I know I'm a blunt, cantankerous old biddy who often blunders straight past the rules of current social etiquette, but I found this today while scanning the reviews of a Priest fic I'm reading:How Ruuuude!
The review that caught my eye was that left by Sebastian, which reads thus:
I just want to start off by saying I think your writing style is excellent. The way you develop your characters keeps the audience guessing, and I like that. Don't let criticisms hold you back from writing the story the way you see fit. I'm not naming names, but I've read some reviews on here that are just plain rude. There is a difference between stating constructive criticism and being just plain, outright rude. People like that take the fun out of writing, and it's a downright shame. Good authors are constructive, not cocky. I just wanted to tell you to keep up the good work, and don't let negative, ignorant comments drag you down.
It's no great leap to surmise he's referring to my reviews because mine are the only ones more substantive than, "Ooooh, update soon!"
Look, writing is a very personal thing, and hearing strangers nitpick the warts and shortcomings of your bouncing baby brainchild is like watching them club a baby seal while eating baby bunnies raw. It's painful, and embarrassing, and you want to defend and explain. Sometimes, you stew and mutter under your breath about how the Philistines simply don't get your genius, damn them.
But here's the thing: Once you put something out there, the Philistines can react to it howsoever they choose. They can love it and write paeans to its awesomeness and clamor for more. They can not give a damn. They can also think it's a steaming pile of shit. For me, it's a toss-up between which of the last two stings more. Most of the time, it's indifference, but occasionally, there are those comments that cross the line into plain gleeful nastiness and personal attack, and those can be like a punch in the face if you're not ready for them. People who disguise personal attacks as legitimate critique are assbags.
But I don't think anything I said constitutes rudeness or an assault on the author or her right to write. It's the truth as I see it. It *is* ridiculous that a woman with no combat training who previously shrieked and flailed at the sight of a vampire can suddenly take down four of them plus a bevy of familiars simply because she prayed once. Honestly, that devalues BH's training and years of sacrifice and isolation. If any jackass who says, "Please God," can suddenly have His blessing and Grace, then why do priests need to suffer the way they do? The answer is they don't. Therefore, she's undermined one of the fundamental precepts of the world.
There are POV switches within paragraphs, which are fundamental no-nos in writing. The vocabulary is repetitious, and the constant use of "his eyes fell" conjures images of disembodied eyeballs tottering unsteadily on tiny little legs and faceplanting on noses. Any aspiring writer who wants to be published someday needs to have an extensive, varied vocabulary with which to convey thoughts and ideas. Period. Her mechanics are faulty and sometimes sloppy. If she's going to set the world on fire with her ideas, she needs to know how to convey them clearly. That's what writing is supposed to do.
As for her characterization, it's idealized and flawed. She tells us that Tessa is a smart, composed woman with experience with life's unfairness, but she behaves like a nineteen-year-old who's never left the safety of her dorm room and is playing with concepts from her Intro to Philosophy class. She's mercurial and pettish one minute and wise and even-keeled the next. Rape is apparently no big deal. The story tells us that she's left covered in semen from her assault, but later in the same chapter, she tells Black Hat there is no danger of pregnancy because none of her attackers finished. Uh, if he's wiping spooge from her nethers, then, yes, they did.
She loves BH so much, but doesn't listen to him when he tries to explain. Because the story needs her to be obtuse for dramatic effect. It's not an organic outgrowth of events but a plot contrivance of narrative necessity. Additionally, she takes Priest's part as if they were old friends despite knowing nothing about him save what pre-vamped BH told her. It might be morally satisfying to believe people behave that way, but they don't. People protect their own, even when they know they shouldn't. Tessa isn't a realized character; she's a walking ideal. Lots of writers do this to some degree, but most of them disguise their avatar a bit more cleverly. Some of them disguise them poorly, and professionals are not immune to this trap. Stephen King has his very own Marty Stu in Roland of The Dark Tower
series. In later volumes, he's just dropped all pretense and is merrily wallowing in the Stu-ness. When you're wiping your ass with pressed gold bullion, you can afford to indulge.
But she hasn't earned that right yet. Tessa was never grounded enough to support those indulgent flourishes. She's a paper doll wearing whatever outfit a given scenario needs her to, regardless of logic or internal consistency.
It's maddening, and you know why? Because there is talent there. It's cracky and ridiculous and melodramatic and unrealistic, a telenovela of the first water, but it's also compelling. I find myself reading chapters over and over again and checking every day to see if there's another update. I don't want her to stop. I want her to finish because I need to know how it all turns out. But just because I want her to succeed and finish this crazy, glorious Frankenstein, that doesn't mean I can't point out where it strains credulity for me as a reader.
And just between you and me, I'm being rather restrained, I think. A professional editor would tear her to shreds and feel not a pang of remorse.