How to Write a Killer Movie or Music Review
Writing a movie, music, or book review is a fairly simple process, but writing an engaging review can be a hair trickier. There are a few simple steps writers can take to make their reviews more interesting for their readers.
What we need to keep in mind as writers is that movie/book/music reviews are a dime a dozen online. You can find them in ample abundance on Amazon, on people's blogs, from film critics, and on well known pop culture websites. What makes your review special is YOU. I'll walk you through some tips for making your reviews as unique as possible so that they have a better chance of standing out in a crowd.
While this "How-To" is geared toward pop culture centric reviews (ie TV & Film, Music, and Books), it also can also be applied to just about any review you write on Hubpages and beyond.
Special Note: I use the term "review" for a wide range of article types, from impressions to fan guides to round-ups. For the purposes of this article the term "review" refers to commentary on a film, television show, album, event, or product. It's okay if doesn't fall under the traditional "professional critic review" umbrella so long as you're creating something unique.
1. What to Review?
If it's a product review, it's best to choose something you own to review. It's fine to review films/tv shows/books you've only seen/read, but don't own, just make sure you're very familiar with the subject matter. You can also review a group of similarly themed movies/tv shows/albums in the same article.
Tip: If you're doing a review on your blog or on Hubpages with an affiliate link, it's best to choose something that isn't likely to go out of stock. As such, reviews on movies, TV shows, books, and albums are often the safest choice.
2. Does it Have to Be a Positive Review?
Take a cue from film critics: Not all reviews have to be glowing. It's usually smart to include a mix of the things you love along with criticisms, ie things that didn't work for you. Don't be afraid to write a review on a movie that was awful either, because sometimes movies are epically bad, but still thoroughly entertaining. Sometimes it's fun to just tear into a movie or album that makes you furious.
Tip: One of the keys to writing in an engaging way is to write like a human being. If your review is 100% positive, happy-happy, this is the best thing EVER and will solve ALL YOUR PROBLEMS, you will be more likely to lose credibility. While reviews like this might slide for a favorite film, album or book, if it's a product review you will be more likely to come off as an Internet salesman robot.
Example: 10 Favorite Super Crappy Movies
3. Remember Remember Remember
One of the biggest tools you have in your writer's arsenal is your memory. While a first person narrative is not the professional standard for film, television, music, or literary reviews, your personal stories and anecdotes can definitely help you bring an engaging article together.
Even if you don't have a specific memory to share, you can still expound on when someone might enjoy watching the movie or listening to the album you're reviewing. You can base this off your own experiences and impressions. Is it a "lay in bed sick" kind of movie, or "Friday night, gripping the edge of your seat, popcorn falling out of your mouth" kind of movie?
Example: 10 Things I Learned from The Craft
4. Get Specific
This is an age old writing tenant: Good writing is specific. Give readers specific visuals and ideas to latch onto and they'll be more likely to actually finish reading (and maybe even share) your review.
Tip: "The Goonies is the funniest movie ever" tells your reader nothing. "The scene when Chunk confesses that he made an entire movie theater throw up on each other is one of the funniest moments in The Goonies" is better. You can also draw specific comparisons to other films/tv shows/albums/books, discuss how a it stacks up within its genre, clarify why certain plot points work (or not), or tell us why a lead character is so darn charming. If you're ever at a loss for specifics, as yourself "why" then explain it to your readers.
5. Avoid Lengthy Summaries
A lengthy summary of a story, the complete specs for a product, or the track list of an album are available in the product listing. Reiterating it in your review, even if it's in your own words, is redundant and won't add value. You have to figure, why would someone want to read your movie review as opposed to just reading a movie summary elsewhere?
Tip: Does this means all summaries are out? Certainly not! Just don't make it the man focus of the review. Write about the main themes of the book, a key scene in a movie, your favorite actors in the TV show, or the best tracks on the album (for example), but don't go into crazy detail and certainly don't add any spoilers.* If it's a movie, consider adding the trailer or your favorite clips via the Youtube; if it's an album, you can add a music video.
*Technically, you can add spoilers. You're your own person. You can live your own life.
Here's what I do: In general, if it's a brand new, still in theaters movie, I definitely avoid all spoilers. If it's a movie that's been out for years, I might get lax with my rule. If you can't contain yourself, it's a good practice to warn your readers so they don't trip over your hidden spoiler then cry because you ruined a movie they hadn't seen yet.
6. Use Unique Photos Whenever Possible
While using unique photos is always preferred online, but when writing a review, it is even MORE important to include them. The reason for this is if you only have a standard product image on the review, when someone shares on social media, the image attached to it will be generic (and found dozens of places online). If you add your own image, you'll instantly make your review more unique.
Tip: Choose a personal, creative commons, or public domain photo that plays off of some aspect of your review, just be sure to use proper attribution. Some ideas: a photo from the time period that show was on TV, a photo of the DVD on your shelf, a photo of the car you used to blast the album in, etc.
7. Don't Be Afraid To Break the Mold
Your article does not need to be in the traditional format of "expounding on the virtues and failings" of something; I believe the funnest articles are those that break the mold. If you have a great story revolving around a certain album, share it. If you have a game you like to play while watching a specific movie, tell us how to do it. If you have your own tips for using a great product or some unique information about it, let us know.
Make the special, unique part of your experience the focal point of the review, and it will instantly be more useful and entertaining to readers.
Tip: It doesn't matter if your finished piece no longer resembles a traditional review - if it is unique and/or entertaining, more people will want to read it.
8. Give it a Theme
Are you writing a comedy movie review? Make it a funny one. Are you writing a horror movie review? Make it spooky. Are you writing a review on Groundhog's Day? Make it Bill Murray-rific. If you're having fun while writing it, hopefully people will have fun reading it as well.
Example: Bossypants Book Review
9. Don't Be Afraid to Share It!
While search engine traffic is lovely, you can't always rely on it. If you want your review to be read, you'll need to share it on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or whatever site(s) you use most.
Tip: I find that if an article or review performs well on social media, Google will "pick up on it" down the road. Be patient!
© 2014 Shay Marie