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That old song again

I’ve seen several discussions on the nature of concrit in fandom and, to be honest, I mostly rolled my eyes and thought ‘oh my God, here we go again.’ Then things kept piling up. I saw a post on tumblr where a girl swears she’d punch the next person who dares to say that Arthur and Merlin are maybe more than just friends. To me, it translates pretty much into her wanting to take on the entire fandom, but I don’t know, maybe she’s in such a great physical shape, she’d actually pull that off. Then I saw a comment on one of the Russian boards about my old Star Trek story, and it turns out I spat that reader in the face with it, because Roddenberry created his universe as a happy-go-lucky utopia where the only bad guys were aliens (the bad kind, I’m guessing), and how dare I show a world ‘more like ours’ where ugly is mixed with the pretty. Realism is bad taste these days, huh?

Anyway, it all got me thinking, a bit nostalgically perhaps. It’s funny. I wrote every kind of story out there. Short, long, bad, good, really good, pretty bad, dark, twisted, fluffy, saccharine, angsty, romantic… The list goes on. I’ve received every kind of comment an author can get, from delighted flailing to long detailed posts to flames and insults. And entitled jerks, of course, wouldn’t be a fandom without them.

It’s funny, but my conclusions are actually the same as they were when I was a naïve newbie who went around like ‘what is fanfic?’ You can always tell if the person who leaves a comment has ever written or otherwise created anything in their entire life. Always.
First of all, fellow authors tend to talk little or not at all. I won’t speak for everyone, but I think for most of us, it’s because even when we don’t like something in the story, or notice a weak spot, or a plot hole, we tend to think back to our own writing. Sure, when I read I can tell when the author got tired and stopped trying. Where things didn’t quite add up. Where the characters stopped sounding quite right. We tend to not say anything because we’ve all been there. I wore those shoes not once and not twice. The more stories I got out there, the more careful I became with the words I use when commenting on someone’s stuff. If I disagree with some of the author’s choices I keep my mouth shut about it. I might stop reading and never go back, but tend not to speak up in moments like that anymore.

I’m not saying this to show my superiority, nay. I don’t see it as such, I’m just saying. When you create something yourself, the process you go through gives you a very different perspective on things. Even on badly done things.

Entitled jerks 100% never create anything. This is a category of commentators I’ve always had the biggest problems with. I like how people who jump to the author’s defense always point out that fanfic authors don’t get paid, so they are not obligated to cater to the readers whims. It’s an admirable thought, but this is where it falls short for me – what, you think if you go to the bookshop and pay for a book it gives you the right to tell the author how to write their stuff? I don’t think so. If you don’t like it, the only thing you can do is not buy another book. The only actual difference between ‘real world’ authors and fanfic authors where readers’ opinions are concerned is that fanfic authors are much more reachable, much more vulnerable, and expected to not just write a story but interact with the public afterwards.

They are also by definition less respected. ‘Fanfiction can be written by anyone, right? This author is just like me, right? Hell, I’ve never written a thing in my life, but I bet if I tried I could do better than that in my sleep, it can’t be that hard. This gives me enough moral ground to tell that chick about all the ways she does it wrong.’

The only thing I ever wanted to say to someone like that was ‘fuck you.’ But guess what, fandom conventions demand that I don’t, that I be better than that, that I thank what’s-her-face politely for her opinion. Nobody like s a defensive author, and God forbid you start explaining yourself. They can smell blood like piranhas. They’ll eat you alive, because in all actuality, believe it or not, they truly have nothing better to do.

I’m not sure where that line actually lies. I’ve had prolonged conversations about storytelling and characterization with fandom strangers who later became my friends as a result of those. And I spent my fair share of time trying to reason with entitled assholes. Often those discussions arose about the same points in stories. The difference? I don’t know. I guess there’s a sanity test in there somewhere. And you’d have to not be a dick. It’s probably as simple as that.

It doesn’t matter what you do in this life, what your occupation, profession or hobby is. You either belong to those who create something – something that wouldn’t exist without you making it – or you’re a consumer, you consume what other people produce. Team Action and Team Reaction. The world needs both of them to function, but I think it’d be a good thing for people to be more aware of what team they’re playing for in any situation, because here’s the thing about criticism.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is an admirable sentiment, but if you really want to help, the criticism you offer shouldn’t be something to survive. It’s not boot camp. Hell yeah, we’ll survive it, and it does make us if not exactly stronger then more used to it, gives us a bit of a thicker skin, but honestly? It’s a waste of productive energy.

Essentially, the question is whether the opinion you offer is about the story or about you getting a bit of attention. It’s especially obvious when people try to tell you that you’ve committed some sort of crime against political correctness – but here’s the thing, they never actually care about the issue at hand. They just want their fifteen seconds in the spotlight, complete with a hero cape for ‘standing up for the right thing.’ It’s understandable, but disgusting, and draws sympathy and attention from the person who had actually created something to someone who just shouts really loud.

Yeah, those are kinda my thoughts. Being a jerk doesn’t come from a happy place, another thing to remember. Doesn’t excuse anything, but is no less true for it.

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Comments

( 8 punches — Punch it )
white_sin
Oct. 13th, 2013 05:53 pm (UTC)
Hello kianspo. What you write here is for me very intresting.
I really rarely write a comment as reading fanfiction is for enjoyment in my free time and I have so very vew free time as is, I can't even publish my own fics anymore.
Unfortunatly sometimes I come a cross a fic the has so much potential that it is stagering but the author "fucks up" I can't write it any other way. And sometimes I can't resist to comment on what bugs me. I try to give concrit as even handed as possible but sometimes its not easy. Normally I stop reading the fics bevore they get on my nerves but sometomes it to late.
How do you give concrit "when" you give it?

love
sin
kianspo
Oct. 15th, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC)
You know, I think the best way would be to say, 'I really like your fic, you have great ideas, but there are a few things that bug me, would you mind if I bring them up? It's okay if you do, I enjoyed reading it anyway, I just think there's some unrealized potential. Let me know if you're up for a conversation.'

I don't remember it word for word, but it's what someone said to me when I posted my first ever fic. That person later became my beta and more. See, for an author who wants to improve it's really hard to resist a detailed discussion of their work. But you should always offer it as an option and only go through if they say it's okay.

In my opinion.
jouissant
Oct. 13th, 2013 08:09 pm (UTC)
I won’t speak for everyone, but I think for most of us, it’s because even when we don’t like something in the story, or notice a weak spot, or a plot hole, we tend to think back to our own writing. Sure, when I read I can tell when the author got tired and stopped trying. Where things didn’t quite add up. Where the characters stopped sounding quite right. We tend to not say anything because we’ve all been there.

THIS, exactly this. And to be honest, it's why I don't often give concrit unless I'm reading a story as part of the beta process, when giving concrit is my job. Because, in all likelihood, the author knows certain spots are weaker than others, knows where they stopped trying, and so your concrit is not news to them. I'm more likely to give concrit if it's a really easy fix, like "Get a SPAG beta, because your ideas are awesome but right now all I can see are your grammar errors."



Edited at 2013-10-13 08:10 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Oct. 13th, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
Уже два часа ночи, и потому я лишь быстренько прочла пост по диагонали. Увидела слова jerks never create anything, и мне стало стыдно своих жадных читательских мыслей, потому что, едва дочитав вторую главу Come Alive, я сразу же заныла: а как же 2-я глава The Marriage Bargain? (и всё это при том, что последний фильм из "Людей Икс" с этой их кубинской историей сумел отвратить меня от ранее любимой истории) И я честно старалась довыдумывать самостоятельно, что же там у Чарльза с Эриком приключится дальше, но дальше уровня "Санта-Барбары" я творить не умею :(
И я знаю, что это некрасиво, и что я - жадный и ленивый читатель, но зато я никогда не стану говорить гадости автору, потому что на каждого автора всегда найдётся свой читатель, и потому, что никто не имеет права осуждать других... но об этом наверняка написано в данном посте (сорри, поздняя ночь и диагональ))) В общем, я начинаю бредить. Моя мысль в том, что, пожалуйста, порадуйте нас новой главой TMB, и я буду и дальше преданно ждать оставшиеся две, сколько ни потребуется!
lulabel
Oct. 13th, 2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
In my mind concrit is appropriate in a teaching/learning context - for someone taking a course or workshop on writing for example. Or by someone who acts as an editor or beta for a writer - it's part of their job, right?

As a consumer/reader of fanfic, I never ever give criticisms. I if don't like something much, I stop reading. If it's an interesting read which has some stuff that makes me roll my eyes and I just keep moving through. If it's something I really enjoyed then I try to leave specific comments about what exactly I really thought was good - constructive praise. I think constructive, specific praise can be very helpful to a writer because it lets them know what's working.
wanderlust48
Oct. 13th, 2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
You're so right. I used to think it was obvious, then I realised it wasn't. We have to assume that if writers could have fixed it, they would have, it's really not so easy. :(

I agree with lulabel and jouissant's comments.

As someone who does adult education for a living, even when in a teaching context, telling someone what's wrong is important, but even more so is helping them to do it better. Doing one without another leaves the learner ( or in this case, the writer) discouraged and doesn't help their work to improve any more. I'll talk about the problems in the work to my peers ( other educators) as it helps us understand what our learners need, but not to the learner if I don't think it she/he is ready to hear it.

the_deep_magic
Oct. 14th, 2013 03:30 am (UTC)
"Concrit" is
a) rarely actually constructive; and
b) inappropriate unless the author asks for it.

I've seen a lot of "Well, you put your work out there, I should be allowed to give my opinion on it." Or the same sentiment worded less politely: "Oh, so I should only comment if I want to kiss your ass?" Well, technically you're allowed to go around telling everyone you meet what's wrong with their clothes, hair, makeup, etc. But WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT? It's mean and pathetic.

I like the point you make about fanfic writers being more vulnerable. There is so little distance between reader and writer here -- nothing mediating but the void of the internet -- that even if the author is the only one to see the comment, it comes off as hurtful. I can get 100 positive comments and 1 nastygram, and guess which one I remember.

Fortunately, I've only gotten a few, probably because the stuff I write doesn't tend to be very dark or controversial. Plus, the Pinto fandom was exceedingly welcoming and kind -- I don't think I ever got a rude comment on a Pinto fic.
kuhekabir
Oct. 14th, 2013 07:36 am (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. Hell, you said exactly what I have been thinking about but have been unable to actually put into words!
( 8 punches — Punch it )

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