Recently, we’ve joined several fanfiction groups on Facebook and made lots of great, fast friends. We enjoy occasionally posting our stories, taking up challenges, etc. Things are generally pleasant. However, it’s come to our attention that there are some common issues that arise in the world of fanfiction, in general, which people like to complain about loudly, bitterly, and very, very publicly.
There used to be a saying: If you can’t saying anything nice, don’t say anything at all. It’s not that you can’t express a dislike for some fandom/genre/category/trope, but there are people who do enjoy those very same fandoms/genres/categories/tropes that you may dislike. Keep in mind, people, just like you, invest a lot of time and emotion into their fandom/genre/category/trope. They’re people too, with jobs, families, friends, and other hobbies. Your opinion is no better or worse than theirs.
Readers’ Issue: Missing Warnings
Many readers have very specific tastes in what they like to read. Some like slash, some hate it. Some like mpreg (male pregnancy), some hate it. Some like romance, some hate it. We could go on forever. It’s a common courtesy as a writer, especially if you have a controversial element, to put appropriate warnings in the description of your story before the person even starts reading. It saves them time and headache, and saves you a bad review or possibly being reported.
For a reader, nothing is as frustrating as getting into a story, and then getting surprised by an element you carefully avoid. Falling in love with a story and suddenly having a surprise element you hate sprung on you is just not cool. Writers who don’t warn appropriately are just begging for nasty reviews.
Readers’ Issue: Improper Rating
Similar to the above, many readers either specifically want mature content, or seek to avoid it. Young kids, for example, probably don’t want detailed descriptions of inserting tab A into slot B. Rating your story too low could have strong repercussions for the writer, including having a story removed or your account revoked.
Similarly, rating your story too high can also frustrate readers. Rating your story M when it barely gets above PG is just cruel. Someone’s expecting hanky-panky, violence, etc and will be pissed when it doesn’t appear. Don’t forget, foul language is part of the rating system. It’s a courtesy to accurately let your readers know what to expect.
Readers’ Issue: Needy Writers
We’ve all seen the story that has the following author’s note at the end. “I must get 10 comments and 20 likes before I post the next chapter! Love you all!!!! xoxoxo” Worst case example: Immortal Beloved, but it’s extremely common on Wattpad and other sites.
Here’s the problem: many readers are not writers. They don’t feel comfortable putting their thoughts into words. Worse, many will hit the like/star/favorite/whatever, and have nothing to say on top of that beyond “I liked it.” Are you writing for yourself, or for ego strokes? If you’re writing for yourself, why the demands? If you’re writing for ego strokes, have you considered you have a poor motive for your hobby?
Readers are just looking for a good story, not for blackmail. People will drop you like a hot potato if you do this. Pushing out chapters regularly draws readers. Withholding chapters drives them away.
Readers’ Issue: Incomplete Stories
Sybil and Winged are both guilty of this. Writers sometimes abandon stories for other stories, or because they lost interest, or because they run out of ideas. As a writer, we do not want to be cajoled to pick up a story before we’re ready. If you do, we’ll produce a poorer quality product and we’ll be miserable. We’re glad you love our story, but don’t be needy.
To help us get back to a story, a simple feedback of “Love it! Can’t wait for next chappy!” is generally good. “When the heck are you bringing it back?” is not appreciated. We have lives, priorities, and family. Those things can all interfere with writing a story, as well. If you really love it, perhaps ask to adopt it and finish the story. Writers can always put “Discontinued” in the description if a story will not be picked up again.
Writers’ Issue: Lack of Feedback
Many writers are desperate for feedback on their stories. They see the reads, but nobody says what they think of it. It can be frustrating when you have no idea how your story is actually being received. For that reason, many writers try to figure out ways to cajole their readers into providing that feedback.
First of all: don’t do blackmail. It pisses off readers. Winged has a bunch of snarky replies that are “feedback” on your desire for feedback, not your story. You don’t want those. Second, a good source of feedback is a beta reader. There are lists on most fanfiction/writing sites that can help you out. Third, join a writing circle, such as your local NaNoWriMo. They’ll be more than happy to give you constructive criticism. Finally, Wing’s favorite idea is to go leave feedback yourself. Establish dialog with other writers. They’re more likely to look at your story and offer feedback in response. Don’t ask for what you’re unwilling to give.
Writers’ Issue: Troll/Inappropriate/Useless Feedback
We’ve all seen this at one point or another. Winged recently had feedback on a story about Tsubasa. It involves a princess and a servant. However, they’re in such a radically non-standard setting, that they’re really peers and friends with no hierarchy. Someone left “helpful” feedback on relationships between royalty and staff. Not helpful. Didn’t know the fandom, and admitted it.
If you’re going to leave feedback, please leave intelligent feedback. Know the fandom, don’t tell the writer how to write the story, and please, don’t leave troll feedback (unless it’s earned with a troll story). A writer is inviting you along for the ride. You were not given a map or steering wheel. Constructive criticism can be good, but make sure it’s constructive.
Writers’ Issue: Needy Readers
When a reader really loves a story, they tend to start getting demanding about rapid updates, offer ideas for plot, etc. More often than not, this is not appreciated. As authors, we are putting our heart and souls into stories, often at the expense of having to face our own, personal demons. Trying to deal with demons while someone is demanding updates NOW is just more pressure we don’t need. Writers are people, not story machines. They have personal issues going on.
Similarly, your ideas for plot, character hookups, etc, are often not appreciated or desired. Writers often know where they’re going far in advance. If you want to see a specific plot, hookup, etc, go write it. Writers write their own stories, not anyone else’s. We’re not here to make up for your inability to write your story ideas. Winged, in particular, is apt to kill one of the hookup characters just to stop that nonsense.
Writers’ Issue: Readers Ignoring Warnings/Ratings and Complaining
This is a parallel issue to missing Warnings/Ratings above. There are some readers who love to go on about how much they despise a fandom/genre/category/trope. Unfortunately, they don’t always read the ratings and warnings and pairings. For example, if you hate mpreg, and the warnings clearly state this story will have mpreg, then don’t complain when it appears. You ignored the warning. It was there for a reason.
If you hate a character pairing, say Hermione and Draco, then don’t go reading stories with Hermione and Draco pairings. Don’t pick up a fork, stick it in the light socket twenty times, and complain when it zaps you each and every time! Readers are more responsible for what they read than the writers are. Winged has dropped many, many stories because he didn’t care for the content. He didn’t complain unless it was a book he paid for.
Most responsible writers don’t hide what they’re writing about. If you’re a writer who hides warnings, then you deserve the flames you will get. If you’re a reader who ignores the warnings, you deserve to be called an idiot if you complain when you get what was advertised. Don’t buy Ford Fiesta and complain that it’s not a Camaro.
General Issue: XYZ sucks/is unrealistic/etc
Okay, so we all know werewolf romance sucks beyond belief. Wait, what? You mean it’s incredibly popular right now? But it’s so unrealistic! It’s impossible! And who wants to have sex with a monster!?!? What? Vampire romance is popular too?
Okay, the above was being silly, but we’ve seen some major arguments recently that are just as silly. “Mpreg is unrealistic!” Really? In what fandom? In what technology setting? With which alien races? People tend to think in terms of what they like to read or write. Other people don’t read/write what you do. Cope. Fanfiction writing is an escape from the mundane for the writer. They create a fantasy world where anything can happen.
Slash (homosexual relationships) may not be your thing. They may also be how a teenage girl is trying to understand boys. Mpreg may not be your thing. It may also make sense in the setting, and be a logical consequence of a slash relationship. Romance may not be your thing. Some people like it, such as Winged. Action may not be your thing. We like it. Sci-fi may not be your thing. We like it. Fantasy may not be your thing. We like it. Get the point? The world of fanfiction doesn’t exist to make you happy. Go find the parts that do and ignore the rest.
Keep in mind, we are all fanfiction writers/readers here. If you’re reading this essay, you probably have an interest in fanfiction. We’re all people, with our personal preferences and real life struggles. The person on the other side is a person, just like you. You would probably like them if you got to know them. Approaching them with a positive attitude instead of a confrontational one is the best way to build good will and make friends.