Tasha does all kinds of fun and insightful posts, and one of my favorites is her series of “Archetypal Awareness” posts. She’s profiled many of the iconic types of characters (and concepts) seen throughout literature, including The Hero, The Mentor, and her latest installment, The Orphan.
I decided to take inspiration from Tasha (as I often do) and list a few of the archetypes you might find in a critique group. If you have a critique group, see if you can identify its members below. If you don’t have one yet, put one together! Here are some of the characters that often comprise a critique group:
The Taskmaster: Everyone has an equal voice in a good critique group, but the taskmaster makes sure those voices don’t stray too far off topic for too long. The Taskmaster says, “Maybe taking six weeks off for Christmas would be excessive. How about two?” The Taskmaster says, “Maybe talking about our children for twenty minutes is long enough for now.” The Taskmaster sends her pages out first as a gentle reminder that we’re meeting in two days, and could the rest of you get your act together?
The Grammar Police: I was called out by The Grammar Police at our last meeting for using unnecessary commas. And I was so grateful! Without the Grammar Police, my writing would be sloppier and less professional. Be meticulous in your critiques, and if you aren’t sure about some point of grammar, flag it so the author is aware and can figure out if there is a problem.
The Needy One: Technically speaking, you don’t need a Needy One in your critique group. But be conscious that The Needy One exists, and do not become this person! Asking for help and advice is fine–that’s the whole point of a critique group! But don’t require handholding for every new sentence or query personalization line or blog post on which you might possibly want to leave a comment. (I have to remind myself of this often, and if there were one of these in our group, it would absolutely be me.)
The Cheerleader: This is one of the most important roles, and one that everyone should play. Honest criticism is vital to a critique group, so I’m not suggesting that anyone should hold back in that arena. But there may be a time when you get an especially disheartening rejection, and being able to tell The Cheerleader about it, and having her text you back (within minutes) the very words that you need to hear–well, that just makes all the difference in the world. Make sure you have a Cheerleader. Make sure you are a Cheerleader.
These are not solid roles that one person will play eternally. In my critique group, we all take turns playing each of these. And while our roles evolve and shift, our four voices always provide such a nice balance and varied perspective that I can’t imagine ever writing another book without them.