AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,

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Things That Make You Hit the BACK Button

Yes, I'm in a cranky mood, but in all seriousness I'm hoping this one will spread and that writers will think, "Hmm, maybe if I fixed that, more people would read my stories!" 'Cause the whole point is to have more cool stories to read, right? OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: the points listed below are the opinion of the person doing this meme and are intended only as data. If you're a writer and do one or more of these things, check out what other people think. If I'm the only one who's annoyed by something then you can shrug and ignore me and I'll skip your fics and everyone else will read them and we'll all be happy. But if a lot of people are nodding and saying, "God, yes!" then you might want to consider making a change. Or maybe not -- up to you.

Post this in your journal, with your own BACK-button points filled in, then tag five more people to do the same.

Tagging -- poisondreams, soar38, sileya, rushlight75, linden_jay and anyone else who'd like to help.

List Five Things That Make You Hit the BACK Button

1. One huge mono-block of text. Or even several huge mono-blocks of text, if the writer was nice enough to put a space between scenes. (Gee, thanks.) My vision is bad enough already; I have no interest in squinting at vast, unbroken expanses of verbage. One space between paragraphs and three spaces between scenes is the standard. And no, indenting the first line of your paragraphs doesn't get you out of putting spaces between them.

2. On a multi-part story, lack of links to the previous part(s). Seriously, folks, there are dozens and dozens of ongoing stories out there right now, and a lot of them are about your pairing. Many of them even have similar settings, or if yours is an AU, there are quite possibly at least one or two with the same or a similar gimmick -- we had two or three Viggorli MPREGs going at once recently, and two Teacher!Viggo/Student!Orlando stories going at the same time, remember? There's a good chance I don't remember the plot of your story just from reading the title, especially if you haven't updated in a few days or longer. I very often click on the link to the previous chapter to remind myself of what's going on and which story this is before I read the new one. If there's no link, and if I don't remember which story this is after reading the first couple of paragraphs, I hit the BACK button. If you can't be bothered to give me a link then I can't be bothered to go hunting through your journal to find the last chapter. If you don't know how to do links, go here and read about them. Bookmark that page so you can return to it whenever you need to.

3. Story links that don't go to the story. If the link says, Story Name, I expect that clicking on it will take me to the story post. Not to your Memories=all list or to your Story Index Page, where I have to scroll around hunting for it. And not to the top of your journal, where your story might have been at the time you posted to a community and linked it but -- guess what? -- it isn't anymore 'cause you've posted something else in your journal since then. If the link doesn't take me to the story, I'm hitting the BACK button. Oh, and while I'm on the subject -- if your link is a link instead of a cut, don't bother saying **FAKE CUT!!!** So long as it takes me where I want to go, I really and truly don't care that it's a "fake cut." [eyeroll]

4. Stories where the main characters are "unknown" or "left up to the reader." What's up with this lately? I've read (the headers of) at least four or five stories in the last couple of weeks where the writer rambles on in the header about, "Pairing: Whatever you want! I have an idea but I don't really know and it doesn't matter 'cause it could be anyone so fill in whoever you want it to be in your mind!!" usually with a cute little smiley tacked on. [eyeroll] You're the writer and defining the characters is part of your job. If it really could be anyone at all then that's just bad (or a complete lack of) characterization. Yes, there are original stories out there where the characters aren't given names, but there's a literary reason for it; the names aren't important and the writer had a specific purpose in mind, something that having nameless characters achieved which couldn't be achieved by giving them names. This is a valid literary device, but (and this is important) these stories aren't fanfic. If the reader can't tell who your characters are -- and I don't mean that there are clues and a few people just didn't figure it out, but if there really is no way of pinning down exactly who these people are -- then it's Not Fanfic. Feel free to write these stories if you like, but please don't label them fanfic if they're not. Forget the BACK button on this one -- if the header says it's a Pick-Your-Own-Character story, I'm not clicking on the link in the first place.

5. A fic that isn't about anything. I really like the word "fic" because it lets me talk about pieces of work which aren't actually stories (if it doesn't have a plot then it's not actually a story) but in order to be worth reading your fic has to be about something, even if it doesn't actually have a bona fide plot. A pwip is worth reading if you're into sex for its own sake. A twist or joke story is worth reading 'cause there's a hey-neat or a ha-ha at the end. But if your fic just has a character standing in the dark, gazing out the window at the stormy sky and pondering how much his life sucks, that's not about anything and I'm going to hit the BACK button as soon as I figure out you're not going anywhere with it.

And just 'cause I'm on a roll.... [This section is optional]

Lesser annoyances Which, Taken Together In Bulk, Might Make Me Hit The BACK Button

These are lesser problems which, individually, won't make me bail out of your story. But if there's a LOT of one thing, or a bunch of different ones all in the same story, I'll probably hit a point where I can't stand it anymore and I'm going for the BACK button. Yes, everyone misses things occasionally, including me; it takes a lot more than the occasional oops to get me to the point of bailing.

6. Formatting keys (like map keys) which use half the symbols on the keyboard to make sure the reader knows what the heck's going on because the writer doesn't trust her own writing to get it across. You know the ones I mean -- they go something like: *thoughts* #telepathy# &dreams& {flashbacks} +out-of-body-experiences+ |speaking-to-animals| @e-mail@ =messages-from-god= whatever.... [facepalm] If your reader can't tell what's going on from contextual clues then you're doing something wrong. Which isn't to say you should never ever use non-standard punctuation, but if you need a key to explain it all, you need to go back and rework it.

7. Related to the above, marking each *FLASHBACK* with a little header and footer of its own. Again, if you can't communicate to the reader that a flashback is a flashback without hanging up a neon sign at the beginning and end then you need to go back and learn how to write flashbacks.

8. Lack of contractions in dialogue. Real people use contractions when they talk. If one of your characters doesn't for some specific reason, then that's fine, but if NONE of your characters (all of whom are supposed to be normal, average people) use contractions then that's just sloppy dialogue. I know your high school English teacher might've drilled into your head the fact that contractions are improper in formal essay writing (although this is a fad which comes and goes, so it depends on your age whether you got this treatment in school), but you're not writing essays now. You're a fiction writer and you need to pay attention to how real people talk.

9. Not giving a damn. If you say in your header that you didn't have a beta and ask people to let you know if there are errors, then when errors are pointed out you reply something like, "Oh, well, no point fixing it," that tells me you don't care about your story. If you have lots and lots of obvious mistakes which could've been easily fixed, then that suggests to me you don't care. If your formatting is way off or your links are very obviously broken (obvious even without being clicked on) or there are other problems which are painfully clear to anyone glancing at your story, then that gives me a hint that you just can't be bothered to make it look halfway decent for your readers, especially if people have pointed out the problems in comments and you don't bother replying or just shrug or whatever. If you don't care then why should I care? Guess who's not going to bother reading your next story?

10. Lack of basic anatomical knowledge. OK, this one's unfortunately common in fandom; my personal theory is that there are too many people out there who need to get a bit more real-world experience of sex before they start writing sex scenes, but that's just the first thing that pops into my head, so who knows? Lesbians writing M/M fics get half a pass, but only half 'cause there's always Grey's Anatomy; you don't have to lay hands on a man to be able to find out how he's built. First, your average human man, free of birth defects, has one (1) scrotum. That means one "sack," not two, not five. If Character A is caressing his partner's "sacks" then said partner had better be an alien or a mutant or an Elf or something similarly non-normal-human. One sack, containing two objects, like two apples in a lunchbag, got it? Good. Oh, and the only way a normal, free-of-birth-defects human male has a "seam" up his cock is if he's had some fairly radical surgery, m'kay? No clue where that one came from but it's been spreading lately. And just 'cause it's sort of related, there's no such word as "bicep." Nor is there any such word as "glan." "Biceps" and "glans" are both singular, like "lens" or "forceps." For those of you writing femslash, "mons" is singular. Look 'em up.

11. Internal contradictions, especially within the same paragraph. "The entire Fellowship formed a tight bond and were seen everywhere together, laughing and joking and drinking and snogging on each other. Sean and Viggo were particularly close and spent most of their off-set time alone." Ummm, contradiction? Either the whole Fellowship was tight OR Sean and Viggo did their own thing most of the time, one or the other. You can't have both -- pick one. This is an obvious example but I see this sort of thing periodically. When you're reading over your story, don't just check that each individual statement makes sense; make sure they make sense together as well. Not doing so is just careless.

12. The same old plotline everyone and their sister-in-law has already used. I'm really sorry for writers who are new to the fandom, but if you're writing a "Viggo and Orlando fell in love in New Zealand but broke up when filming ended because Viggo didn't want to jeopardize Orlando's career and now it's X years later and the story is about how they get back together again" kind of story, you'd better be a fantasmagorically wonderful writer 'cause we've all seen it before fifty times and it really isn't all that interesting anymore unless your prose just radiates delightfulness or you have some new twist or approach. Sorry, but that's the truth. Do some reading around the fandom to find out what's been done to death and then come up with something new, 'kay?

13. Microsoft "smart quotes" tags (an oxymoron if ever there was one) embedded in the story. I use Microsoft Word to write my stories and never get these, so it must be something else that causes this. It's usually in the first paragraph, or maybe the second, so anyone who does a PREVIEW (you do preview your entries before you hit POST, right...?) will see this immediately. Editing this sort of thing out is trivially easy once you've noticed it, so whenever I see these I get doubly annoyed -- once that it happened, and again that the poster obviously didn't bother looking at her post after (much less before) she posted. This comes under the, "If You Don't Care About Your Story Then Why Should I?" header. Please take these out.

14. Stories posted in such a way that clicking on the link automatically takes you to "Reply" mode, so you get down to the bottom and there's a comment box all ready for you. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm a crotchety old broad, but this kind of cutesy-smirking hinting just really annoys me. I won't take it from my mother and I'm not going to take it from some random person online. I comment a LOT, you know? I probably comment as often as anyone on LJ, and I've never seen anyone put as much verbage into a single comment as I do when I get on a roll. If I have something to say about your story, then trust me, I'll say it. Jamming your nudge-nudge-hint-hint elbow into my ribs by putting me automatically in "Reply" mode when I read your story is a good way to guarantee that I won't comment on it. Just saying.

15. Many mechanical errors. If you're a writer, then part of your job is learning your craft. No one's born knowing all about spelling and punctuation and grammar and word usage and formatting and such, but it's not unreasonable to expect that someone presenting their writing for public consumption will make some effort to learn the rules, and make use of commonly available resources such as dictionaries and style guides -- both of which are available online -- (good) beta readers, and English classes. If you have a hard time writing more than a line without making an error of some sort, my advice is to practice a bit more before posting your work in public. Let your friends read it, find a good mechanics beta, get help from somewhere before putting your stuff out in public. Because seriously, no matter what the few-but-loud "Oh, all creativity is bootiful and should be SHARED!!!" folks say, if you get a rep for having truly putrid writing skills, a lot of people will get into the habit of just skipping over anything with your name on it without even clicking on it, which means that even if you improve later on they'll never know because they're not looking at your work anymore. This is bad. Don't let it happen to you. Oh, and to the one writer I read who's an excellent storyteller but can't punctuate to save her life, whose stories I read while wincing and groaning and squinting out from behind my slightly-spread fingers because it's just so painful except that the characters and plotline are really, really good and I can't help but read them anyway -- yes, declarative sentences DO have to have a period on the end. Every time. Even if it's the last sentence in a paragraph and a reasonably intelligent person could be expected to just assume that this is the end of that sentence, you still need a period there, honest. [facepalm] C'mon, hon, this is first grade stuff. I'm already dragging myself through your stories despite the physical agony caused by your nonexistent mechanical skills -- throw me a bone, okay?

Angie, hunkering down in her flameproof bunker
Tags: writing

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