Writing Deeks: Everyone’s a Critic
Have you ever wanted to leave a negative review on a fanfic, but wondered if the author would really want your constructive criticism? We asked our group of writers what it’s like to receive negative reviews- the kind that are meant to be helpful as well as some that are just plain nasty.
This is really starting to be a bland bowl of chicken noodle soup – Not a lot of spice in the last few chapters – Yawn.
– IWMDDN on Belle Walker’s “Spicing Things Up”
You might be surprised at how many of these great writers have received negative feedback on their work. When those negative words are written in the spirit of constructive criticism, they are often appreciated. As Bamie02 sees it, “I think it’s important to get reviews with constructive criticism because if you write something and other people who read it don’t think it’s quite right, then you as a writer can have a chance to look it over and say you know what? They’re right. You can take those reviews and the thoughts of other people and use it to better your own writing.”
For Tess DiCorsi and peanutbutterer, reader feedback was especially helpful when writing their first lengthy multi-chapter story. For Tess, it helped her realize the challenge readers had following the story’s many shifts in timeline and location. For peanutbutterer, “Feedback from readers is what helps people become better writers, right?” she says. She notes that reader feedback has given her the opportunity to “make alterations as I go… I think, maybe, it’s helped guide me a little knowing what it is the readers are responding to.” A few other writers mentioned getting helpful critiques on their grammar. phillydi notes that “It hurts but if you are not open to looking into some of the issues people bring up then you don’t learn and you prevent your future writing from getting better.”
Given the incredible complexity of Deeks’ character and the Densi relationship, it should come as no surprise that our writers and their readers don’t always see eye to eye on how they should be portrayed. Jessica237 has received such feedback. She says, “I’m certainly not opposed to constructive criticism- I think it’s helpful to see what another eye sees when they read it, and if someone doesn’t think what I’ve written meshes with who they see Deeks to be, I’m interested to know why- what works for them, what doesn’t. There seems to be more consensus among the fandom as to who Deeks is as opposed to Kensi sometimes, but I’ve had some interesting discussions on Kensi in that regard.”
For ZeGabz, “When worded politely, constructive criticism is vital to the writing process.” She talks about a few reviews she received on a scene from her story “Retreat” where Kensi and Deeks fight, “a confrontational scene where Deeks completely loses his cool,” she described. Some readers were bothered seeing Deeks lose his temper. “They had a good point, but I think that even the most whipped, cowardly member of a partnership can lose it given the proper circumstances. Deeks has very intense emotions inside him, which I think the Afghanistan storyline (which aired a while after I posted this story) really gave us a chance to see… I ended up addressing their issue in the next chapter briefly, but it was nice to hear a different take on his character, and it forced me to think about the choices I made and why I made them. So, in short, I love it.”
Wow you fandom guys are one tough audience- I have forgotten my husband’s birthday when I was involved in some heavy work stuff- AND he forgave me- Kensi wasn’t going out on a date but out with the guy who REALLY saved her life. Can u spell spoiled self centered baby- oh yeah D-E-E-K-S.
– wtcsurv on peanutbutterer’s “Shift”
peanutbutter wrote a post-ep for “Drive,” called “Shift,” that generated a lot of discussion, 99% of it positive. “I have been fortunate to not get a lot of negative criticism- which I take to mean the people that don’t agree with me just x-out instead of saying something,” she notes, “but I did get one that has always stuck out. It said that I had written Deeks as a ‘spoiled, self-centered baby.’ I could see where it was coming from, though I definitely didn’t agree. It was in response to a fic… where Deeks was finally standing up for himself and saying he’s tired of being the punching bag for everyone and so, yeah, I guess that makes him self-centered. But I felt that he was due. That’s one thing I’ve always wanted Deeks to do, to actually focus on himself. If I went a little too extreme then that’s okay. It’d been extreme in the other direction for too long. The review stung, for sure, but it didn’t make me feel bad about how I’d portrayed him because I was confident I’d made the choices I felt needed to be made.”
Jericho Steele’s feelings about constructive criticism depend “on the spirit in which the criticism was delivered. If it is really to point out a poor representation of the character(s) on my part, then I do try to make subtle corrections to bring them back into line; but there have been times when the issue was more of personal taste on the readers part, and I can’t really change the idea I have for the story just because someone wants more of this or that. There was one reviewer that pointed out that I was sometimes making Deeks out as the comic relief without showing his character traits that make him a strong part of the team. After looking back over the chapters, I saw the issue and then made a conscious effort to display Deeks’ true strengths in the next parts of the story. I am grateful to that reviewer, they helped me make my story better and I appreciate their input.
Not every writer welcomes feedback, even if it’s constructive. “At this stage of writing fan fiction,” says imahistorian, “I’m not really looking for constructive criticism. I generally know the story I want to write and where I want to take my story. If someone wants to tell me what they enjoyed I am always thrilled to hear it and I appreciate the time and effort readers put into commenting. But I don’t view fan fiction as an open forum to be told how I’m writing the characters or a story in a way that someone else thinks is wrong or should be changed. Their wrong might be my perfectly right. Just as my right is not everyone’s cup of tea. In the end, neither side is wrong, it’s just different. I post my stories online because I think they might be interesting for some people to read. But most certainly they aren’t interesting for even a majority of Deeks or Densi fans to read. And that’s perfectly fine, everyone has their different tastes in reading the portrayal of the characters and the type of story whether it is crime, romance, angst, drama, or whatever. I appreciate and respect the creative process any writer has to go to in order to write and how hard it can be. It’s not my place to tell someone else how to write when they haven’t asked me to. Constructive criticism is fine if you’ve asked for it as a writer. But putting a story online doesn’t necessarily mean you’re asking for constructive criticism. That said, I’m not naive. I know the second you put anything on the internet you’re opening yourself up to criticism of all kinds. I’ve just learned what to pay attention to, and what to ignore.
The intrigue of your story is very good… layers upon layers of details. I’m impressed with how well thought or your original characters are. And boy, that last line will have Kensi become an instant ally. My only quibble is making Deeks seem so stupid. It just rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. Sorry.
– jmlane1966 on Jericho Steele’s “Aunt Hetty”
Sadly, not all negative reviews try to be constructive. Sometimes they’re just nasty. “I’ve received some mean comments and I’m not going to lie and say they don’t bother me,” reports Jessica237, “because in the moment they do. It’s hurtful when you put time and energy into anything, fic or otherwise, to have it just attacked just like that. But then I put it in perspective- 99% of the simply mean reviews with no constructive criticism- just criticism- are from anonymous reviewers that I’ve never spoken to a day in my life.” Anonymity seems to be a prerequisite for such negativity. Some writers, like bookdiva, have disabled guest reviews or require pre-approval before they post with the story. thepixiesmademedoit observes, “I think anonymity provides people with a lot of bravery!… Quite honestly I didn’t stop to linger over them. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”
Belle Walker explains that nasty reviews are “really a pet peeve of mine, because there are some people out there who are jerks just for the ‘fun’ of it. I don’t recall getting any ‘mean’ reviews yet on any Deeks or Densi fics, but I’ve had a few from the other fandoms I’ve written for. Of course it makes me angry, because there’s no need for it. If you don’t like a story someone else wrote, just move on to another one. You don’t have to tell them that they’re stupid, or have no writing skill, or that their ideas are crap… We can be helpful and supportive to each other without being mean.”
ZBBZL says, “I currently write for four different fandoms… I’ve only gotten nasty feedback for NCIS:LA. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve left the fandom… Rude reviews I ignore, and rant to my friends or on my blog. But it sure hurts. Not so much on my ability to write or my story, but just the sad realization that people are cowards and hide behind a screen to hurt people. The absence of feedback feels the same way. Seeing people favorite or follow a story, but then not taking a couple minutes to leave a review, is both disheartening and annoying. I get more angry than sad at that.”
imahistorian reports that, “Of course I’ve received negative and mean reviews. Most often they have come from anonymous sources that don’t allow for any kind of response or dialogue. And that falls under the category of bullying or trolling and really doesn’t deserve a response. I suppose there’s usually that initial feeling of defense, as though as a writer I might want to defend my choices for the characters or the story I’ve written. And it’s hard not to feel bad when someone says something negative about all the hard work and effort it took to write something because it is a lot of time and effort that, at least in the world of fan fiction, I’m not getting paid for. But I do try to remind myself of what I mentioned previously. Just because I write something someone else doesn’t like doesn’t make it bad or wrong, it just means we don’t agree on what makes a good story. But I write because I want to, and because I’m compelled to take Kensi and Deeks places the show doesn’t. I’m not going to stop doing that just because someone doesn’t agree with my view of the characters.”
In the end, as Tess DiCorsi observes, “…if someone writes something mean and cruel for the sake of doing that– it tells me more about them than my story.” Kadiedid relates, “I’ve only received a handful of negative reviews and there was only one or two that were mean. I know there are people out there that think they are helping but mean is mean and they should learn how to communicate better. I usually just ignore them…” When nearly all her over 900 reviews have been good ones, she says, “the majority wins!”
“Unfortunately, not all people can be positive,” says bookdiva. “I’ve had my fair share of negative nellies, that’s for sure.” One reader criticized her series based on sneak previews from the show, describing it as “pointless.” bookdiva wondered, “…why do you waste your time reading and reviewing if it’s a waste of time? Honestly, I would’ve rather that person just kept their review to themselves. Nonetheless, I still proceeded as I always do, thanking those with positive and constructive reviews… and this person replied again! I was like… seriously! He or she came back and read it again! I read [her] review and just laughed.”
So I have to ask what is this b/c- If I didn’t have the internet or I was deaf and couldn’t read lips- This would be interesting- but clearly what it is is sad that you have the time in your day to regurgitate what any “true” blue Densi fan has probably watched a million times already in the “sneak peak” I am sure I am going to get a bunch of F/U responses about what a meany I am but I am also pretty sure many others out there are thinking the same exact thing- This is pointless.
– GL550 on bookdiva’s “The Possibilities Are Endless”
For Belle Walker, negative feedback will never deter her from writing what she wants. “I’ve never liked the word ‘criticism’ because it sounds negative right away,” she says. “But when someone does share some constructive criticism on my writing, it does force me to stop and take a step back and try to look at my story through their eyes. And after I’ve gotten over the hurt feelings, I may or may not make adjustments to my story- but I never stray from my purpose in writing it. Because I write primarily for my own satisfaction and to entertain myself, and I only share my work with others because I hope someone else might appreciate it too.”
Indeed, we do appreciate these writers’ work! Next week we’ll hear more about what our positive reviews mean to them, in Writing Deeks: Two Thumbs Up.
Want to Read More? A big Thank You to the writers who so generously shared these reviews. To find their stories and judge for yourself, follow these links:
Belle Walker, “Spicing Things Up”
Jericho Steele, “Aunt Hetty“
bookdiva, “The Possibilities Are Endless”
Or, go back to the previous Writing Deeks, The Sexytimes.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.
Constructive criticism is helpful in becoming a better writer but it still can sting when you first get it. But there’s no place for just being mean. I’ve gotten reviews from GL550 and whoever they are, they are not a fan of the show or of fanfic. They just want to harass those of us who are.
Yeah, I thought a lot about whether to include the quotes from the negative reviews because I didn’t really want to give the nasty ones additional airtime. But in the end I felt they illustrated what the writers were talking about, and the writers themselves had offered them as examples. (Plus I kinda wanted this to have the same structure as the other WD posts.)
I agree with JS that it depends largely on delivery. Being polite and kind with your criticism can go a LONG way over coming off as sarcastic, rude, and immature. Offering up suggestions, or specifics you didn’t like and WHY you didn’t like them is entirely more helpful than simply stating how boring/awful/stupid/etc a story is. And the former allows writers to take the reviews into consideration and possibly use the input to try and better their writing rather than essentially ignore them.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course and I doubt any writer expects every person who reads their work to enjoy it, but I’ve read a lot of reviews that have me wondering, “why were you even reading this, let alone commenting on it?”
All that said, I love all these writers that you interviewed 🙂
And ZBBZL, I am so bummed that I didn’t discover the fanfiction side of this fandom until after you’d stopped writing because when I came across your stories for LA last year, I was instantly sucked in to your writing and I’m sad that I won’t get to see anything new from you!
I’m bummed about ZBBZL too. When I first started reading fanfic, I never left a single review. Over time I started to realize how much the writers appreciated getting them (duh!) and began leaving more. Now I look at reviews as my payment for free entertainment, and as a way to encourage more such free entertainment. So I generally stick with the “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all” philosophy.
Great write-up as usual😄. And I totally agree. I am a total believer in your sentiment ” If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all. “. I am thankful for all the fanfic writers who put their heart and soul into their writing and then willingly share it with all us readers!
I love all the fanfic writers mentioned. And it makes my heart hurt every single time I read that one of my favorite fanfic writers ZBBZL was treated so rudely and no longer writes for NCIS LA. I still go back and re-read her stories. ZBBZL, you are a talented and creative writer! As I reviewed a few years back, I still hope that every once in a blue moon, you come back and dust off the characters and spin us a tale💛
I do appreciate the constructive criticism. I’ve only gotten positive reviews on my fictions and I don’t know what’s like to get negative reviews. I sometimes want to read the reviews of the stories I read and I sometimes agree with them, sometimes I don’t. I review a chapter or a story if I like to point out some part that I liked or some things that I think it should have been put differently.
All of the stories I’ve read so far I liked them so much.
The fact is that everyone has a right to an opinion, but if that opinion is meant to make the author to feel uncomfortable, well that’s another story.
I know about Jericho getting negative reviews and PMs about My Deeks and My Kensi and I think that there were death threats as well. Also he recently started a story for a different fandom, it was for Castle, and he was ready to leave the story and the site because of them. But, I’m glad that he changed his mind. I don’t know if I can live without his stories. I also like Sweet Lu’s stories and hermionesmydag’s (for all of you I have only positive reviews). My point was that there are people that don’t understand that the site is called fanfiction.net and that there the people write fics. You can’t change a story because of someone’s wishes. There is also the problem with the grammar. My native language isn’t English so I have problem with writing sometimes, but I don’t think that you should rub that fact over the nose of the author (everyone makes mistakes).
I’m also aware that most of the negative reviews come from anonymous people or guest reviews. I understand someone to maintain his identity hidden, sometmes people comment like a guest intentionally just to piss off someone and ruin his day instead of comnenting from their profiles, but as I’ve said, the site is for fictions.
You can’t always satsfy the tastes of the readers. And sometimes you should re-read the story few times before reviewing. Maybe the story is good and you hadn’t understood from the beginning what was the intention of the author or what he wanted to express with that story.
And I know that some reviews help the writers to be better at what they do best. But some reviews are just mean, and I suggest to those people: think twice before you write something and hurt someone’s feelings or ruin his day.
Natalie, I always took Jericho’s mention of death threats as hyperbole, and I certainly hope that’s the case. I did just take a peak at the reviews of his Castle story and wow. I am always a little sad that the NCIS:LA community is so relatively small (yes, I want even more fanfic!), but I don’t know. Maybe the small size keeps some of the crazies away?
Yeah, maybe that’s the case, but some people take the fan fics they read for granted and they comment something bad. Or they just do say it so they could piss off the author of the story. However, let’s hope that there will be less bad reviews and more negative reviews with a positive effect (like the ones where someone points out where is the mistake or why there are inconsistences with the story). And of course more and more of reviews from people who like the story.
I got one of my favorite reviews ever after you interviewed me so I didn’t get to share it before, but I’ll share it now. On a chapter of my AU where I make alterations to canon episodes, I got a long, detailed (and kind) explanation of how technically completely wrong and illogical a snippet of dialogue was. The dialogue was a direct quote from “Disorder.” I considering forwarding it along 😉
We all are very quick to criticize the show (me especially). Maybe the actual writers share these authors’ sentiments. I know we hold them to a different standard (and rightly so) because it’s their job, but it’s probably important to remember the intent and the tone. Maybe they appreciate knowing they incorrectly identified the treatment for PTSD, but don’t need to hear that we thought Kensi was being a bitch. Maybe they don’t care either way?
Hah! PB, that sounds like an awesome review. I love your observation about criticizing the show. It’s so hard when we are all so obsessed and our expectations are super high for things like continuity from episodes that happened five years ago. It’s difficult not to let out some sarcasm when those expectations aren’t met. Like when we have to wait a decade to find out our favorite character’s backstory. (See, I’m not sarcastic or frustrated at all!)
I personally choose not to give bad reviews, even though some fanfiction has challenged me, such as in Jericho Steele’s story where our fav characters are not together-
On Wattpad some of The Densi writers are very young. Others are second language learners. You have to admire any attempts, depending on different circumstances.
I agree Rhonda. Writing fan fiction is not something I could ever hope to do, so I feel like anyone who tries it is to be commended.
Apologies for the necro-reply, but I found this whole discussion quite interesting. I’ve only really written (and posted) fanfic for Miami Vice, and that’s another small yet demanding audience. It can be tough if you don’t go with the flow, so to speak, but one advantage you have when you’re working with Vice is the character backgrounds were very hazy (at best). This gives you some maneuvering room. Vice also left huge gaps between episodes in terms of timeline, so you have all kinds of plotting room. NCIS:LA is a bit different, and I have to say the only character I’ve dabbled with is Deeks. I am, however, guilty of having Granger appear in a prequel Miami Vice story (one set during Crockett’s first tour in Vietnam)… Sadly no one in the MV community seemed to notice.