Saturday, December 10, 2011

Constructive Criticism vs Cyber-bullying (Flames)

The title speaks for itself. So, let's go over a few things. 

Term Definitions: 

Constructive Criticism -  it is criticism that is kindly meant and has a goal of improving some area of another person's work. It should be a reasoned, unemotional response IN AN EFFORT TO TEACH. 

Cyber-bullying - is the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to harass, threaten or intimidate someone. Cyber-bullying is often done by children, who have increasingly early access to these technologies. The problem is compounded by the fact that a bully can hide behind an electronic veil, disguising his or her true identity. This secrecy makes it difficult to trace the source and encourages bullies to behave more aggressively than they might face-to-face.

Unfortunately, the latter topic often occurs within fanfiction, but is disguised as or coined criticism, but it is NEVER CONSTRUCTIVE, and it has gotten considerably worse the in past few months. It is also a very common reason as to why great authors pull their stories - their work - because they are unjustly judged and/or ridiculed for their subject matter, writing style, or . . . I, personally, believe jealousy might have a lot to do with it. 

Speaking of, since when did fanfiction become a competition?

This fandom used to be such a fun place; however, at every turn there's unwarranted ugliness, problems between authors, authors complaining about flames, or readers complaining about authors. "How dare s/he write that?" The last I heard, we authors wrote OUR stories the way we see them told. If every version of each character were the same, and the same issues plagued them, why bother reading fanfiction? Just read the books the characters stem from.  But I digress . . .

For every flame an author gets via a review, they get ten, twenty, sometimes a hundred more reviews singing their praises. There are pros and cons, and I will admit that some wonderful people extremely outweigh the bad. 

And there might be a couple who believe your story is wonderful, but . . . disagree with comma placement, quotations, semicolons – jacked-up grammar or problems with flow. 

I think those are okay. Me? Personally, as a writer in this fandom, I dig those reviews - I love every one and would never ostracize someone for their constructive comments. Those who have left them for me know that I have written them back with a "thank you".

I will not share any of my own reviews, out of respect to my readers, but I'll give examples. 

I feel like doing cartwheels after these: "Wow. This was an amazing chapter." Or, the reader goes on to highlight his or her favorite lines or plot points. 

I feel like going back and trying to correct after these, which is fine because writing is also a learning process - for those of us who are not trained or did not go to school for creative writing. "I really like this story, but your grammar needs work. It didn't flow smoothly, and I became lost halfway through. I still like the premise, and these problems are easily fixed with a little help." 

And then there are the reviews that make some authors second guess themselves. It's true; they're only words, and . . . this is an actual review I have received, but have since blocked this person, so I no longer worry about offending them. 

"First of all, is English your first language? This is horrible and a sad excuse of a story. Your parents should be ashamed to call you their daughter. You use foul language instead of picking up a thesaurus to find words to accurately depict your character's feelings. You write about low-lives and expect people to fawn over your leading male character? Try again because your story sucks. I am surprised I lasted this long. You should consider yourself lucky." 

After that review, my story was reported, and then taken down from; meanwhile, there was no rape, rough, or explicit sex in it - nor was there violence. On occasion, I get PMs from people telling me off. They have no bearing on my real life, neither do those who post their hate for everyone to see, but since I put SO MUCH of myself into my writing, it hurts. 

It hurts very much on a deep, emotional level, like I would imagine it would pain others. 

We're a very passionate and opinionated group, and sharing and expressing such things (opinions or thoughts) are not a crime, but leave the unwarranted, harmful, heinous words behind - the words that don't help, but only leave pain in their wake.

It's also a completely other thing to just "dislike" a story and to that we give the responses: 
"To each their own"
"Different strokes for different folks"  
Or my personal favorite. "Eh . . . it's not for everyone, but thanks for giving it a try." 

We're shielded by our anonymity. We have cute and witty pen names, but behind every screen and computer there is a person with feelings. I'm sure most of you who are reading this blog post were privy to an altercation that occurred last night, think that's the cause of this whole . . . rant? Most of it is, as I am sick of defending my work, and I am also hearing from others who are tired of doing the same. 

Too many greats are leaving us - The Twi-Fic Fandom, and it's sad. 

Thumper said it best, and we've heard it time and time again from our parents:
"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." 

When someone posts or shares their negativity, half of their buddies will agree, while the rest of us will just wonder, "Why? What was the point?" And a select few will quietly bow out, while one or two might disagree, and ask they not say any more bad things. I won't lie; I'm no saint, and I flounce A LOT, but I quietly move on and would never inform the author or speak publicly about it. Just because something is not my cup of tea, I could never imagine insulting the author or putting down the story just because I do not like it. I also would never wonder why anyone else would like it or why something I may not dig has thousands of reviews. "Do people actually like this?" 

I'd never ask myself that, since I - personally - LOVE those off the wall, outlandish and original plots, which may be too bizarre for some people. 

"One man's steaming pile of dog shit is another man's Mona Lisa." I think my mother said that, but I don't know who may have said the phrase before her.

Then there are those who argue: You write in a public forum. You put yourself out there, and so you should expect mixed reviews. If you can't take the heat, then get the fuck out the kitchen. 

That's right, abso-fucking-lutely correct. We, authors, put our stories and ourselves out there. We write to entertain ourselves, because we have a story to tell, we write for fun. 

Those mixed reviews? Well, they shouldn't make an author cry, second guess themselves, or make them feel like garbage, like they're being bullied. If people cannot take constructive criticism, then fanfiction is definitely not the correct place for them. But I wouldn't expect anyone to ACCEPT hate, just because . . . 

Furthermore, how many of us truly know each other or our back stories or if . . . What if the next person you or whomever offends isn't mentally stable? We hear about it all the time on the news. Not too long ago, a ten year old took his life because he couldn't take being bullied anymore, on the internet and at school.

These flamers, these ignorant people who aim to hurt and unfairly make judgments for their own, sick amusement are just as bad as those real-life bullies at the local elementary, middle, and high school. 

Trust me; all of this . . . this whole blog post, has been building and building inside me all fucking week, and I'm so sick of bitching about it. I'll post this, share my story, and then that's it. If it gets to be too much, I'll just quietly disappear. 

All this bullying, flames, nasty comments and people . . . it’s getting to me. 

Does it make me ignorant for hating HATE? Yeah, it probably does, and it probably makes me wrong that certain actions elicit anger, which makes me come back and respond to crap - crap that I should let roll off my back. 

But this bullying---the hate--has to stop. I/we can't control the world. Reacting to hate and insults with more insults doesn't make it right. I always try to keep that in mind, but it's hard. 

Maybe we could try, as a fandom. Maybe we can stop the negativity, these flames and the hurtful words. 

We have to start somewhere, right? I'm reaching out to you, my people, the Twi-Fic Fandom, who I consider family. And as family, we have drama, but I'd be there for any one of you - fight for you - so I hope most of you will stand behind me in my thoughts and my views. 

You don’t have to like my stories, that’s fine with me, but please take my words to heart.

I went from constructive criticism, to harmful and hurtful flames—which is cyber-bullying no matter how you sugar coat it—and then to a RL/personal story. But . . . anyone who knows me knows I'm a wordy whore. I have so many thoughts, they all just run together. 

Regardless, I hope you all got the message. 

My last thought is a good one. I have met so many wonderful people through Facebook, Twitter, and fanfiction in general. I truly cherish many—whom I should and could call soul mates, as they understand me a lot better than my own family. I have made best friends for life in SO many people. It’s not all bad—the experiences. Like I said earlier, for every few people who dislike you, you have more people who love you—who make IT ALL worth it in the end.

She didn’t write it, but a wise person once told me, ‎"People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." 
-Maya Angelou

Remember that.



  1. So heartfelt and very well said. I will keep Warren in my prayers. I wish we could change the world and the judgements people make with the snap of our fingers. Love ya Lexi !!! Kris

  2. I am sorry all the negativity is beginning to get to you, and I sincerely hope that the fandom can come together, truly I do. From the moment I set foot in the fandom, I saw all of this negativity. The first author I saw leave was Lalina. Then one by one, more and more beloved authors disappeared, and I think you are right. A lot of it has to do with jealousy. I have noticed that is when authors become 'popular' that they become a target, and usually the situation is utterly pointless. It's discouraging and, honestly, a person can only take so much of it. You are a brilliant writer, and I know that you have so much trouble for what you write, which is something I, too, do not understand. The story you told about Warren broke my heart, and I hope all the 'haters' who see your post realize that their hurtful words do to writers' hearts and spirits what those horrible bullies did to that kids body. Bullying is bullying and it always hurts, whether it be physically or emotionally. Cyber-bullies are no better than Warren's bullies, because both aim to tear down the spirit, to humiliate and disheartened. Both are sickening.
    After everything that went down with me, I made the choice to bow out, so I haven't been keeping up with hardly anyone or anything. I do not know what all is going on, but I hope and I pray that your words will open the eyes of the community and make them see that words can be just as damaging to the soul as a fist is to the body. I hope this community can band together to put an end to cyber-bullying.

  3. Well said Lexi! You are a truly beautiful person inside and out. I'm glad you were there and were able to offer Warren your special brand of kindness. I'm sure he'll never forget what you did for him. I hate bullies too, and could never understand how tearing someone down could make anyone feel good about themselves. I think it's just gotten so easy for people to hide behind their computers and know they will never have to face the people they criticize. It enpowers people to say things they would never dream of saying to your face. It's a sad situation!

  4. Thank you for being such a strong person and helping that little boy. These people that are out there pursuing you and using so much hate when they could be using their energy doing something good need to wake up and smell the coffee, because they think their so high and mighty they just need to stop. No ones better than anyone and trying to make someone feel less then what they are is so uncalled for and pathetic on their part.

    I am truly sorry for everything happening to you lately between the reviews and people deciding to go out of their way to bash you publicly while trying to keep it private is also like the bat sign in the sky. They want to keep it as hidden as possible with little to no repercussions because they don't think anyone will speak up or do anything different.

    Why would anyone want to be in a place of carbon copies? These people need to start acting their age instead of what most of thems kids are aged, and for the younger crowd need to stop acting like this is high school. They need to refocus their energy on something because this is a big deal. This is a huge deal.

  5. Beautifully said. I've been bullied, both in RL and online since I joined the fandom. It's come to the point where I left and came back under a different name, completely forgoing the crowd I used to be friends with, just so I didn't have to deal with the flamers and the bullies.

    This fandom can be a harsh place, readers demanding writers to tell their stories in the way the readers want them to, authors among authors being threatened by each other and lashing out by publicly bashing each other. Also this blog (I can't remember the name) who would have their 'author of the week' and completely and totally bash them to the ground publicly.

  6. Awesome Lexi! You go girl! You are a strong-willed, independent woman and I admire you for not taking bullshit from another.

  7. Hear, hear! I concur with all the comments above mine. I'm not a writer and have never been cyber bullied but I have been bullied in real life from 5th grade to 8th grade. Going to the principal doesn't help because they retaliate ever harder. It got to the point that I would just stand there, hands at my sides, head down, and let them beat me only to go home and have my father tell me he would beat the shit out of me if I didn't start fighting back.

    Thanks for taking a stand, Lexi. I have never left anyone a bad review because their story wasn't for me but I think I won't even say anything if I have nothing nice to say.

  8. Lexi, I have a confession.

    I was lurking in the RAoR group the night you were attacked. I guess it makes me a bad person since I sat back and didn't take a stand. After reading what you had been through earlier in the week, I feel like even more of a coward. You stopped a young boy from being jumped and I couldn't step in to ask someone to STFU when they were bashing you. I think the problem this person might have could be jealousy. Why else would she try to get others to agree with her? You have stated this blog post has little to nothing to do with the incident that occured the other night. After everything that has been happening to you lately, I can see how the mishap would push you over the edge and need to be heard. The thread from the other night seems to have disappeared, but I did see that the person apologized. I hope this will be the end of that person's negative posts. She wasn't lying when she said she's posted comments like that one before. Maybe it wasn't personal.

    I'm truly sorry, Lexi.

    It was a horrible thing that happened to you. It takes a strong person to not only stand up for themselves in the mature manner that you did. But you also write some edgy stuff, some of the most boldly written stories I have ever read. Don't let anyone tell you different. You are a brilliant writer.

    I just hope you don't get any backlash for discussing this.

  9. I wish you could just stand up and bow. That was brilliantly said, and extremely heartfelt. As you said, you are not the first one to be bullied, nor the first one to speak out about it, but my point is how many will it take for people to start learning? Seriously! This whole subject hurts me so deeply because my 19 year old six foot son was bullied when he was in middle school. He was little then, and was called every name in the book. It wasn't until I finally told him to fight back that he got them to back off. Why does it take violence to fight violence. Or hate to fight hate? It's horrible.

    You have been dealing with this long before I knew you, because I never knew you had a story pulled. That sucks. No wonder you worry about that so much. :(

    Then I see you on here -the things you do- and hear this story of Warren, which only confirms what I know of you, you're a genuinely nice person.

    No one deserves to be treated this way. Ever! I just hope that nothing ever happens that makes you pack up and leave. I've seen too many walk away and some are greatly missed.

    Thanks for sharing yourself with us, and your fics. You've made me laugh like no other and cry at times, too. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

    You're loved by many... I hope it's enough to keep you here for now.

  10. Well I am in tears over your blog post! I am so glad that you were able to help out Warren. I hope he will be ok.

    I'm sorry that you are being bullied. I don't understand it! Just last week I wrote this in a blog post that I was contributing to..."I really don’t pay too much attention to the drama in the Twifandom. I may want some juicy gossip but the mean drama is not for me. I know in the fanfiction fandom there can be some mean stuff that goes on and I really don’t understand it. If you don’t like what someone has written don’t read it. People don’t have to be mean and spread hate."

    I really hope there are enough of positive constructive reviews that counteract the mean ones. I can understand how your story is a part of you. It's something that you have created and when there are mean comments it does hurt.

    I really want to let you know that I appreciate that you do take the time to write stories and share them with us. Fanfiction stories give me the time to escape some of the crap in my real life. You are a very talented writer and I'm glad that you are a part of this fandom!