Thursday, January 3, 2008


Well, I wrote about the good one, so I suppose I should write about the not-so-good ones.

"Spirit of Vengeance" has gone up on Fictionwise. They have a thing where people can rate your story as "Great," "Good," "OK" or "Poor," and it shows as a bar-graph thing on the story's page. As of right now, SOV has a Great, a Good, and two Poors. :P

Now, I'm like anyone else and I like having people like my stuff. But I'm realistic enough to know that not everyone will, and that's fine. But what's really frustrating me about those two "Poor" ratings is that I have no way of knowing why those readers disliked the story.

Did they think it was poorly written? Dislike my writing style? Dislike the characters? Did the plotline not grab them, or did they not buy the way the conflict resolved? If it's something like this, then that's a generally applicable "Poor" and I'd love to talk about it, or at least get a few specific comments, you know? Because you can't fix anything in the future without some data to go by.

On the other hand, it's quite possible that it just wasn't the sort of story those readers were looking for. It's categorized as Erotica/Romance, and it's quite possible that readers just assumed that it'd have a happy-fluffy ending where everything's fixed and the two main characters share a passionate kiss before going on with their lives.

That's not what happens in this story, though. It's a ghost story -- one of the main characters is dead at the beginning and that never changes. The ending is hopeful, I think, in that we know Josh and Kevin will be together eventually, but "eventually" isn't "now." I had a number of early readers tell me they ended up in tears after reading this, and that's pretty much what I'd hoped for.

It's more like the movie "Ghost" than it's like, well, any romance where both parties are alive. [wry smile]

Just looking at the ratings, though, I have no idea what the specific objections of those two readers might have been. If they simply didn't like the ending, well, it's just that kind of story and the fact that it didn't meet their expectations doesn't mean it's a bad story, or badly written. I knew going in that not everyone was going to enjoy a story with a sorta-sad-for-now kind of ending. But if they have some other problem with it, I'd love to hear what it is. In detail. :) But I don't even know who they are and I can't ask and.... [headdesk]

I've never really given much thought before to these kinds of reader rating systems, where there's basically a thumbs up or down, or a number of stars, or whatever. Because the only question being asked is, Did you like it? There are a lot of possible reasons behind the answer, and without knowing those reasons, the answer by itself isn't all that useful. It's like, when I read reviews of computer games, sometimes I trot right out and buy a game a reviewer rated poorly, because reading the actual review tells me that what they didn't like about it -- the fact that combat was too simple and easy -- is something I would like about it. (I'm not into twitch games, the kind where you need the reflexes of a twelve-year-old hyped on Mountain Dew, and a five-page fold-out chart to figure out how to punch or kick a monster. :P ) To most reviewers, harder is better, but I don't want to work that hard when I'm playing, so what they dislike about a game might be what makes me want to play it; that's why I read detailed game reviews rather than just looking at the final rating.

And it might be the same with the Fictionwise ratings. Or it might not. But I don't know, and that's really frustrating. [sigh] I really wish I could know exactly why those two people disliked "Spirit of Vengeance." Or heck, why the other two liked it for that matter. I think this is the start of a love-hate relationship with story ratings. :P



Charles Gramlich said...

I've got some stuff up on Fictionwise as well and I've felt the same way about the ratings. At least on Amazon or Barnes & Noble the reviewer can comment. I wish they'd do that at Fictionwise. I hate to get negative comments too, but they can be very helpful.

Angie said...

Charles -- exactly. [nod] Negative comments can be very useful. Even if the commenter just wasn't the right audience, or if they misunderstood something and whatever they're suggesting is way off base, just the fact that they did misunderstand is good data in and of itself. But a bad rating without a commentary is like getting a rock through your window with no note attached -- hostile but without any explanation. :/


Travis Erwin said...

Chalk it up to ... You can't please everyone.

Angie said...

Travis -- Oh, true, I know that. [nod] It's not so much the fact that someone didn't like my story that bothers me, in and of itself. (I wouldn't want to please everyone -- you end up with the McDonalds of literature, or something like that. [wry smile]) What's frustrating is that I don't know why they didn't like it. I want more info. :P


Bernita said...

Very frustrating.
We want the "whys" for both the good and the bad.

Angie said...

Bernita -- that's it, exactly. [nod] I want actual feedback, with data I can examine and make use of, not just a thumbs-up or -down. :/


Ello - Ellen Oh said...

People's tastes are so subjective that I think it is absolutely normal to get a wide range of different feedback. Even the greatest author in the world has his detractors. And if the only feedback you will get is "I just didn't like it," is it really worth knowing? It's one thing to get negative comments that have constructive feedback, but in my experience people who give the worst ratings usually do so because they just plain didn't like it. And that's usually fine with me because often times I realize I don't like anything they like either.

Angie said...

Ello -- I suppose. [ponder] I guess I'm just assuming everyone's like me, and I can't imagine being incapable of articulating why I don't like something. But then, I tend to pick things to death, dissecting and sorting and analyzing past the stage where most people would've wandered off, so... there you go. It's just frustrating, because it seems natural to me that there must be a reason, and I want to know what it is. :P