On the nature of criticism vs. dislike

I had a series of reviews today from a person who felt — among other things — that I was being intolerant of certain kinds of critical feedback. I won’t bother naming names. Attention, I feel, is not this person’s goal , so much as demanding someone act is if they matter.

They ultimately don’t, yet, I want to see if their bullshit had any validity at all, or if it was merely the incoherent, racist, homophobic and mouth-foaming rant I wrote it off as at first.

I won’t address the crux of their argument (as it was extremely retarded) but rather the overarching question implied by them:

At what point is rejecting criticism valid, and at what point is it simply refusing to listen to things you don’t like?

Twilight was raised in the conversation. Some people think Twilight is a great show/series. Others think it’s a mess of cliches. Still others hate the creepy vibe it has, suggesting it promotes issues like wife husbandry and worse.

One cannot argue, however, that millions of people like it, or that it is very commercially successful. On that note, is that to say that all criticism of the work is invalid simply because lots of people like it?

No. A determination, I think, of valid criticism, has to be based on two factors.

Is the criticism driven by personal biases or dislikes or by weaknesses in the work?

Is the criticism primarily directed at the execution, mechanics, or storyline of the work, or at the message and intent  of the work?

I have said for some time now that I am not a great writer. I do not do this out of faux modesty. My main flaws are simple: I am often formulaic and adhere to certain conventions such as melodrama, climatic focus and overpowered characters. Mechanically I have issues with spelling, missed words and phrasing. Thematically I have a tendency towards fantasy, mysticism and conspiracy even where they are inappropriate. Most importantly, I have low tolerances for those who view my work and demand it match up with preconceived notions of canon, which has resulted in me deviating farther from canon than necessary more that once, and increasing numbers of OC’s.

ALL of these are valid criticisms. I cannot argue with any of them, they are all net negatives.

I have also been called out for having unrealistic or disturbing elements in the Shepard/Liara relationship, distorting the view of certain elements into an anime feel,  anti-corporatism, smearing and/or distorting the races of the ME verse into a light that is primarily negative without redeeming features, and creating social structures such as the Commissariat or the Thirty that are fascist/communist and fly in the face of what ME is about.

These are criticisms that I would argue with, but that I mostly chalk up to my personal preferences and style. Some may like them, some will dislike them. I do not feel they invalidate my work, others will disagree.
I have always felt that criticism based solely on one’s personal biases or dislikes, or on one’s political views, or worst of all on antipathy for certain positions taken in a work, are completely invalid. Those who say my aliens act immorally — and, as a support, say there are multiple HUMAN religions who say a given act is immoral — are, in my opinion, missing the point. Those who hate any kind of homosexual relationship, or any suggestion that not everyone is a perfectly well adjusted white male, and imply that because I don’t cleave to their views that my work is sick — what kind of improvement can I derive from such criticism?

To me,  a critic exists for two reasons — to point out a work’s weaknesses and provide insight for those who are unsure of whether or not to invest their time and effort into viewing/reading/experiencing a creative work.

When people provide negative feedback, I try to sort it based on what it is. Some of the feedback I’ve gotten on DLP, for example, I didn’t LIKE. But the reasoning behind it was valid. Rehashing the same thing over and over is NOT good writing and it’s something I need to fix.

When, however, I receive feedback that basically states it would be better if I deleted everything I’d ever written — I don’t take it seriously.

Which leads me to the point of this little post. I have tried to incorporate much of what various readers have suggested in my work over the years. I have repeatedly stated that some of the best twists I had came from the feedback of others — TIM doublecrossing the rest of Cerberus, the entire Eingana arc, the use of Vigil.

I don’t really CARE what people who hate the series think of it, any more than the people who are making millions of Twilight care about the people who hate that work. I write to entertain and distract myself, and to entertain those who like my work, and hopefully to inspire others to write. That is my audience.

Do you feel that I am ignoring the feedback that you have given? Is there a weakness (aside from grammar/words missing) that is resonating through ATTWN and TWCD that needs to be addressed that I am dismissing?

Curious to know what people think.

14 thoughts on “On the nature of criticism vs. dislike”

  1. First time posting here because well felt like I needed to.

    I’ve enjoyed your series since I first ran into them, it was honestly one of the first major AU fics I read. At first I found it kind of jarring, emotionally stunted Shep, super grimdark universe, etc. but over time I’ll admit it grew on me. But at the start I didn’t like it, if only because like a lot of people I got used to canon with a “twist” like vanilla coke but without the flavor.

    However those weaknesses that I perceived turned into strengths over time, to me at least. Taking some of the shine out of ME is interesting, taking is out and filling it with charcoal gets very interesting.

    I mean do you sometimes stress the same stuff a bit, yes in my opinion you do. I mean you kind of kept hammering the Liara and Shep are messed up people, but hey it kind of works angle pretty hard for a while. But they also are two people who can’t really meaningfully evolve past that point either, and it wasn’t like they were going to become super happy white picket fence types anyway.

    Hell you got me writing again, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I used to wonder how you make so many tiny grammatical mistakes. I’ve stopped wondering why now.

  2. In honest opinion, i feel you do take people’s advice where necessary and do take people’s feedback. At times, you do not respond to some questions posted in reviews, well, from me anyway, but i’m not trying to make a big deal out of it. i get that you are a busy person and i accept that. You do not have time to respond to everyone and some question are indirectly answered in the upcoming chapters. but honestly, i think you have been doing superbly so far. so yea. no major flaws concerning you responding to feedback. Considering how you have to filter through a lot of bs at times, i’d say you are doing a very good job.

    1. I’ve gotten a bit bad about responding in PM to reviews, due to a number of factors (back pain, schedule, this time of the year sucking) — those are all excuses. I need to go through and respond to alot of those.

      I guess my major concern is that, even though the person who said these things was an idiot, sometimes I DO have a tendency, I think, to be overly sensitive to criticism. I’m very glad you think I’m on track in that regard.

  3. Well, you certainly do recognize all of your own flaws in your writing style so there’s not much more I can add to that.

    About the only criticism I have is that you’re pretty bad with consistency on minor stuff.

    One of them is OC names, Kiala is one of the first ones that come to mind since at some point you’ve written it as Kiana, given her the last name of Raan instead of Shaal, etc. I know there’s a couple other inconsistencies with names in the two main fics, but I don’t remember off the top of my head exactly which characters they were.

    Also, certain minor plot points. Most recent one is in TWCD’s earlier chapters… 1 or 2 I think, you have the asari on the affected colonies dying, but in 5 the AIS chick or whoever mentions that the asari don’t remember anything, implying they’re alive. It’s not too big a deal since they’re pretty minor details most of the time, but I just wanted to point it out. You already fixed the one where Mierin was wavering between turian cabalist and then asari commando, which was cool.

    Anyways, keep it up.

    1. To add, I haven’t read the reviews in question, but from what I can tell you have a pretty good grasp on what is valid and constructive criticism and what is idiocy.

      I do suggest keeping counter-rants out of the author’s notes and limited to this blog, though. I don’t mean to be offensive with this, but most readers won’t care about that shit any more than you care about what the idiots with no constructive criticism have to say in their reviews. The shortened author’s notes you’ve been doing recently are perfect.

    2. Yeah — part of that is due to the fact I lost some of the notes I’d made when my wiki blew up, and part of it is that I’m sloppy with some of the smaller moving pieces.

      I know in the past I’ve brought back Yvael from the dead several times when I was meaning to refer to Ylana, and some of that is just me getting in a hurry.

      But other times I go with one idea, then someone gives me a good idea and I retcon what I had intended — except I don’t remember to go back and change things. That’s a big problem I need to work on.

  4. all that i wanted to bring forward in term of criticism has been brought forward, you do have a clear handle on what your flaws are.

    you have taken the ME Universe, you’ve darkened it, and made it very much your own, for fucks sake, even the OCs are awesome and we get attached to them hoping that they don’t end up as canon fodder.

    also, yesterday, when i asked you something, you answered in about two hours i believe, if that isn’t quick response to feedback, i don’t know what is.

    as it is right now in the story, if i was shepard, i would probably just say
    – “Burn baby, Burn!”
    *lights Twilight series books ablaze with warp and barbecues meat enjoying good wine*

    *does Robot dance, no shit given*

  5. The crux of the matter is that some readers get seriously upset when you don’t write your story the way they want it. They confuse rants and hate fueled reviews with criticisms, as well as helpful tips with demands to write a character or plot point in certain way. And then get even more offended when their demands aren’t met.

    I have my own ‘buts’ with the story but it doesn’t detract me from enjoying it and waiting for new updates. Hell, this series is one of the very, very few I actually enjoy reading now. This is the best re-imagining of the ME I’ve seen so far, and you’ve set the bar quite high. Doubt anyone will put as much effort as you into fleshing and developing their verse.

  6. Ok first off ill point out that i really think ur overstating your negatives, So ill be blunt , you are right up there with J.K rowling, charles dickens and that lot in my opinion, I therefore demand that you finish this series of fanfics or i will come over from australia and spam u with monarchist points of view on everything (i am monarchist) KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

  7. The thing is I mostly like the way things are depicted. Sure there are things I would snap at and say “character A is being unreasonable” but there mostly reason for that and there isn’t a legit reason I can say it sucks.

    So far the only reason I really disliked was the fact that P fucks his own daughters, It felt to me that that was done more for shock value than anything else. And I hope you avoid doing these kind of things in the future.

    An other issue I myself hadn’t noticed before I read another person review was the gradual increase of every new guy powers, for example the dancers (dunno what kind of dancers atm) like Thane. You addressed their overpoweredniss (?) by stating (somewhere) that their there not really that strong, that it’s just their reputation that is so hyped.

    Overall I think you need to take a step back and look at every character and make it very clear as to why they are so powerful. I think you made a good start with TWCD but the problem is that is only the main characters. We need to have a look at the antagonist and see why they are so powerful so we can compare them and speculate about who will win and why.

    As far as responding to reviews, that last couple of chapters (I think starting around the 13th) have been meh in the responding department, but as far as i’m concerned your responses to everything else in the past gives you more then a little leeway.

    I also think you made a good decision with the AN, it really ruined some chapters in the past.

    Regards,

    Metaladdict

  8. well, in all honesty, incest is a taboo in our society, now, but before it just wasn’t, that’s a fact.

    as for if it shocked me or if i cared, the answer is no, remember that you are dealing with aliens, they have a different view on things, and you cannot think that YOUR way is THE end-all-be-all way of things.

    they have their gods, their way of doing things, and their morale codes are going to be different.

  9. My issue isn’t with the fact that a Turian is fucking his own Asari daughters on any kind of moral ground, my dislike stems from the fact that it doesn’t add much if anything.

    Is P morally despicable ? Of course! But he was already despicable on a moral basis for other reasons, as far as I’m concerned it didn’t add anything, it only added an (little) extra disfavor towards P and his morals and the added shock that O god he is fucking his own daughters.

    P is a Joker on a galatic level he doesn’t need to fuck his daughters be unmoral

    Did it shock me personally? No, after game of thrones and the LOADS of fan fic shit you can find on the internet about incest just by browsing for fan fiction.

  10. I’m of the opinion you’ve got a pretty solid handle on your story and any real errors that I’ve found are mostly just grammatical or redundancy. Both of which can easily be attributed to the sheer volume you write and the speed with which you do it.

    When it comes to narrative choices or direction, I think your vision should be respected however. People need to understand that this isn’t their story or whatever their specific idea of Shepard and the gang is. Nor do they even have to like it. I personally don’t like your Shepard but I still care to know where her story goes. Probably a testament to your ability as a writer.

    You have a good grasp of your own flaws but there’s nothing catastrophic, I think.

  11. I know exactly what you mean about the DLP feedback. I’ve been in that exact same boat personally. You don’t *like* to hear it, but they make it very hard to argue with.

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