Feedback: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Mr_Black, Jun 7, 2004.

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  1. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    May 31, 2004
    Guess who?

    Man, I'm just on an inquisitive jaunt. Down to business.

    Feedback. Beyond food and water, it's something all writers need, whether they're newbies or grizzled vets, a good writer is a developing writer, and to develop, evolve, and improve, a writer needs to know how he/she is doing.

    Strangely, feedback also has paradoxical traits, especially for new writers. Put simply, we want to know what other people think about our craftsmenship, but we're also afraid to find out. I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't hesitant to show my writing even to family or close friends as little as a few years ago.

    The whole situation was put into sharp relief for me last year when I took a fiction class at school; you basically wrote stories, then passed out copies to the whole class (and of course the teacher), and discussed each story aloud, in detail. It was nervewracking, obviously, to start with. Gradually though, as the semester wore on, it became my favorite class. I love hearing what other people think about my writing; all of it...what worked, what didn't, the structure, the presentation, whether this anecdotal exchange between characters was funny or if it fell flat, etc. The point is, if you're an aspiring writer out there reading this right now and are hedging between whether or not to show your work off: bite the bullet and do it, you'll be better in many ways because of it.

    That doesn't mean that all feedback is good feedback. For whatever reason, there are sadistic losers out there that revel in ripping apart stories to make themselves feel better. Of course, there's an opposite extreme; the person that will absolutely adore anything. It gets ridiculous. For a chapter update, you could write "Luke picked his nose, then somehow saved life as we know it," and they'd be like ":eek: That...WAS...AWESOME! =P~"

    The key to valuable feedback & critiquing, at least from my perspective, is balance. Point out the good AND the bad. Every piece, no matter how bad, has at least one good point to it. Similarly, a story can be phenomenal, but there's always room for improvement. As a reviewer, it's important to always be encouraging; it takes a lot of guts to post your creative baby up where it'll be at the mercy of a bunch of strangers, and that should be commended. Just don't be overly laudatory or scathing. Be honest. Feedback isn't about crushing spirits or massaging egos, it's about helping an artist to hone their craft, and ultimately become better artists.

    OK. That's all I have. If anyone else feels like adding something, now's your chance ;).

    -Mr Black

    PS: did this board get a name change, or did my last bit of sanity become pocket change for a thief in the night?
  2. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 7, 2002
    I for one love getting feedback. I like hearing how I'm doing. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't understand the difference between constructive feedback and flaming.

    Maybe we should have an online "course" for how to give proper feedback. How to be constructive without flaming people.

    EDIT: Yes, the name of the board changed. After much discussion and debate, the name was changed from "Fan Fiction Writer's Resource" to "Fan Fiction Resource".

  3. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    May 31, 2004
    Frankly, that "Course" would probably be one of the most valuable resources--for writers and readers both--available. I'd be a horrible teacher though (I have no patience, and have a penchant for perfectionism; especially when it comes to writing, as that's my Thing).

    Realistically, it's naive and a bit frightening to try and "teach" someone to have an opinion, or to modulate the opinions that are already out there. If someone really, really wants to be an, a butthead, there's not much you can do except ignore it. It's unfortunate, though, that most buttheads have a knack for persistance.
  4. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 10

    Sep 27, 2000
    Darn you Mr_Black for stealing my latent thread idea! I was going to call it "The Role of the Reader", though. I have to admit that while mine had the alliteration going for it, your snappy film reference is nice too (you get no originality points, however ;))

    Here are some of the points I was going to make:

    Authors spend a heck of a lot of time, energy, sweat, blood, who knows writting their stories, especially if they take the time to do research where needed and drafting, which is always needed. I think it is owed to them to say more than 'Great post!' or even 'I really liked your characterization'. There has to be something more specific you can say, even if it's just picking out one quote that exemplifies the great characterization you thought they had. Being specific makes authors feel like you actually read their work as opposed to just skimming through it. I feel I am free to say that as an author I'd love this kind of feedback because I take the time to give it to other authors myself. Yes, it does take time, but I think it's the least I can do.

    These people are not pros, and even pros need props and help. If an author has asked for all comments or specifically for constructive comments, I won't hesitate to politely PM them and give them my thoughts on how they might be able to improve something. Silly me, I actually think when authors ask for constructive crit, they mean it! Black, you are absolutely correct in saying that if someone really desires to become a better author, then they should be open to all non-flame comments. If they absolutely don't agree with what's said after an honest review of their work, then they've just solidified their own view more.

    Even if you're not one to give lengthy comments on the literary merit of a work, you can still tell the author how certain things made you feel. Maybe something made you feel angry at the main character and maybe it was *supposed* to. Protagonists don't have to be 'good guys' and no one should ever be right and likable all the time. Don't be afraid to take a different side than in popular, because it just might lead to some interesting discussion.

    There is another big thing I'd like to stress. I think the best fic threads are not simply ones where the author posts, the readers reply, the author posts some 'thank yous', then it begins again. I think sometimes people are afraid to let a fic spark a conversation because they think they're going to be the only ones to say anything. I personally like to reply to other readers and like it when others do this as well. After all, Star Wars is George Lucas' creation and has sparked so much discussion and expression of interpretations within all of us, clearly... so why shouldn't someone else's creation, their fic, be open to discussion and interpretation by readers as well?

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]

  5. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 7, 2002
    I'm not talking about teaching them to have a specific opinion, I'm talking about pointing out things that you shouldn't say, things that are nice to say. The difference between constructive criticism and a flame.

    Most importantly, not to use the term "Gary Stu" or "Mary Sue", because we are dealing with Jedi, who are powerful characters. It's like in one of my LOTR 'fics. I have a character who's an elf. I've had people left and right saying that she's a Mary Sue. News flash: Elves are as near-perfect as can be in Tolkien's world. And this character doesn't even come anywhere near standard elf perfection.

    Also, we should talk about lurkers. I realise that not everyone has time to do more than read a post. If you DO have the time, PLEASE give feedback. If you like the story enough to hang around it, let the author know. It helps, it really does.

  6. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    May 31, 2004
    Bollocks to alliteration (everyone knows assonance is where it's at, anyway)! Anything that is 75% closeups and has a Tough Guy Clint Eastwood squinting moodily is exponentially cooler. Period. ;)

    I've given this more thought, and I'm arriving at the conclusion that feedback for fanfic doesn't get the consideration it deserves because fanfic has a stigma. It's like comics. When you say comic book, the predominant vision is a grown man fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way (whatever that is :confused:) in his underwear. When you say fanfic, there's an undeserved stereotype of amateurism that immediately drives a wedge between the perceptiveness and poignancy of a particular piece (how's that for alliteration? I win! :D), and the sub-medium it's presented in (it's a literary work, but it's fan fiction :eek:).

    It's shallow prejudice, it's childish, and it ultimately leads legitimate artists and serious authors of fan fiction and fan art to attempt to take a baby step forward, only to be shoved back the length of two giant leaps.

  7. Amidala_Skywalker

    Amidala_Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jul 4, 2001
    Of course, there's an opposite extreme out there, the person that is teething their way through a Zoloft binge and will absolutely adore anything. It gets ridiculous. For a chapter update, you could write "Luke picked his nose, then somehow saved life as we know it," and they'd be like " That...WAS...AWESOME! "

    Zoloft binge? I can tell you that people who have been prescribed that particular anti-depressant do not act like that. My parents have been taking high dosages of Zoloft for years (50mg or 100mg doesn?t work for them anymore). Yes, the behaviour does change slightly, but not to the extreme you described. They don?t take any nonsense. They have a problem with depression; not a mental disability.

    I would ? and I?m sure the same goes for other people who have experience with Zoloft patients ? appreciate it if you didn?t use those types of examples in your discussions. It?s liable to offend people. This isn?t a laid-back subject you can just throw around.

    Getting back on the topic of the thread, I agree that you could write anything and receive cheering feedback. It?s encouraging, but as a writer, you always have to realise that you can improve. There?s no barrier you hit after years of writing. Also, as a reviewer, you need to be aware that the writer might not want honest criticism. You need to discover whether the author wants that type of feedback before you reply and any misunderstandings ensue.

    Amsie [face_love]
  8. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    May 31, 2004
    Apologies for the jest about zoloft. I'll take it out.

    Hmm...I dunno if I could lie to an author. I mean, if their work was really calling for some improvement or revision, I don't think I could outright lie to them and say "Great story!" If there was a case where an author didn't want honest feedback, I just wouldn't give them any. Presenting them with a false sense of confidence and skillfullness is worse than gently breaking to them that their writing could use some work. Of course, that's just my personal opinion.
  9. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    The most important aspect of critiquing somebody's work is whether or not the author wishes to have his/her story criticized at all. While most authors are eager for feedback, there are a few writers who only want to hear praise and resent any implication that their effort isn't the bestest story ever. In those situations, a reader should be aware that any actual critique is a waste of time and just move along.

    Fortunately, such examples are rare.

    The worst type of comment a reader can leave (outside of an outright flame) is to just say "This is wrong." for whatever reason. In my experience, speaking in such concrete terms is very off-putting and normally rather than helping the author, it has the opposite effect. There's a world of difference between saying "This doesn't make sense because there's no way Padme would do that" and saying "I'm not sure you gave Padme the proper motivation to react that way."

    While giving critical feedback can be helpful to an author wishing to improve his/her writing, it shouldn't be pre-supposed that the critic is correct. I've seen a few instances where, when the author disagrees with the person leaving criticism, the critic then says something along the lines of "Well if you don't listen to me you won't be getting any better."

    Basically it all boils down to attitude, or rather, perceived attitude. If you can be critical without coming off as pushy or mean-spirited, then 99% of the time your opinions will be welcomed by an author.
  10. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 10

    Sep 27, 2000
    Bollocks to alliteration!

    Oh now you're just sucking up to my Britishism ;)

    I agree that FanFiction has a negative stereotype which I really dislike for two reasons:

    1) It encourages people to write within that stereotype. People who might otherwise be capable writers of interesting stories reduce themselves to hackneyed fangirl/boyism because 'that's what fanfiction is.' If that's what you want it to be, fine, but that's not strictly what it is or should be.

    2) As you said, it is undeserved in the cases of some very dedicated authors and wonderful stories. Despite the fact that many of these are *gasp* borrowed characters and set in*shock* outter space, I have seen some authors here who are not only serious about their work (which almost all authors are) but who are professional about the manner in which they execute their writing. Despite the stereotype, some fanfic authors do know how to use effective pacing, diction, sentence structure, symbolism, foreshadowing, a variety of motifs, several kinds of figurative language, and other literary device to create crazy things like character arcs, relationship dynamics, and even themes. I know it seems shocking, but fanfiction can actually be literature and not just a fun outing all the time. I strive to be one of those who applies myself towards this end.

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
  11. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 7, 2002
    Well said, Herman.

    It is highly possible for a critic to be INCORRECT in their information. I've had people criticise me for naming a character something, saying that the name isn't of the proper origin (a teenage girl in New York by the name of Brianna) and that I screwed up in claim it's Elvish (I never did, for the record; I specifically stated it was Irish in origin). So don't take everything someone says to heart. It's your work; for the most part, trust yourself on it.

    Of course, I've also run into people thinking they know more about the story than the author. I've had people tell me that certain parts of my story are completely irrelevant to the story . . . how would someone know this five chapters into a 100+ chapter fanfic? What gives the reader the right to think they know more than the author?

    Conversely, we don't want authors viewing their readers as "the little people". Without an audience, there's no point in posting a story. And if you alienate your readers, then you're going nowhere.

    And one last thing. WHAT would make a reader think that they can get away with saying, and I quote, "i have three retarded daughters and they all write better than you"???

  12. Abby

    Abby Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 7, 2004
    I, for one, always appreciate any sort of feedback. And one thing to do, if you feel you have some valid constructive criticism for an author, would be to PM them and say, "would you mind..." and then if they wanted to hear what you had to say, good, and if not, their loss.

    I agree about people going "they wouldn't do that", especially if they won't listen to the author's rationale about why a character did something. Sometimes people need to remember that the author does (usually) have more or less a good idea of what's going to happen in their own story. If the author says "you'll understand later", give them some credit! And if it still doesn't make sense, then "positive" contstructive feedback, or a conversation, or something of the sort...

    I would never, for instance, tell an author that their characterization was entirely off and suggest, rather bluntly, that they should do a re-write, alter their character, and then, maybe, I'd read it.

    One of the best ways, I think, for a new author to get readers, is to hang around other stories of the genre you're writing in, reply, provide feedback, and create a rapport with other authors. Then, once you've posted, perhaps they'll see your name and check out your fic. I also try to read the stories of the authors who reply to mine. (Sorry to those of my readers who I haven't done this for). I figure if they give me a shot, I should return the favour.

    And as for lurkers, I reiterate what many people have said in many, many threads...we as authors like to know that you're reading, and we love to hear comments. You don't have to be afraid to post, and if all you want to say is, "Good!", then that's fine. We don't bite (well, most of us :D)

    Well, that's my babbling...

  13. JDH3

    JDH3 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Mar 27, 2003
    I would have to agree that true constructive criticism is best given via PM. Authors by nature (myself included) tend to be a fragile bunch when it comes to their work.

    I have to say that threads like this do worry me to a small degree for the following reason. The minute you start to discuss "proper" and "helpful" forms of feedback, you run the risk of sending would-be reviewers into lurker mode. I myself am least eloquent when trying to spit out reviews. My brain tends to freeze up for some reason still unknown to me. It's not that I don't see the good or bad in a story, but the words just don't always come when needed. I try to avoid gushing at all cost, but it happens, from time to time. <--pardon the Threepio'ism

    Anyway, while I understand and respect the debate, there is a downside. As any author that I have ever met will tell you, feedback in any form save for flaming is more than welcome. I'm starting to ramble so I'll end here.

  14. RogueSticks

    RogueSticks Jedi Youngling star 3

    Feb 15, 2003
    As an author, I find that the best sort of feedback is the critical feedback. To me, writing has always been a personal thing. Either that or it functions as my own mental bench press with which I flex and hone my skills (if one could argue I HAD any skills). The stuff I post for people to reply to usually falls under the latter and it works much like the Miss Universe contest. I walk up on the stage and clench my gluttial muscles and see if everything worked out of if perhaps my left side is a bit more droopy. So, in that regard, feedback is ESSENTIAL to my advancing. But positive stuff usually does me no good. It's like Ahhhnold Schwarzenegger (someone tell me if I spelled that right) getting up during Mr. Universe and being told "Well you look GREAT but you're only getting second place today. See you next year!" He'd walk off wanting to know WHY his abnormally large man boobs weren't worth the gold. And that's what I love in my feedback. If a person tells me he loves the story and truly does, it's a nice warm fuzzy. But if I get a reviewer who says "Hey, you're doing good but maybe try to get Leia a bit more in character around ANH." then that's something I can use.

    Am I even making sense? It's been a long day. I was called in to work and only just got out. ::looks at clock:: Feh. 3:30a.m. is NOT a time I want to ever work to again. I'll probably sign on tomorrow and look at this and say "Dear lord, what was I thinking when I typed that?"

    ::meanders off in search of the elusive legend of sleep::

    [hl=black]RogueTerrorist **||** Protecting H/L from fanfic authors everywhere [/hl]
  15. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 6, 2003
    The key to valuable feedback & critiquing, at least from my perspective, is balance. Point out the good AND the bad. Every piece, no matter how bad, has at least one good point to it. Similarly, a story can be phenomenal, but there's always room for improvement. As a reviewer, it's important to always be encouraging; it takes a lot of guts to post your creative baby up where it'll be at the mercy of a bunch of strangers, and that should be commended. Just don't be overly laudatory or scathing. Be honest. Feedback isn't about crushing spirits or massaging egos, it's about helping an artist to hone their craft, and ultimately become better artists.

    Here's something we agree on. :) Yes balance is important in reviews... and I will add that unless you know the author VERY well, even in PM, that while pointing out the bad you should make an effort to be tactful about it... extremely tactful in fact. The internet is a funny place as it's hard to know how to take a person's comments at times, and feelings are sometimes hurt unnecessarily and completely accidentally. In general, while giving critiques, sacasm is NOT your friend.

    As for commenting on characterizations, I think if the reviewer truly feels the character is "off" to the point that it's putting them off the story, and the author has indicated that they are open to Constructive Crit, then you should say something. Definitely. Of course, you should always keep in mind that different people see characters differently, and also what solo said about the possibility that the author may have a plan or a reason for the OOC behavior. But still, saying something if you didn't understand/were put off by the characterization could result in 1 of 2 things: 1) the author gives you a bit more of an explanation, pointing out a theme you didn't pick up on that makes the behavior make sense, or pointing out that something's coming that will explain all OR 2) The author puts a bit more thought into their story (and future stories) and that character and hopefully builds a better story. :)

    I think that's one thing that a reviewer should *always* keep in mind when critiquing someone's story - that your goal should be to help the author build a better story. Always. If you are just making negative comments, just because you don't like the story or the author, then you are not helping. If you can make both positive and negative comments, with valid suggestions how to improve, then you are doing that person a wonderful service. :)

  16. Mjsullivan

    Mjsullivan Jedi Youngling star 3

    Dec 8, 2003
    Can i just mention before i start the kind of reply that absolutely sends me? It goes something like this: after chapter one or two gets posted, you come across this message:

    I liked this fic because of [x, y and z]. I will definitely be following this story. definitely, DEFINITELY, DEFINITELY

    Several chapters and a good few months later, that same reader is nowhere to be found. Whether it is because they are lurking or have made a false promise seems a little irrelevant...i want my promised readership! ;)

    And now, moving on. You make good sense, roguesticks. When a reader gets reviews like this:

    This is a brilliant work! You are BRILLIANT!

    They're probably entitled to wonder why they aren't being contacted by Del Rey to publish the next canon novel. I know there are circumstances where a reader cannot find anything to criticise, though they would have to be very rare.

    But then there's the flipside, authors who don't like their works criticised publicly.

    I can understand those authors who feel that constructive criticism sent via PM is for the best. People can be quite sensitive about what they've written, and public criticism can bring your own perceptions of your work crashing down. It's an unfortunate mindset that people have (Through no fault of their own - i think it is the fanfic equivalent of stage fright. You cant really do much about it without making a supreme effort) that criticism, no matter how constructive, is negative. For those authors, a reply like the one above would probably suit them very well ;)

    So i guess there's got to be a middle ground. TACT goes a long way in these situations. Criticism with the right wordplay can be made to sound like the most casual suggestion in the world, and is very likely to be recieved without offence. But as has already been said, i guess it's right to find out what a reader does and does not like, and adjust replies accordingly.
  17. red rose knight

    red rose knight Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 3, 2001
    I love feedback, even if it is a ?Good Job?. It doesn?t help me know what is or is not working about my writing, but it lets me know that there are people out there reading. I depend on feedback to let me know that my readers are going left when I want them to go right or are dazzled by some diversion while I slip an important clue in without them noticing. Feedback has also helped me tighten up my plotting.

    Through the help of kind beta readers and some of my regular readers to whom I have asked for critical feedback from, I have made a lot of changes and improvements to my writing. In those cases I asked and I was told my grammar needs help (big surprise there ;) ), something about a severe lack of commas, and that I have a tendency to choke my stories with detail.

    Other people may take it very differently. There are people who want constructive criticism. A current thread where they can go in and sign for it is: [link=]Honesty is the Best Policy: Constructive Criticism[/link].

    Some people don?t mind it, if it is done tactfully and delivered by PM. Others write to write and don?t have loftier ambitions other than to put some words down on a page and forget about it. And then there are people who cannot perceive that anyone could find flaw in their writing and don?t want to hear it.

    What would be important for a reader who feels that they want to help an author with constructive criticism is to know the reader enough to know whether or not they will accept it or how they would like to receive it (in the story thread, via PM or not all). Some people will take it better from their friends or regular readers than from someone who just showed up one day offering their thoughts.

    There is the [link=]Beta Reader Training Academy[/link] to help people become better beta reviewers. I think that might be the closest to a reviewer training course we currently have.

    In fact there are a lot of helpful threads for writers and readers in the Forum Index sticky thread.
  18. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Feb 5, 2004
    When I was learning "how" to be a teacher, I worked with a very wise teacher who had been in the profession for a long time. He taught me to always use the "sandwich" method. That is, to preface my critical remarks by noting something that works and to end them the same way. This lets the writer know that you did read it carefully and that something they did worked very well. For example: "You did a great job of developing Jonah's character. It would be great to see you expand on the scene where he is swallowed by the whale. You described his emotions while he was inside the whale wonderfully." He told me you can always find SOMETHING good in a story. He also taught me to use my own words carefully, because a mismanaged remark by a teacher, especially on a student who actually cares about their work, can be devastating. The sandwich method works great outside of the classroom as well!
  19. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    Of course, I've also run into people thinking they know more about the story than the author. I've had people tell me that certain parts of my story are completely irrelevant to the story . . . how would someone know this five chapters into a 100+ chapter fanfic?

    I really want to touch on this...

    (In my own work) I recently posted a chapter that has silenced the thread more effectively than a loud moist fart in a room full of quiet conversation. I mean, its almost killed it.

    I was on IM with along time freind and fellow author/reader who was intitally all excited by the post, then came back and apologised saying that he really didn't feel comfortable posting on it. That 'for once in his life of reading my works he was dissapointed'. A little stung, I asked him to elaborate and by all means post anyway... (I don't need to be coddled but I appreciate a reason if you're going to tear out my heart!)

    He pointed out things he had issues with, involving the actions of a certain character. He found it confusing... I gently reminded him that we still had a ways to go and that all would be revealed in good time, then it hit him... the character (and yours truely) is toying with both the other character and the audiance! Deception and half truths aren't exclusive domain of villians you know... [face_devil]

    He ended writing a very honest reply that admited that he'd initially disliked the chapter and for what reasons and then slammed the nail on the head. It was wonderful and so much fun to see!

    Sadly, I think too many people are afraid that the author is going to bite people's heads off for disagreeing with them or if they don't 'get it', they won't post.

    I don't have any problems with true contructive critism, as long as it's well thought out and open to discussion. I loath the practice of one line dismissals... 'pacing', 'characterisation' et all. At another site, one of my peices was the subject of a true crit. 'Naming', which is a sequal vignett, was taken down and analized by a group of people. ALL the feedback was well thought out, and honest. Parts that could have been clarified (the main problem was that it was almost too dependant on the parent peice), parts that really worked. It was a real breath of fresh air...

    Just a thought.


    AERYN_SUN Jedi Knight star 5

    Apr 1, 2001
    I once suggested to my English teacher to exchange our pieces with another English class because I thought it would be great to get feedback from someone who doesn't even know your writing style.

    But when I got my paper back, the only thing I saw were arrows for indentation and a "good job" on the top of the page. I was so mad. I mean, I know it wasn't a masterpiece. There were flaws. I know it had flaws but I was so angry whoever looked my piece over didn't bother to really look for errors.

    "Nice job," "Good work," these things don't tell you anything. Writer's make mistakes. I know I have consistancy problems when it comes to writing and I am not perfect.

    Even loyal readers will not point out one bad thing about your work because they don't want to make you sad. But I still need a beta when it comes to grammer.

  21. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 10

    Sep 27, 2000
    Breezy, I can sympathise with that situation. I remember one chapter I wrote in particular that could have been construed as OOC without the following chapters. But it did have the desired effect of somewhat shocking the readers, and that made me happy. After all was said and done, I think they understood the point I was trying to make with it. I was really glad that it didn't silence my readers, though, and that they were cool with expressing their shock at the character's actions. I think sometimes readers don't realise that you can't just take everything at face, especially if it's written through someone's skewed perspective. I appreciate readers who are honest enough to express what a chapter makes them feel, even if it's not 'oooh, Jedi Doe is such an amazing guy :D'

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
  22. Daughter_of_Yubyub

    Daughter_of_Yubyub Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Jul 8, 2002
    I find good feedback is all in the details. If you found a post hilarious, point out which lines sent you into convulsions. If you thought someone was OOC, say which actions didn't jive right. If you thought a post was beautiful, was it the way the words were strung together, or the emotions they conveyed? If the post didn't flow well, which section was awkward?

    Vague generalities in either direction aren't helpful. Vague positive generalities give the writer a good feeling, but don't ultimately help keep that quality. Vague negativity, well, that's essentially just flaming.

    And of course, the issue of balancing the good and bad. Personally, I try for at least two good points for every negative point, but whatever works.
  23. poor yorick

    poor yorick Ex-Mod star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Host

    Jun 25, 2002
    Would it make any sense to encourage authors to put something in their story headers about what kind of feedback they want and how they want to receive it?

    Sort of like this:

    Title: Daddy Was A Sith Lord
    Author: Some_Author
    Positive feedback: Yes, please, in thread or via PM
    Constructive criticism: Yes, PM only

    If an author writes, "Constructive criticism: No," then well-meaning readers will know to keep their comments to themselves, and the few cads out there who insist on making less-then-complimentary remarks can be legitimately responded to with an ever-so-TOS-compliant version of, "Watsa matter? Can't you read?!"

    I've occasionally seen things like this around here, but it seems more common on some other sites.

    I think a "story reply etiquette" thread would be a good idea. Posting feedback isn't as intensive a commitment as doing formal beta reading, so the beta thread seems overkill for the situation. Actually, adding a paragraph or two to the FAQ section of each individual fanfic board might be even better than a thread. Many fanfic readers aren't writers, and A) they may have no idea what's helpful or gratifying to writers, and B) may not come the the "resource" forum, despite its new, more inclusive name.

    At the moment, I'm thinking a bulleted list of maybe around 5 guidelines--anything more than that will be hard to remember, and readers will either have to keep checking back for the "rules," or else may get discouraged and not bother giving feedback at all.

    One idea of how such a list could look:
    [ul][li]If you've enjoyed a story, seriously consider posting positive comments in the story thread. Many authors place receiving feedback just below oxygen in their personal hierarchy of needs. Others don't consider oxygen that important.[/li]

    [li]Even a simple "Good Job!" can be gratifying, but consider picking out at least one specific thing about the story you really liked, and explaining briefly why you liked it. Many authors use reader feedback to help them improve their writing, and being specific can help.[/li]

    [li]Don't leave negative feedback, however "constructive," unless the author has asked for it. If an author has asked, pay attention to the method he or she would prefer to receive it--by PM only, for instance.[/li]

    [li]Consider couching constructive criticism in the form of questions or requests for information rather than statements. For example, writing: "I was wondering where you were going with Padmé's statement, 'I'm a man trapped in a girl's body, and I'm fighting to get out,'" is less likely to offend an author than, "Your characterization of Padmé is terrible. She would never say that."[/li]

    [li]It's better to write constructive criticism using "I-statements" than using "you-statements." It's easier for an author to hear: "Some sections of your battle scene didn't work for me--I think your pacing is off," than to hear: "You really can't write battle scenes at all. Leaving in Admiral Ackbar's two-page monologue on the keyhole limpet was the worst decision you ever made."[/li][/ul]
  24. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    May 31, 2004
    When giving feedback, I feel that the goal should always be to help the writer become a better writer. If that calls for the perception of their skills as an author to take a hit, or their feelings to be bruised a little bit, then so be it. Being honest with an author is much more useful--and in my eyes--more polite than having them laboring under the delusion that their writing is very good when it in fact could use some work. Putting frosting on a turd does not make a cake, so I don't see a reason to be falsely nice, or sweet.

    Like I said initially--and has been echoed several times by now--as a reviewer, you have an obligation to always be honest & encouraging; to demonstrate how the person does well, but can do better. Being a writer is a very personal exercise, and to actually show someone your stories (which are essentially your ideas, beliefs, and emotions--YOU--splashed onto some paper) takes a lot of salt.

    If the author in question is extremely sensitive, or if I don't know them well, then I will send the feedback in PM. If I have a good understanding of their personality, and I know they can handle constructive criticism, I will always make an effort to post in the thread for other people to see. Why? There may be other authors out there who have similar storytelling issues as the particular author I'm critiquing. If they see my comments, they may be able to recognize that what I'm pointing out can help them as well, even though I'm not addressing them directly.
  25. RK_Striker_JK_5

    RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Jul 2, 2003
    Oh, by the nine hecks of Corellia, do I crave feedback. And you people are right. I for one don't want empty praise or one sentence replies. The only way for me to grow as a writer is to know where I can improve as a writer. I want the good, the bad and the ugly, so to say.
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