A question for readers: what makes you lose interest in a story ?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by geo3, Mar 31, 2005.

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  1. geo3

    geo3 Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 29, 2002
    This is something I've been discussing with a few fellow authors and I've decided to throw the question out here in hopes of gaining some insight from readers.

    The question applies mostly to longer, multi-chapter stories, some of them epics. Over time these stories tend to develop a core of regular readers. Equally often, there will be some readers who are very enthusiastic for a while and then just seem to fade away. Sometimes readers (the visible ones anyway - there's no way to gauge the participation patterns of lurkers) 'arrive' on the thread somewhere in the middle, stay a while, and then disappear again. As authors, we're really curious about what catches a reader's attention, and even more so about what causes it to wane.

    Now, I have to confess that I've done it too. *blushes in shame* In my case it usually has to do with the length of time I have to wait for new posts. It seems the older I get, the shorter my attention span becomes. If I have to wait a long time (several weeks or more) for a post, I tend to forget what has gone before and it's harder for me to climb back into the story. My active topic notification runs out, I lose the trail of the plot and somehow I just don't find my way back to the story...

  2. Ace_Venom

    Ace_Venom Jedi Youngling star 3

    Sep 22, 2002
    I think it has more to do with a little thing we called Darth Real Life. I know there are times that I can drop in and read when I'm not at my home computer. Once I'm home, I'm not compelled to comment on the most recent update because I've forgotten about it.

    As a writer, I always operate under the assumption that for every person who comments, there are are at least two or three readers lurking. Then for those of us who seem to write a lot (long chapters), we don't seem to get as many hardcore followers. Must have something to do with attention span. [face_thinking]
  3. LadyPadme

    LadyPadme Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 26, 2002
    Interesting question, geo3. I often wonder that myself. Sometimes someone will post in one of my stories something like, "This is great! I love it!" or "I can't believe how wonderful this is" and then disappear a week later and never come back again. It can be sort of demoralizing for an author, but of course, it happens.

    For me as a reader, when I stop reading, it's most often due to DRL. I used to read about a dozen stories at a time plus two or three viggies a day, as well as wrote stories that I posted three times a week. Now, much as I would like to keep up, often times it is DRL that knocks me for a loop.

    However, as far as the stories themselves go, there are multiple reasons. One related to DRL is how frequently they are posted. Too frequent or not frequent enough can both turn me off. Daily short posts I can handle or two to three times per week longer posts. However, posts that are too long, i.e. approaching 8 or more pages in MS word are just too much sometimes for me to sit down and concentrate. Oftentimes, I'll start reading and then get distracted by something, take care of that, come back, lose my place, try to start again, get know how it goes.

    And then of course, there's the story itself, how well it's written and if the subject matter is interesting. Usually, if I don't like what I've read I don't post at all rather than pretend I liked it, but sometimes a story will start out with promise and then meander and get off topic, and once my attention wanders, it's over. Also, multiple spelling/grammar mistakes make me insane.

    But still, by and large the most frequent cause is DRL. There are a ton of stories that I fell behind on and that I'd like to finish, but couldn't and there are always new stories out there. It's frequently hard to choose, but something I'm behind on by 15 posts is going to be harder to work on reading than a new viggie.
  4. Spike2002

    Spike2002 Former FF-UK RSA and Arena Manager star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Feb 4, 2002
    Sometimes I just forget about the existence of a story, then I see it about 6 months later and think, "Oh crap!" and start reading again to catch up.
  5. Trickster_Jaina_Fel

    Trickster_Jaina_Fel Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Oct 3, 2002
    *slinks in sheepishly* Well...I have a very short attention span. I don't like waiting a long time between posts, especially when I'm reading other fics; when stories go on too long, I get facts mixed up, and then I have to re-read it all over again. On the flip side, when there are too many updates, DRL makes me fall behind, and then I have no immediate motivation to catch up. I'm trying now to let authors finish their stories, then go read them all in consecutive sittings, like a novel.

    That's for the good ones. Sometimes, though, I'll start a fic and enjoy it, but as time goes on, little (or big) flaws in the author's writing start to bug me more and more. If the author doesn't improve at all, I tend to start lagging behind on my reading [face_blush] It's rarely planned; I try to stick around for as long as possible, both for the things I originally enjoyed, and for the author, but eventually I'm just too busy.

  6. MariahJade2

    MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor star 5 VIP

    Mar 18, 2001
    Top reasons for me:

    DRL: "MOM, stop playing in the computer and take me to the mall." :p

    Too many posts to keep up with.
    Not enough posts. You start to wonder if the author has abandoned the story.

    Bad grammar/spelling/pacing

    Forgotten plot lines. Nothing drives me crazier than wanting to see what's happening with another character and the author spends the next five posts writing about someone I don't find as interesting.

    Character bashing in reader replies. If someone starts going on and others join in about how much they hate such and such a character, and the replies get all snarky about Mara/Leia/Jacen, whoever, I get turned off of coming back to the story.
  7. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    I've done that myself. Mostly, it's Darth Real life. You get started reading a story and if it takes a long time between posts, you might forget about it (although there are some stories that could be updated every 6 months that I still follow). Then there are the ones that are posted every day or so and they are just as hard because I'd like to comment on each one but I just don't have the time.

    It really is a time issue rather than a "not interested in the story anymore" issue. Plus, I must admit that I lurk, especially when I'm deep into writing my own stories.

    I have had the same drifting away of readers with my long - updated once a month maybe - story. I do understand that they also have lives. I sometimes get concerned about my writing/plot/characterization driving them away but my more loyal readers don't seem to say anything negative (by thread or PM) with the writing as long as I post regularly so I figure it's just the RL issue again.

    If it is really bothering you, though, you could ask your current readers to tell you via PM. Most won't tell you on the thread itself but they might be more blunt privately.
  8. Ace_Venom

    Ace_Venom Jedi Youngling star 3

    Sep 22, 2002
    Forgotten plot lines. Nothing drives me crazier than wanting to see what's happening with another character and the author spends the next five posts writing about someone I don't find as interesting.

    Which is why IMO that the best writers will keep you interested by making sure all those plotlines are interconnected. It's when I start saying, "Oh, I don't care about these guys. Get back to the others," that I usually abandon a story.

    If we readers aren't at least reminded of the big picture in different plotlines, we'll lose interest very quickly. Of course, we also hate being babied (hello, Mr. Harry Turtledove, reminding us how much this character is racist in every book like we haven't been following your long series).
  9. Lady_Jedi_Carenix

    Lady_Jedi_Carenix Jedi Padawan star 4

    Dec 6, 2001
    I have to agree that Darth Real Life more often than not interferes with 1) how often I read a story and 2) how often I actually reply. Sometimes I'll have time to quickly scan through a new post but I may not reply for a day or two until I have the time to write something other than "Good job!".

    How often a story is updated can also be a sticky point for me. I do my best to remember what stories I'm reading, but the less often a story is updated the more I tend to forget about it. Conversely, something that is updated everyday may not get daily feedback since DRL gets in the way and sometimes if I know the updates are short posts I know I can wait to read and catch up pretty quickly.

    Some of the negatives which make me lose interest is if there's too much focus on original characters that I have no interest in (now whether that's the fault of the author for not providing enough interesting characterization or if I'm just really picky I'm not quite sure), and if I start getting lost (like there was an out of the blue plot-twist that leaves me scratching my head and wondering "Where did that come from?").
  10. rhonderoo

    rhonderoo Former Head Admin star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Aug 7, 2002
    [blockquote][link=]Ace_Venom[/link] posted on 3/31/05 9:07am

    Which is why IMO that the best writers will keep you interested by making sure all those plotlines are interconnected. It's when I start saying, "Oh, I don't care about these guys. Get back to the others," that I usually abandon a story.

    If we readers aren't at least reminded of the big picture in different plotlines, we'll lose interest very quickly. Of course, we also hate being babied (hello, Mr. Harry Turtledove, reminding us how much this character is racist in every book like we haven't been following your long series).

    This is why I think it's a good idea to actually limit your characters. I can't keep up with stories that have so many characters that you can't keep up with who is doing what.

    I tend to let DRL reduce me to lurkerdom most of them time. I procrastinate on giving feedback and the next thing I know, the author has update a couple of times since I meant to leave feedback.

    Either that or a story that started out good, loses me on characterization or plot.

    With my own writing, I tend to let DRL do the same thing to me when I need to post.>
  11. Ace_Venom

    Ace_Venom Jedi Youngling star 3

    Sep 22, 2002
    This is why I think it's a good idea to actually limit your characters. I can't keep up with stories that have so many characters that you can't keep up with who is doing what.

    Well, that is actually a good idea. I should remind writers as well as readers that having to keep too many checklists is a bad thing. A writer has to remember the law of nature is the path of least resistance. A reader will follow the path of least resistance. The fun of writing is to figure out just how complex that path can be before you lose readers completely.

    A reader may have a much easier time of following a story from the POV of one character, but a story can be richer if there are two or three well-told, interconnected POVs. As far as I'm concerned, four is really the max. I find it is harder to follow some tales that have one too many POVs that don't seem interconnected.

    For example, I'll use Harry Turtledove's Great War/American Empire/Return Engagements series. One of his problems is that he frequenly restates things that if you don't get them by now, you need to go back to the beginning and read it over. He has one too many POVs that may fit fine in the context of war, but during peacetime, it's a drag when he keeps going on with the story that petered out in the last war. "Oh, that guy from Quebec died? Geez, I stopped caring about that plotline two books ago."

    Point is, readers don't like that. Writers should pay close attention to their readers in that regard.
  12. Jedi Trace

    Jedi Trace SouthEast RSA star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Dec 15, 1999
    The main and usually only reason that I 'abandon' a story is that I simply cannot keep up due to post length, update frequency, story length, or any combination of the three.

    Darth Real Life (time constraints, kids, job, etc.) rarely allows me to devote more than a few minutes (5-15) at a time to fanfic reading. If chapters are too long for me to complete in one sitting or the story updates frequently, I tend to fall behind.

    Or, like Trickster Jaina Fel mentioned, I'll wait until the story is finished and plan ahead to devote an evening (when the kids and/or husband are away ;)) to reading the entire story in one sitting.

    In those cases, I tend to look for the story over at ff.n or other archives where it can be read in its entirety without wading through pages of author/reader replies. Not that there's anything wrong with lots of author/reader correspondence - quite the opposite. Interaction between readers & writers is the best thing about these boards, IMHO. But sometimes, when time is a factor, I'll go elsewhere to read an uninterrupted version of the story and then come back here to reply. [face_blush]
  13. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Sep 21, 2000
    Many things. No direction. The story thread has turned into a gushing session about the story or writer.

    There's nothing worse than reading a story filled with more reader replies than replies from the writer itself. It tells me that they're more interested in the attention than they care about writing their story. Especially when they go off-topic and turn into into a conversation thread.

    I've just read too many fics that start out good I guess and turn into that. It's one of the main reasons I avoid the Classic forum. :p
  14. Alethia

    Alethia Jedi Master star 5

    Feb 13, 2005
    A lot of the time, I don't loose interest, but I begin to lurk instead. I like to leave long, though out replies and if I only have five minutes, I'll read, but don't have the time to reply. Hopefully, when I have the time again, I can find the story and reply. But that doesn't always happen...

    There are also the fics that I read, forget about for some reason or another and then see them months later and go 'oh, I remember that!' and start reading again.

    And then there are times when I stop reading, because the fic goes a different direction than I like/thought it would or it gets boring or something like that, where I can't justify it to myself to read anymore.

    But in most cases? I still read- I just lurk, due to DRL...
  15. Mirax_Corran

    Mirax_Corran Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 25, 2005
    I try not to read too many, so that I can follow them all. My problem is that I will start one, and forget about it, or forget the title/author, and I won't be able to find it again. Right now, I'm reading seven fics, all at the same board, and one at another board.

    What helps the most is that I get PMs when the author of the one story updates.

    I loose interest when characters are abandonned, or there is excessive spam. I don't mind a little, but sometimes it gets out of hand.
  16. EmilieDarklighter

    EmilieDarklighter Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 19, 2002
    DRL, and the length of time it takes to post, mostly. I've dropped out of a lot of stories, too, because my favorite characters were written out of character. Hate it when that happens. :(
  17. Bria921

    Bria921 Jedi Youngling star 1

    Mar 31, 2005
    What turns me off is love scenes, when those are around, and bad plot lines. Definatly. Emilie said, characters written out of character. Also, when the story has so many plots going its confusing to follow. [face_hypnotized]
  18. pokey1984

    pokey1984 Jedi Youngling star 2

    May 10, 2004
    I can rarely connect faster than 36.0k here at home (the only place I read fics) so what turns me off the most is having to scroll through too many replies. That also) means I feel bad just typing "I still like this" because that means I'm contributing to the problem... :) So that's why I'll frequentlyi say nothing for a long time, though i always try to say something at the end of a fic.

    Otherwise, (what turns me off places I can read stories in one sitting) is repetition. I hate when the same scene is played out over and over again, with different characters. It feels like theres no plot.

    I have a paid account at FF.N and I've noticed some trends witht he hit count and review counts. My viggie Kidnaping Padmé got 199 hits and five reviews. EAch chapter of one of my longer fics got between 250 and 350 hits and between 5 and 7 reviews. So, roughly, I expect five reviews pers 200 hits. Talking to other users, that's about average. It was mentioned eariler that someone wished they could tell how many lurkers there were, thought I'd pass on some stats. :)
  19. Jedi_Bant

    Jedi_Bant Jedi Youngling star 1

    Apr 13, 2004
    well, if i really like i story i stick to iti to the bitter end... most of the time it's simple lack of interest.... they're some stories that start out great with a certain theme, then the writer seems to go off at a tanget... or maybe it's *me* who read the first few posts and expected something from the story hrtat the writer neverr had in mind to give.... sometimes *i* grow out of stories... i started reading an incredible fan fic on thses boards last year and i *know* that i dropped out of a lot of stories iw as following because they couldnt really compare... that fic *spoiled* me, in a manner of speaking... so yes, it could be any number of reasons...
    i think the only one way to know for suure, is to ask the readders that left why they left. if you lett them know that you're open to criticsm if theyy stopped liking yourr story, then they'll tell you. you dont have to *dance* to their tune if you donn't like it, but at least you'll know y.
  20. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Wrangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    Lose interest?? My problem is just losing the thread. Notification has never worked for me and sometimes I just plain forget what WIP fics I've been reading. Can't count the numerous... sorry for gettting bhind replies I start out with when it comes to the bigger threads.
  21. Mirax_Corran

    Mirax_Corran Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 25, 2005
    I forgot this earlier.

    I'll lose interest when the paragraphs are too long. A half-page 'graph is too much, and gets hard to follow.
  22. DarthDolly

    DarthDolly Jedi Youngling star 1

    Feb 10, 2005
    Interesting topic! I'll lose interest for any number of reasons, though having too many character sub-plots is one of them, as had been mentioned. When it gets to the point where I'm thinking "get back to the other character already!" I probably won't stick around unless updates are very frequent.

    Sometimes, I like the way a story starts out but then it takes a sharp turn that I wasn't expecting, and don't like. Or an OC is introduced as a main character (I don't like 95% of OC's as main characters) when it wasn't obvious s/he would be there in the beginning.

    And of course, as Healer Leaona mentioned, sometimes I'll just lose a story. The Saga forum especially moves so fast, its easy to miss an update.

  23. lori71

    lori71 Jedi Padawan star 4

    May 18, 2002
    Considering how much hard work the writers put into their stories, I feel a little ungrateful answering.

    But, some things that have driven me away...

    - Time between updates: This is a big one. Most of the author's here have an amazing sense of timing. They end a chapter on just the right note. I'm filled with anticipation for the character, then....nothing for a month, sometimes longer. When I finally come upon an update, I've mentally exhaled my bated breath. I may, or may not, get around to refreshing my memory enough to enjoy the new chapter.

    - Too much angst: I guess this is personal taste, but sometimes the angst is simply gratuitous...three chapters of stories with characters I would smack upside the head, if only my hand would fit through the keyboard...two pages of longing for the scent of her hair. I'm a romantic, but it sometimes gets annoying.

    - An assumption of prior knowledge: I don't read a lot of the official EU novels, so I have no idea who some of the characters are. Many authors will add a link to a previous story or, at least, write a few lines of background for a non-film trilogy character. I can't tell you what a huge difference that makes.

    - Feeling like an outsider in a private club: This may simply be a result of my shy nature. But, if there is a lot of socializing going on between the writer and readers, I feel like I'm eavesdropping on private conversations. Friendliness is one thing, but talking in detail about boyfriend/work troubles in a fanfic thread is uncomfortable for readers not taking part in the conversation.

    - Annoying fellow readers: This is totally out of the control of the author, but it will drive me away just the same. I'm talking about the readers who will start begging and whining for a new post, starting a few days after the last update...UP...(few hours later)...Up-a-roonie...and, :( has the author forgotten us?

    - Spelling/grammar: Look at my sig...that drives me nuts! Typos and occasional mistakes are expected. But if the author hasn't bothered to do a basic spell check, I'll click off of even the most interesting story.

    Whew, for someone who didn't want to complain, I sure did a good job! [face_blush]

    Again, I appreciate all of the hard work. The talent on the boards is astonishing! :)

    (BTW - I've only been visiting the fanfic boards again for the past few days. After AOTC, I lived here until DRL drew me away.)

  24. darthnick11

    darthnick11 Guest

    ^your sig will save many new writers from ever misspelling there/they're,their again.

    The one thing that annoys me is bad grammar and spelling. i can barely concentrate on a story with something like bad grammar.
  25. TheNabooSenator

    TheNabooSenator Jedi Youngling star 1

    Jun 9, 2004

    I don't even get interested in stories with bad characterization, typos and other pet peeves so technically, I don't lose interest in them.

    I leave a story if the writer doesn't take me where he/she promised me at the start. Or worse, if the writer doesn't take me anywhere! Nothing puts me off more than a story that takes months for an update. There are very few stories that I feel are worth all that anticipation. Rightly or wrongly, I always feel that there's some arrogance in a writer who feels he can just come back and pick up the threads of his readership after leaving them hanging for almost a year.
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