highvoltage11 and I were having an interesting discussion in the comment thread of this post.
Our discussion sparked a lot of thinking (and rambling) on my part. LJ told me I'd exceeded the character limit for comments, so I decided I'd put up a separate post. Before I say anything else, I want to state that agreeing to disagree is fine by me; differences are among the things that make life so interesting. :)
One thing she said was, "How would you feel if you stumbled across my journal and there were posts about *your* fanfic in a derogatory manner? Especially if it was only one detail that turned me off."
Since she asked, I'm going to put my honest thoughts out there for anyone who wants to read them:
1. Sometimes one detail of a story or movie, one aspect of someone's personality, or one bit of governmental policy is all it takes to turn someone off. That doesn't seem odd to me.
2. If I knew that I couldn't stomach anything less than a glowing comment about my writing, I wouldn't read any reviews, and I wouldn't click into a clearly-labeled post about spelling/grammar mistakes and/or unintentional bits of humor found in fic. There are print published authors who purposely avoid reading reviews because they either think reviews are irrelevant or they know that seeing even a small critical comment would be distracting for them. If they stumble upon comments completely inadvertently, that's just part of having their work out in the world. That's a risk of having a creation exist in a public sphere.
If I personally ever reach a point where I can't handle knowing that people might sometimes discuss my work outside of my earshot, I'll stop publishing. I won't expect other people to stop airing their opinions. If I can't stand the heat, I need to get out of the kitchen. If I expect the world to be sensitive to my needs, I'm going to be waiting a long time.
3. My ego would temporarily be stung by the visual proof that no, my writing was not universally adored in the way I might have hoped it would be.
4. I would read the story in question and try to assess whether I agreed with the comment or still thought that I'd made the right writing choice for this particular story. If it was the latter, I would shrug and chalk it up to a difference of opinion.
5. It would be different if someone commented about me, personally. There's a world of difference between saying, "Lerdo's an asshole," and "In her story, Lerdo used a fucking weird image that put me off." One is a personal attack, the other is not. I'm not my writing, and my writing isn't me. I can choose to make the two equivalent, but that's a choice, not a fact.
6. Every single time I post ANYTHING on the internet, whether it's meta, fic, icons, or pic spam, I tell myself that someone's going to love it, someone's going to be indifferent to it, someone's going to hate it, and the vast majority of people will either keep their thoughts to themselves or will share them with people other than me. I've made my peace with that; that's why I keep posting.
7. Ultimately, I really am OK with people not liking my stories -- and being vocal about it. I am NOT OK with being called names or having strangers demand things from me.
I thought the epilogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sucked ass. And I recently phrased it exactly that way when I commented on a post in doc_3's journal. I didn't write JK Rowling to share that opinion with her. I wasn't trying to give con. crit. I read the book and the epilogue and had that reaction/opinion. If Rowling happens to see my comment or those of the many other readers who felt that way, her feelings might be hurt. My intent wasn't to hurt her feelings; I seriously thought the epilogue was horrible. Her books aren't private citizens; they're public figures/works. And yes, they're asking for reactions. In that way, I don't see a difference between print publishing and internet publishing.
Everyone has feelings. George Bush has feelings; that doesn't stop people from commenting on his policies or doing comedy sketches about his decisions. Barack Obama has feelings, too; that doesn't stop people from commenting on his decisions or picking apart his words. And I don't think it should. I don't think his or Bush's feelings should be prioritized above public or private discourse. I'd argue that both men think they work hard, and yet some people make entertainment out of their policies and behavior. Entertainment, analysis, satire, and humor all serve important functions in free societies.
I can believe that someone worked hard, but the outcome just sucked.
David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and Jamie Bergman presumably have feelings. That doesn't stop you, highvoltage11, or other people, from writing RPF about them. Note: While RPF generally makes me uncomfortable, I'm not judging anyone who reads or writes it. My point is just that they have feelings, and they might not love that strangers on the 'net write stories about them cheating on their significant others.
I've given and received con. crit; it can be a wonderful thing and yes, it can help me grow as a writer. But I don't think it's the only way I can grow as a writer, and regardless of how much con. crit. I get, someone, somewhere will still laugh at or just not groove on my writing. Art is subjective. There's no objective perfection, so it's impossible that anyone's writing will ever be universally loved.
I also don't think anyone's obligated to give me con. crit. It's simply not a reasonable expectation. When someone clicks into my stories, they're not entering into an implicit or explicit contract to feed my ego or help me grow as a writer. If they comment directly to me or comment to other people, it's my choice to take it personally (or not). My feelings may or may not be hurt, but I'm not governed by my feelings. I try to think through what reaction makes sense.
I agree that the term "con. crit." is often used carelessly. But I don't think anyone who commented here said they were trying to offer constructive criticism. They were simply stating opinions and sharing anecdotes. Nor did they state whether or not they'd also contacted the authors directly. I don't think it's safe to assume either way.
If I wanted to, I could take it personally that so many people read my stories and put them on alert but never leave a single comment. (I know they're reading because of the stats at FF.net.) I try not to take that personally. I try to think through some possible reasons why people might not comment:
- They hate my writing but are afraid to tell me that.
- They hate my writing but are reading because of the amusement factor.
- They don't want to repeat what another commenter said.
- They don't know what to say.
- They don't know how to articulate their reactions. They just know what they like and what they don't like.
- They're lazy.
- They're worried about sounding stupid.
- They don't like me as a person.
- I haven't commented on their stories, so they don't want to comment on mine.
- They don't "get" the notion of feedback; after all, they read books and watch movies without ever contacting the creators. Their consumption of that media is an end in itself. Why, they wonder, is fanfiction any different?
- English isn't their first language.
- They're intimidated by me.
- They're underage and reading something that has explicit language or sex in it.
- They just don't want any kind of personal interaction with me. They just want to read anonymously.
- They're very busy, and my stories provide them with just a few minutes' respite from their stressful lives.
As I stated before, it wasn't my intent to hurt anyone's feelings with my previous post. Maybe that's a byproduct; I don't know. But in this case, since people are talking about writing and not authors personally, I don't feel that any lines were crossed. I have feelings about lots of things; I also have a brain that allows me to break things down in an effort to decide whether my reactions, expectations, and choices are reasonable.
Pasted from a previous comment:
I don't want to stifle discussion and say that it's OK to rec or squee about stories, books, and movies in your journal or the comment section of someone else's journal, but it's NOT OK to say that you didn't like something or you just didn't get a certain aspect of it -- at least outside direct interaction with the creator.
Frankly, it seems dangerous to designate any single space as the only "proper" place for a discussion on fanfiction, politics, or anything else.
That has the potential to quickly become a slippery slope.
Finally, I personally haven't said anything in my comments or the original post that I wouldn't be willing to accept from someone else. I pointed out an error in one of my own stories. That post wasn't about me being superior. (Yes, highvoltage11, I understand that your comment wasn't aimed at me. Still, I clearly had lots of thoughts. *g* )
*runs off to condense this post into a drabble* :P