Critique or Not to Critique

Isn’t it presumptuous to tell someone how to write a story?

Or act as if you have the right to tell someone how something they have written should be written? Even when I’m in writing groups commenting on the work of other writers or asking for critique fr my own work, I find myself wanting to stay in the safe territory of “I like this/I don’t like this and why”. In my recent experience critiquing, when I have acted like an authority, the writer whose work is being critiqued will argue with me regardless of the validity of my comments or how nicely I say it, especially if I commented on plot, tone, and characterization regarding race and gender.

Every writer is different and/or imitating another writer by study. For example, when I was in college, I saw many white male students who imitated vaunted white male poets and novelists, holding them up as the standard as sure as the curriculum did. It was by that ruler that these students measured and judged the literary world around them.

So outside of technical/grammatical corrections, I always wonder from where inside of them does the critique of readers and writers comes from? I came to the conclusion that literary critique comes from two places: 1) What a writer/reader has read from other writers, and 2) What the writer/reader themselves would do in the place of the writer whose work they are looking at.

Writers will request advice or feedback, yes, but all critique is really just someone’s opinion, isn’t it?

Currently, I am in the middle of completing the first draft of Exactly As You Like It, a fantasy romance about two witches, a knight and a cleaning lady. I was wondering how I can get reliable feedback for the story. I feel like I’m overcompensating because its the first story that I’ll be finishing in the magic world I’ve been envisioning since I was in high school (meant to be a short story but turned into a novel). Buuutttt I’ll work on finishing it first.