Sierra Wyndsong (sierrawyndsong) wrote,
Sierra Wyndsong

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The Quivering Release

A few months ago I watched as a friend made the decision to F-lock their journal after receiving visits from a Troll. The point of the F-locking was to protect their friends from the spewing vitriol of the random Trolls. They, like a few others, are putting their writing talents to work for them, either for stress relief or to develop their writing skills or to see story lines of shows go the way they wish, etc. Pick your poison there.

But by having their journals open and public they also put themselves out there for critique, good and bad. Now, as a writer, critique can be a good thing. It can help you formulate a particular writing style, if you don't already have one. It can help you hone your turn-of-phrase and make the writing tighter and more attractive. The critique can also be damaging. Sadly, some of the critique I have witnessed has been more about the choice of pairings in a fandom where the writer strays away from the popular one true pairing (OTP) of a particular fandom. 

And that's where my reading came to a screeching halt and made me really take notice. Someone didn't like the way one of my friends handled the pairing, even though it was an AU story AND the pairing was OTP. Another writer had someone try to make an issue of her going out of OTP. The thing was, in some instances the rude critique was coming in anonymous, and so it is easy to just dismiss them as trolls. But really, I wonder just how many of those trolls are just hiding because they don't have the balls to use their regular ID. It wasn't like the stories were bad - either by virtue of the writing style or the plot. Both stories were very solid and well-written. The critique simply had to do with the taste of the reader and what they expected to be spoonfed.

Now, please note, I am not addressing the anonymous posters who just bash on fanfiction writing as a whole. I am actually talking about other fandom writers taking their fellow writers to task about their choice of writing material. Sometimes they have a severe issue if someone goes off to a different fandom for a little while. Sometimes they have an issue with the plotlines and other story material that the writer attempts. In one instance, I even saw where one writer was working on a multi-chaptered story and real life encroached. the story is still unfinished, but one of the last comments left behind by a poster, not anonymous, was a scathing remark about not finishing the story. Yeah, because that comment will make them want to come back and finish it.

That is a just a piece of entitlement that I can't get behind. Either they expect the writers to be at their own whim or just write exactly what they want. If you need to only read exactly what you want, then you need to start writing your own stuff. It's one thing to make polite suggestions. It's entirely another to get demanding to the point of rudeness with the request. Especially if it is a work in progress that just can't be finished at the moment because real life priorities take precedence.

Really, if you have to pounce on someone for not finishing a story, for whatever reason they give, you need to get a life far away from reading material, Internet or not. Sometimes writers get tired of their story or their characters as they have created them. Sometimes other things come up and things get pushed to the wayside that don't have as much of a priority. Some of the people on here don't write for a living. They write fanfiction for their own pleasure and they hope that it is decent enough to get a little praise. I am fairly certain they don't do it so that they can walk into a hailstorm of crap. Personally, I think commenters should self-check themselves and fire those same critiques against their own writing. I am fairly certain that these same people would not respond well were the same comments left at their own doorstep. I think we would still have some trolls, but we would also have much more interesting and polite critical analyses between the writers. And not just snide, snipping that caused flamewars.

Now, is all writing that is made public open to critique? Of course. But it is one thing to make an honest critical analysis of a body of work. It is quite another to just rip someone apart for something that comes down to their own preferences and likes. Just because you like a good old-fashioned happy ending, does not mean that the writer is interested in writing that. There are plenty of writing challenges that lend itself to Harlequin Romance style happy endings as well as there is an entire section of bookstores devoted to it. Go there.

The courtesy that I have seen some writers extend is extra notes in the standard disclaimers that you see at the top of every story. In some ways, it's like going to a certain section of any given bookstore. Everything is sectioned out. You know where to go to get the book you like. The disclaimers, if reasonably well-written, will allow readers to choose their stories that suit their own tastes. Heed the warnings. Don't attack a writer just because you decided to read on despite there being something in the story that might make you cringe.

Books don't have the same type of disclaimers that an online blog or story will have. And perhaps in some ways we have gotten spoiled to that. There is no longer the interest or trust in allowing the author to take us on a ride. We are not interested in suspending our disbelief for a little while and letting the writer draw us in and go on an adventure within their world. Either we have lost the ability to paint the world the way we wish it would look like or the writers are lacking in the skill to promote that endeavor. Now, not all writers are that skilled and they do fall short of the expectation. But that doesn't mean that it is very productive to assault someone with the immediate visceral response that comes to mind. The only thing that will accomplish is hurt feelings and wound licking.

Writing is a personal endeavor, especially when you are just starting out and creating your first world or first fledgling characters. Some liken it to giving birth and look at their writing as their children. In fact, I know a lot of writers like that. Ever walk up to someone on the street and criticize their child? Right. Because you already know what kind of issue would ensue there. The closest people come to that is perhaps addressing the parent on their parenting skills, and yeah, that doesn't yield a much better response, right? So, it is almost laughable when people make the rudest of comments or freak out and write the craziest of critiques on someone's writing and then get highly offended when their critique isn't taken in a gracious fashion. 

No one is ever that graceful against what is perceived as a personal attack. Every person has their own form of a defense mechanism. Some may, indeed, manage to write a short "thank you" for reading and leave it at that. But I assure you those same people are grumbling to themselves or their cat about the self-indulgent, know-it-all who wrote the rude comment. Just last night, I witnessed such a comment. I stumbled upon a story wherein nonconsensual sex was involved. There were very large print, bolded warnings at the top of the story. But one commenter decided that they would just leave a comment telling the author that they had just lost a reader because they couldn't possibly see how the writer could redeem the character after such an act. Who said she was going to? Maybe this isn't a story with a happy ending. Maybe she has a way to redeem the character all mapped out. The commenter suggested that it was unrealistic. 

Let's think about this for a second.  I went to the commenter's journal and all of their stuff is PG-rated. Their personal information puts them still in college. Now, I am sorry but what is realistic to someone in college who has likely not experienced very much is NOT going to be the same gauge as someone else who is 40 years old and has three kids. It's not going to be the same realism as someone who has served in the military and seen combat. Someone who still has both of their parents and lots of relatives is not going to have the same realism expectations as someone who never knew their parents or had to bury one at an early age. And let's not even get started on the differences between people from different countries. The bottom line, at the very least, is to at least show a little more courtesy to your fellow writers. Fine if you don't want to come back and read more. Really the sticking point I think was really that the reader was just not accustomed to perusing stories over PG ratings. And that story was at the higher end of an NC-17.

If it's not your taste, great. No problem. But the question in my mind was, why did you read it to begin with? Why did you go in past the warnings? And I think the answer there was the expectations of what the person had come to expect from that particular fandom in general. Despite the fact that it was an AU story, it had the standard characters of that particular fandom. When dealing with AU, expect the completely unexpected. Just because those people are using characters that seem familiar to you does not mean they are following what you happen to think 'canon' is or should be. Most times it isn't.

Writers don't just write what they know. More often than not, they write the stories they want to read. And yes, more often then not, the main hero of the story is one they identify with. It is what it is. And likely has nothing to do with anything else except that the hero is the one in their dreams. The hero is the one they identify closely with. So, even more so, it is very personal to that writer. 

I just think it is unrealistic for someone to roam into someone's space, read their writing, leave a critique that stands a 50/50 chance of being poorly received and then strike a post of self-righteous indigination when the writer doesn't kiss your ass in gratitude. No writer is going to do that. Let me rephrase, no writer worth their salt is going to crack like that. Because a writer who cracks that easily over a handful of comments from people who can barely phrase decent words together in their own blogs or writing is not worth reading. If they can't defend their writing in a reasonable manner and have it withstand a reasonable amount of criticism, then they shouldn't have written it or published it for public consumption to begin with.

Of course, a reader who can't back their critique up with their own skill and knowledge is just someone spoiling for a fight and wanting to take their anger out on the easiest target around. Well, that has been my experience. I don't have much patience for people like that and I damn sure don't appreciate it when it causes people I like to have to hide their writing away like it's something bad. Like it's something they should feel shame over. It also is painful to have to watch them protect their regular readers from flamewars that people try to start in their comment section. At any rate, all of the fanfiction writers on my F-list are damned good and they don't deserve assaholic behavior.

So, gentle readers, try to remember that there is a difference between a reasonable critical analysis of someone's written work and just a snide comment that you think will "show" the writer how they should have done it. Snide, rude and name-calling are just never going to make for reasonable critique. And allow writers to continue to approach their keyboard with confidence that will enable them to write even better and not hesitate with quivering hands while they decide whether or not to post something. 

Tags: writing

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