic shadows/shading.

Although this has occasionally turned up in the title graphics of unplanned articles from 2017 (and in this article), it will become a regular feature of my art later this year. I learnt this technique from making a study of this 19th century Gustave Courbet painting. Here’s a preview of my study:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 6th May.

Some artistic highlights that you can look forward to include a series of gothic paintings, set in Aberystwyth, that will appear here in June. In addition to this, there will be a series of about seven paintings, set in abandoned 1990s-style American shopping centres, that will appear here in early-mid August. In fact, it’s probably easier if I show you what kind of art to expect here this year:


In addition to this, I also went through a brief phase of experimenting with some new digital effects too (eg: pattern fill effects, digital lighting effects etc..) but although this will appear in a couple of paintings/drawings in early June, it won’t be a major feature. This is mostly because I was worried that I’d get out of practice with certain drawing, painting etc… techniques if I relied on these effects too heavily.

Articles! As usual, there will be lots of articles too πŸ™‚ In addition to the usual art/writing advice and reviews, there will also be a few more “critic”-like articles, where I’ll be examining various things in order to see what they can teach us about creativity.

Some highlights will include an article in May (?) that will compare two 1990s TV shows called “Sliders” and “Lois & Clark” in order to discover what they can teach us about 1990s-style storytelling. And, yes, 1990s nostalgia will be a little bit more of a theme this year.

In addition to this, there will be an article in late April (?) looking at how the film “Blade Runner” presents fictional violence in a somewhat different way, and what this can teach us about writing/comics. I’ll also be looking at things like music, animated sitcoms etc.. in other articles too.

Film Reviews! Although there were a few film reviews posted here in 2017, there will be a lot more of them here later this year.

In particular, there will be a “1990s films” review series which will appear every 2-4 days during parts of June and early July. This will include reviews of films like “Practical Magic”, “Mallrats”, the 1999 remake of “House On Haunted Hill”, “Gremlins 2” etc…

In addition to this, I’ll also be reviewing a few other random films (such as the 2017 remake of “Ghost In The Shell”) and – later in the year – the first four “Resident Evil” films too.

Game Reviews! But, this doesn’t mean that I’ve neglected computer games though. In addition to my usual reviews of fan-made levels for classic games (eg: At least one “Doom II” WAD review each month, a “Heretic” WAD review in October and a review of a set of “Quake” levels in July), I’ll also be reviewing a fair number of classic games and a couple of more modern indie games too.

Although there were at least a few games I’d planned to review, but didn’t for one reason or another – there will still be a few full and/or partial (eg: “first impressions”) reviews of games, such as: “SiN” (and the expansion for it), both official expansions for “Quake”, “Killing Time”, “Silent Hill 3”, “XCOM: Enforcer”, “Legend Of Kyrandia – Hand Of Fate”, “Hotline Miami”, “Enclave”, “Kathy Rain”, “Clive Barker’s Undying”, “Deux Ex: Invisible War” etc…


Anyway, I hope that you have as much fun reading this stuff as I have writing it πŸ™‚

Six Basic Tips For Writing Reviews

2015 Artwork Tips For Writing reviews article

Although this is an article about how to write reviews, I’m going to have to flagrantly break my “don’t blog about blogging” rule again for what must be at least the twentieth time. As usual, there’s a good reason for this and I hope that this article will be useful or interesting to you πŸ™‚ But, if you don’t want to read about my blog, then it might be worth skipping the next few paragraphs.

As regular readers of this site have probably noticed, there have been a lot of obscure computer game reviews here this month. Seriously, there have been about five so far (four reviews of fan-made levels for “Doom II” and one review of a game called “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War”).

Whilst it didn’t quite reach the heights of say, the early days of this blog, where – for a while, I used to alternate between reviews and regular articles literally every other day for longer periods of time, there have at least been slightly more reviews than there were in either of the last couple of months.

Since I’ve had more recent experience with writing game reviews than with writing any other type of reviews, I’ll mostly be focusing on this type of review here – although some of the advice here may also be useful if you are writing other types of reviews.

So, how do you write a review? Here are a few tips:

1) Full Disclosure: The first thing you should do if you’re reviewing something online is, to some level or other, talk about the circumstances of your review. This also gives you the opportunity to write an interesting introductory section to your review too.

For example, if you’re reviewing a game, you should talk about how much of the game you’ve played, where you (legally) downloaded the game, where you bought the game or if you just played it at a friend’s house. Most of the time, this stuff is just good practice rather than a formal rule – so, use your common sense here.

However, and I’m not a lawyer, I think that the only circumstances where you’re legally obliged to disclose this information is if a game company has given you a free review copy of a game or if you have been paid to review or promote a game. So, do your research here or at least err on the side of caution about disclosure.

Unlike other entertainment media, like films or books, you don’t have to have played an entire game before you review it. Yes, it’s best practice to play the whole game but – let’s be realistic – you may not have time to do this, especially if you’re writing to a deadline.

Since games are a non-linear medium and you can get a good impression of things like gameplay mechanics, graphics design etc… within a relatively short time, you don’t have to play the whole game before you review it. However, you owe it to your audience to be honest about how much of the game you have played before you wrote your review.

In other words, if you’ve only played the first level of a game then point this fact out and state clearly that your article is more of a “first impressions” article than a full review. Although some purists think that the term “review” should only be used when you’ve played through the whole game, I’d argue that as long as you disclose how much of the game you’ve played, then you can call it a “review”. Personally, for things like short fan made levels and for reviews where I haven’t played the whole game I’ll usually use the title “Mini Review” rather than “Review”.

Likewise, it can sometimes be a good idea to talk about your opinions during the review too, if you think that it is relevant. Whilst the idea of a totally unbiased review is a good one, it’s also unrealistic. When it comes to entertainment media, everyone has their own pre-existing opinions about things, so be as honest about this as you can. For example, when I reviewed a “Star Wars” game a while back, I made a point of stating that I was more of a “Star Trek” fan at the beginning of the review.

2) Quotes and Screenshots: Again, I am not a lawyer, but copyright laws in most parts of the world make specific exemptions for things like reviews.

What this means is that it’s usually perfectly ok to include things like screenshots, quotes etc… in your reviews. As long as it isn’t wildly excessive, then you can include some parts of the thing that you’re reviewing in your review.

On the other hand, things like screenshots and quotes aren’t mandatory. So, you don’t have to include them if you don’t want to – I mean, many of my earlier game reviews (and all of my film/TV show reviews) didn’t include screenshots. But, if you can include screenshots, then they can both make your review more informative and more interesting to read.

However, if a game contains controversial, extremely gruesome or shocking imagery then it might not always be a good idea to include screenshots of this in your review. If this is the case, then you probably should either include written references to these parts of the game, add a content warning to the beginning of your review, only show screenshots of the less shocking examples of this or only include one or two shocking screenshots in your review.

Finally, if you’re taking screenshots, then try to give a good impression of the game as a whole. Yes, screenshots of the more visually-appealing/interesting parts of a game might make your review look more interesting, but if the game contains a lot of visually boring parts then you either need to mention these or – even better – include a few screenshots of them.

Remember, your job as a reviewer is to inform your audience about a particular game and this includes the crappier parts of it, which brings me on to…..

3) Criticism: During the earlier days of writing this blog, I was often wary about criticising things too harshly. In my inexperience, I’d often err on the side of praise rather than criticism.

Even now, I can only think of four or five truly – and justifiably – harsh game reviews I’ve ever posted on here. But, sometimes something is crap and you owe it to your audience to tell them this fact, especially if you are reviewing a commercially-sold product.

At the end of the day, when it comes to writing a review, you need to talk about both the things you liked about something and the things you disliked about something. As long as you can justify or explain any criticisms you have of a game, then include these criticisms in your review. In other words, if you really hated a game, then explain why you hated it.

Criticism for the sake of criticism and praise for the sake of praise are things you should try to avoid, if at all possible.

4) Humour: Let’s face it, reviews can be dry and boring things to read. So, if possible, try to add a bit of humour to your review to make it more interesting for your audience.

If you’re writing to a deadline, then you may not always have time to think of lots of jokes, but at least try to include a few light-hearted remarks if possible.

If you’re including screenshots in your review, then one place to add a bit of humour to your review is in the captions beneath the screenshots (I learnt this trick from a brilliant – and much missed- game review magazine called “CVG” that I read when I was a kid). This has the advantage of allowing you to include humour, whilst also making sure that the main body of your review is still fairly “serious”.

5) Politics: This is one of those topics where there are no real right or wrong answers (or, rather, every answer is a wrong answer to someone somewhere), but it’s worth thinking about how much of your own political views you wish to express in your reviews. However, since reviews are opinion-based things, your political opinions are probably going to end up in there whether you want them to or not.

One view on this subject is that game reviews should aim to be as apolitical as possible. The main merits of this approach are that this places the emphasis firmly on the game itself and it also ensures that your review appeals to a wider audience. Most (but not all) of the time, I try to take this approach.

On the other hand, especially these days, some people make a point of explicitly reviewing games from a particular political viewpoint (eg: conservative, liberal, religious, feminist etc…).

When they are writing for an audience who shares this political viewpoint or if their political views are a large part of their life, then this makes a lot of sense. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinions and reviewers should be free to state how they reacted to a game. Likewise, throughout history, critics have always debated with each other about all sorts of topics.

Of course, there’s also something of a middle ground between these two approaches. But, as I said earlier, there’s no real “right” or “wrong” way to handle this subject.

6) Mistakes: Finally, if you’ve never had any journalistic training and you’re writing reviews online – you’re going to screw up occasionally. It happens to us all. If you make a mistake, then it’s usually a good idea to acknowledge it (like in this review and this review), correct it if possible and learn from it.

If you’re just correcting small grammatical or phrasing errors in your reviews after they have been posted online, then you don’t really have to acknowledge it. However, if you’ve made a major mistake and you correct it after online publication, then it’s usually good practice to write a small explanation at the beginning of your review explaining what you’ve changed and why you did it.

A good way to avoid major mistakes in your reviews is to, if possible, write them at least a few days before you post them online. This way, if you spot a mistake, then you can correct it quickly and silently before you post your review online (where it could be archived, downloaded, saved etc… by members of your audience).

Personally, I’ve got to the point where there’s a delay of a few months between writing anything and posting it online but this can take quite a while to do. But, even so, unless you’re reviewing very current stuff – then wait a while before you post your reviews online.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

ART PREVIEW :) And Some Stuff About “Doctor Who” Reviews

Well, although I want to show of some of the “work in progress” lineart for a painting from an upcoming cyberpunk art series that I’ll be posting here in late December/ early January, I want to talk about “Doctor Who” for a while first.

As many of you probably know, the new series of “Doctor Who” starts tomorrow and I’m kind of in two minds about whether I’ll be reviewing it or not.

Although I posted reviews for every episode of the previous series, this slowly ended up getting out of hand and I eventually ended up spending at least a couple of hours writing gigantic reviews directly after watching each episode (on top of writing my normal articles for this site). Not to mention that I’d often end up carefully studying the episodes and taking notes, rather than actually fully enjoying them. What started as something enjoyable ended up being kind of exhausting towards the end of the series.

So, I don’t know if I’ll post any “Doctor Who” reviews this time round. I might review some or all of episodes slightly later than usual (eg: not on the day of broadcast), I might not review every episode, I might not review any episodes and/or I might try to make my reviews a lot shorter. Sorry about this and sorry that my review schedule may not be as diligent or reliable as it was during the last series of “Doctor Who”.

Anyway, on a lighter note, here’s the art preview that I mentioned earlier:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Abandoned Centre (Lineart)"  By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Abandoned Centre (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown