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Perception: Flaming Vs. ConCrit - The Fandom Psychiatrist
October 9th, 2006
06:07 pm


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Perception: Flaming Vs. ConCrit
This discussion was inspired by a little spat I was witness to a few days back (and have seen variations on the theme every so often):

An author puts up a piece of fanfic and informs several communities as to its existence. I myself go and take a look; not the best I've read by far, but I've seen worse. One reader in particular offers constructive criticism, otherwise known as ConCrit. However, instead of acknowledging the advice in regards to her grammar and spelling, the author responds with a comment that boils down to "why are you being so mean to me!?"

In another, similar, instance some months ago, I myself gave some ConCrit to an author, politely pointing out errors in spelling, grammar, and canon details. The following day I discovered to my delight that I had nearly 50 emails from various archive sites alerting me to new reviews. I promptly investigated... and discovered nearly 50 flames that made rather crude and unimaginative comments and speculations about my mating habits, personal agility, and family ancestry. The culprit, who had foolishly forgotten to sign out of her account before flaming me on one of the sites, was the author I had offered ConCrit to.

So, now that I have those examples up there, I have one more point to add before the discussion question: As has been said many times, "Criticize the story, not the author." Criticizing the author is flaming, while criticizing the story is ConCrit, especially if the dispenser of said ConCrit offers advice or suggestions to improve the story. This distinction has been made many times in many different places, making it rather difficult to miss.

Therefore, the discussion question, which is probably rather obvious by now, is: what is the boundary line between flaming and ConCrit, and why is it that people mistake the latter for the former on a regular basis?

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[User Picture]
Date:October 9th, 2006 10:38 pm (UTC)
I think some people are not open to critizism, be it ConCrit or other wise. They take every form of critic personal. It's like if you are pointing out mistakes, they feel their egos attacked or something.

If I critise I usually start with pointing out the things I liked about a story, then point out things I thought could be better and usually end it on a positive note.

I think it is important, that if you want to give ConCrit, to also give positive feed back, so that people don't feel like you are totally smashing their work, which I think is were maybe the 'line' lays.

Some of it also might be connected to the way you word your critic.
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[User Picture]
Date:October 9th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC)
The difference between ConCrit and flaming is sometimes rather difficult to look at. You can make the distinction between critisizing the author and critisizing the story, but people can still receive flames about the fics themselves.

The problem is that each individual is different and so people can become insulted at varying degrees. I've seen "concrit" reviews for fics that I've personally thought have been rather nasty (but the person who left the review seemed to TRY and deliver with good intentions). Some people are snarky and agressive by nature and can drop things in reviews that can see offensive.

On the flip side, too, many authors out there are somewhat lacking in maturity and can't handle even the slightest less-than-perfect review of their work. They cling to it like it's their child and if someone comes along and leaves something that isn't dripping with praise, they lash out. The internet is full of childish people out there (in fact, I am shocked at the amount of immature people who are OLDER than me on the internet) and, unfortunately, a lot of them produce bad fanfic.
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Date:October 10th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry you got flamed. And yes, some egos are fragile on the web.

This is one very interesting question. I've been lately receiving e-mails from a reader saying he was offering me ConCrit, but kept writing lovely lines like "you are destroying canon" because I write stories about secondary characters - am I one powerful fanfic writer! :)

While I tend to agree with your distiction between ConCrit and flaming, there is, in my eyes, another obvious difference between them. Flame is one strong critical -generally without proper justification and globalizing- opinion (and it can be about the story or the writer's style).

I love receiving ConCrit. I write in English but it is not my first language. All the help I can get is welcomed. :) ConCrit is a true gift. However, I did adopt a stance towards giving it. I am a little shy to go ahead in the review and to offer ConCrit to a writer without knowing if he would care for it. If I liked the story enough, or if I liked the writer's style, I do write first to the writer telling him/her that I was touched by his/her story enough to think about it and to question a few points. I ask if he/she would like to hear about them, and to this day, all the writers were willing to hear what I had to say. I'm proud to say that I have made friends this way.

In my eyes, giving ConCrit is an art. One well crafted ConCrit review changed my way of writing.

We are on the Internet, and while it may seem anonymous and remote, we deal with real people and egos. When I am not sure that I am receiving a ConCrit or a flame, I generally ask for precisions and more details. A flamer does not answer but a ConCrit reviewer does.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but if I strongly dislike a story, I prefer to let it go and to leave it to someone else. If I don't know the writer, or I feel he is inexperienced, I will contact him/her first.

Some would say that I am mothering the writers...Perhaps. ;) The thing is, writing is one garden that needs be to nurtured, not trampled on.
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[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2006 06:55 am (UTC)
You brought up the point I was missing before, or at least didn't emphasize enough.

ConCrit means usually that you care for the story at least a little bit.
With flaming I usually associate critic without respecting the story or author.
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[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2006 05:13 am (UTC)
I asked the question about commenting on fics in my LJ a few days ago, and I came to this conclusion.
Some writers want to improve their writing and appreciate the ConCrit. Some of these people are aspiring authors and consider fan fiction as good practice and a way to get comments and advice on how to improve their writing skills.

Many writers in the fandom, though, are wanting to have cheerleaders and 'squeeing' fangirls, and do not want their mistakes pointed out. They only want to hear how wonderful their fics are and possibly 'grow' in the fandom.

Basically, it depends on the writer's intentions and what they hope to gain from writing fic - friends or genuine reviews.

I also like to make a distinction between criticism and ConCrit. ConCrit should help the author improve as a writer, while criticism is less helpful and more brash. Even the serious writer, while wanting to improve, does not want their fic ripped to shreds.
It is up to the 'critic' to word their ConCrit wisely.

As to your question about why people take ConCrit as flaming, I would say that the word 'flaming' carries more negative, emotive power and thus, is likely to give them support from their friends. Or perhaps it makes them feel that it is the reviewer who is at fault, rather than see the flaws in their work.

[It is interesting that in our fandom, people usually respond to anything that doesn't suit them with a flame. What is the point of attacking the person and not the subject? If you guys can figure that out here, I would be very interested to read it.]

Having said all that, I only offer ConCrit when I am doing a beta. I only comment if I reallylike something. Oh, and I am not a psychologist (you should have picked that up by now), but just someone who, on occassion, looks at this fandom and shakes their head in shame.
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Date:October 11th, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
I found myself nodding enthusiastically when reading your post.

Some of these people are aspiring authors and consider fan fiction as good practice and a way to get comments and advice on how to improve their writing skills.

I do agree with that. I feel that you are also right when you suggest that some writers want to make friends first, and that writing is secondary to them. I also think that there is a lot of us (and I am including myself in this group) who enjoy both - bonding over a common experience, and getting better at writing. I think that the fandom is big enough to accomodate those needs. This is why, like you, I only offer ConCrit when I know that the person is fine with it/asks to receive it (i.e. wants me to pre-beta, or ask me for my opinion). I also learned (the hard way) that asking for ConCrit at the beginning of one piece of writing is like handing out a flame-thrower to some pyromaniac readers ;). Some readers are well versed in the fandom and they will go to great lenghts to help, but some readers will also go to great lenghts to shred the writer to piece. Why?
That raises another question: who does flame?

What is the point of attacking the person and not the subject? If you guys can figure that out here, I would be very interested to read it.]

Motives for flaming really do interest me too, and I am not sure I can help a lot with this for now. However, I was thinking about how the Internet changes the communication rules between people. If one knew that writer, would he go out and say one flaming comment to his face? There is a slight chance he would, but I am pretty sure the flamer would not do it. Flaming (and I am not refering to one negative comment, but the whole destroying experience)is a way of taking power, I think, that is not unlike bullying, where the clear objective is to make the person feel bad. It is a way of assuming power over another person. It also shows a dualistic point of view (i.e. "you're wrong, I'm right" kind of philosophy that does not leave a lot of place for other interpretations). Of course, fact checking does not fall under that category. :)

Maybe I'll research that one day, but I have a hunch that some flamers are really quiet people in non-fandom life.

Thanks for making me think about this.
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[User Picture]
Date:October 12th, 2006 01:41 am (UTC)
As a general rule, I like concrit. I like getting it and if I'm in the mood and it's an author I really like and admire, I like giving it. I rarely do because I don't think it's my place (especially if the author isn't looking for concrit), but it's not something I avoid at all costs.

I think concrit crosses over into flame territory when it stops focusing on the writing and starts criticizing the content. Calling someone's portrayal of, say, Hermione 'out-of-character' risks sounding like a flame because then you're attacking the way the author reads and understands canon. Characterization isn't something we can hold up to a universal standard, so it's not something we can fairly criticize, imho. (Well, I guess we could call a stoner, stupid Hermione occ, but really, what would be the point of commenting on that anyway?)

Concrit that focuses on the actual writing, like the (mis)use of grammar, dialogue, italics, adjectives, etc., though, I think is perfectly acceptable, if it's worded politely and respectfully.
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