My friend (colleague? fellow PlayGround writer? other local tall playwright dude?) Aaron Loeb outlines a fantastic approach to criticism in his article on Medium, based on the idea of assuming the writer you are a critiquing is a “master.”
He calls is the “assumed master” approach. So instead of pointing out things that just don’t work because you are so much better than the writer, instead you assume she’s an expert in her craft and that there’s something you need to talk out so you can understand. The idea being that when you explain what worked, the master will learn what’s going in her work and be encouraged to do more of that. And when you explain where you couldn’t figure out why the master did something, “well, she may find that helpful too”:
It is vital that anyone creative disabuse themselves of the notion that their “I just didn’t get it,” or “Nope. Didn’t work for me,” are so much richer and more meaningful than anyone else’s utterances of the same shitty things. When someone opens themselves for critique, you have an opportunity to elevate them and yourself, to open a door to incredible possibilities that weren’t there just moments earlier. What could possibly be better than that?
A great approach, and one that’s getting a lot of love on Medium. Check it out.