The Halo Effect

As some of you may or may not know, I am in management, and my original major in college was business management. The halo effect is something that is often discussed in management. It typically happens when a person in management is writing a review for someone, and I personally have seen time and time again. Performance reviews are often done on a yearly basis, and therefore it is difficult to write one while considering the scope of that period of time. It becomes even more difficult with a larger group of staff members, all of whom get their yearly evaluations on different months. The halo effect kicks in at this point because, very naturally, employees often know when their reviews are coming up and may improve their effects for a month or two before the review. This is when the writing of the review begins, and as the person is putting in an extra effort, the review may reflect merely the present performance as opposed to the performance over the span of the year. Now, you may be wondering, how is this rant relevant to writing, or books?

I assure you it is very relevant, and I didn’t discover it until I really started thinking about a review I had written. It was covered with the halo effect. The beginning of the book was lack luster, full of things that I personally am not a fan of. It had lots of descriptions of the mundane, similes, and even some clichés. About 60% through the book the pace picked up, and I got really into the book. It made me forget about all the things I didn’t like, even though they were still very much present. It was just easier to ignore them because  the book was “trying harder” towards the end. I wrote the review, and then as I often do, I went back to read it a few weeks later. I went onto the website to read what others had written for reviews on the book, and I started to realize that I had fallen into the halo effect! I saw it as a read a review, and realized I had felt the exact opposite, but had forgotten it in my review! It’s not something I would change now, but I kept this in mind when I was writing a review for another book recently. I stepped back and tried to look at the book as a whole.

When I read a book I like to see a writing style that doesn’t remind me of someone else. I like a book that is unique in its writing, and that you would know that so and so wrote it even if it didn’t have a name on it. I also try to keep in mind that  in the end I don’t know what that author was attempting to do, so I could have missed the point if I don’t like a book. A review is strictly my opinion. I try to keep in mind the author, and be honest about how I feel in a nice way. I try my best to own up to my feelings and not assume that I know what the author was thinking. I can’t, as I am not them. There’s certain things that I loath that other people love. I don’t like novels in 3rd person, yet Jane Austen in my favorite writer. I don’t like mundane descriptions about everything down to the color of the cup the person is drinking out of, yet Jane Austen is my favorite author. As awful as this sounds, one author may catch me liking things that I say I don’t! That’s a good novel for me, will it be for you? Who knows!

Writing is a subjective art, as is review writing. I had never written reviews before a year ago when I wrote a review for Lauren Kate’s Fallen, and Torment.  I doubt that Lauren Kate read my review, but it was a 3 star, and while it wasn’t mean, I wrote it in a way that I wouldn’t write it now. What happened with Fallen and Torment? Reverse Halo Effect. I can tell you that I bought Torment about three days after I bought first novel because I had already finished it. The book was good enough that I bought the next one, yet my title for my review for Fallen was “I have an imagination–why are you telling me everything?” I didn’t like the description and that feeling continued into Torment. I titled that review…I cringe now “Endless, Useless Description”–seriously, ouch. I can’t believe I wrote that…I didn’t own it as my opinion. I wrote it like I was some sort of review Goddess, and like I knew best. I DON’T. I admit that now. I KNOW what I like. I don’t know what YOU will like. I KNOW how I write. I DON’T know if you will like it. I can guarantee some of you won’t.

Writing, as all things with life, is about self-reflection. I’ve reflected on something, and I don’t know if it will help you at all, but I wrote it anyways. Now…I must go delete those reviews. Sorry Lauren Kate, for being such an opinionated @$$, but THANK YOU for helping me grow as a person, and a writer. So, I guess you succeeded at touching a reader, kudos to you. I’m going to finish that series now…and write a new review. It won’t be 5 stars, but it surely won’t be titled anything that includes “useless” or other accusatory language.

(Does anyone see the irony in the fact that the “reverse halo effect epiphany” happened with a book about angels??)

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5 thoughts on “The Halo Effect

  1. I know what you mean, your post is definitely true. It’s easy to be so caught up with the good that you’re willing to just forget the bad, The problem then is just that you’re not really giving an accurate review when you come to write one. Like you, I always try to finish a book in the hope that it will improve, but leaving the best parts towards the end is quite a risky move. Brilliant post Cassandra, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • I don’t know about other authors, but I wouldn’t leave the best parts until the end, as you said it’s risky. I wonder if it’s done on purpose, but then it feels like there’s a tiny climax, but no real resolution.

      • I don’t know, sometimes I feel like it just takes a while for the author to really get into it or wants to use the first half to build character profiles and such. But you could be right. Either way, I think it’s better just to have it consistently good.

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