Why I Don't Read Your Stories

I take a look back at my earlier short essay, which was a rambling attack on the marvelously crappy summaries that I encounter whilst I peruse through this "admittedly wonderful site," and even though the sense of humor on display doesn't hold up as well to the tests of time as I would have liked ("Gay midgets?" "Cleft pallets?" How old was I???), my complaints remain as true now as they did then. What follows then is a simple, logical explanation for the near-homicidal rage I often feel during my stay at this site. Thus, I humbly offer a much more mature follow-up, dictating exactly why it is that I, an admitted nobody and therefore someone you should pay no attention to whatsoever, want nothing to do with your story.

But first, a little about me. I only tend to hang out in two categories: manga and fantasy, although I will occasionally branch out. So right away you should know that I most of all understand why it is that you people write the stories that you do: wish-fulfillment. I mean, for Christ's sake, here's the summary for my primary story: "At a training facility for genetically engineered teenage soldiers, a cadet with the lowest performance rating is assigned to a team composed of the most elite students - who happen to all be girls. A pure geek fantasy." So if you want to flame me for that, go ahead. Lord knows I deserve it.

Anyway, this is convenient because it leads me to the number one reason why I don't read/review your stories:

You don't seem to realize that your plot has been done before, and done better.

I firmly believe that any plot can work. I also believe the same plot can work, over and over again. However, for it to be a real good story, you're pretty much stuck with two choices: do something new and unexpected, or don't. But should you choose the latter, at least, for the love of all that is good and holy, let your audience know that you realize how derivative your plot is! I mean, Jesus Christ! I read some of your summaries, and they're so insipid and childish that I become convinced the world would be a better place if you had not been born! (No offense.) I only wish I could put some of them up here so that we could all share in your suckiness, but no – that would be too cruel.

So, from the level of craftsmanship you're presenting, I think we can both agree that the first option is pretty much out. Judging by your plot, I think it's unlikely you'll be doing something original anytime soon. That leaves the second option – just suck it up, and let us know that you don't have an original thought in your empty little head, but try to guarantee us that you at least know it. In fact, you could even make it part of the fun. The best thing you need to do is know your goddamned limits. You're here to (try to) tell us an entertaining story.

But please don't write like you think anyone's going to become emotionally invested in whether or not your spunky heroine is going to get the guy or your brooding hero won't defeat the bad guy. Here's a quick hint – we know she will. We know he will. We get it. We knew the moment we read your summary. You're not going to surprise us. Ever. Give your audience some credit, and if you're going to play dumb, at least try to be intelligent about it. That means show it in your summary. The summary is a microcosm for both the plot and style, and since your plot is the kind of thing a three-year-old could imagine, you'd better have damned good style.

And speaking of style…

Your overly-cute summary makes me want to shoot puppies. No – really. I'm fucking serious.

Here's a summary that I had the unfortunate luck to run across some years ago, significantly altered to protect the offending writer from realizing that, yes, I actually am talking about her. Still, the point remains valid:

Summary: Life is complicated when you have crazy classmates claiming they love you, just as a hot guy moves in down the street. Meanwhile, the vocalist of a local band offers you a chance to be the lead guitarist! How could things get any worse?

I remember sitting there, lo those many years ago, and thinking to myself, is that a question? Is she really asking me how things could get worse? Well, okay – I'm game. Let's see…just off the top of my head, 1) there could not be a hot guy moving in down the street. Instead, let's say he's a fairly nondescript man, or – even better! – he's an emotionally/physically unappealing creep that repulses her. 2) The vocalist of a local band hears her sing, and tells her point-blank that her singing sucks, and he's heard better music from a litter of newborn kittens he doused in gasoline and set on fire. He continues to inform her that her dreams of being famous and onstage and all the glamour and glitter will never come to pass. If she's lucky, she's get a nondescript desk job, gain weight, and spend the rest of her life gazing longingly at those wretched celebrity magazines in the aisle of the supermarket and imagining what might have been. Last but not least, of course, there's always 3) She dies. She dies slowly and painfully, alone, at a tragically young age, and is forgotten. That's certainly much worse.

About the whole questions-in-your-summaries thing: Don't do that. Please. "Will they kill each other, or learn to live with each other?" "How long can it last?" "Is it worth the risk?" "Could it be forbidden?" Etc, etc. The answer to your questions, respectively, are as follows: They'll learn to live with each other, it'll last forever, yes, and yes. See, without even reading a single word of your story, I know the answers.

But as much as I personally loathe you and everything you stand for, you're a far sight better than those worthless assholes you who use a piece of dialogue from their story for the summary, then sit back, content in their job well done. If it's angsty, I already want to kill you just on principle. But God help you if it's a piece of clever dialogue that illustrates just how knee-slappingly hilarious your story is. For Heaven's sake, that's it? That's how funny your story is? A punch line? If the whole of your story's humor can be found in that one line, then I might as well go watch an episode of Family Guy. I'm not being a smartass here. I like Family Guy. But you'll notice that you don't see a lot of professionally written stories out there with that kind of humor, and that's become Family Guy does not lend itself well to the written word.

See, a summary should be clear, concise, and professional. Don't be cute. I don't have the patience for cute. You've got about five seconds to intrigue me (on a good day), before I move on to the next piece of shit. If it's angsty, then hey, what the holy hell is that there at the bottom?! Why, it's a little category option! Your story is angst, so it falls under the category of "drama!" Is your story funny?! Hey, they've got something for you, too. "Humor!" You don't need a dramatic or funny quote in your summary. And, for you real high-minded authors out there who feel that your story is so genre-defying that it can't fall neatly under just one category, have I got news for you – you can actually choose two categories! That way, I actually know before reading your summary that it's a drama! Or a comedy! Or – and God help us if this is true – a manga!

Oh, wait. Shit.

I see the kind of reviews your story gets.

"But wait!" you say. "Isn't the purpose of this site to provide an avenue for inspiring writers to receive feedback to assist in furthering their skill?" And I say, is it? Or is it a way for people to come together in their little clans and giggle and gush over their stories, a disturbingly large number of which seem to involve brooding, not-quite-as-evil-as-everyone-thinks princes/half-vampires/demons who manage to fall for spunky, headstrong girls whom they have captured or enslaved or – my personal favorite – become betrothed to (and always against her will)? These critics always tend to leave reviews that say, essentially, "omg wouldn't it be, like, totally awesome if this really happened? Brooding male love interest is sooo hawt! The way he shows his growing attraction in his own brooding, not-quite-as-evil-as-everyone-thinks way was so kewl!"

Is that it? Is that the type of criticism your stories invite? That was two goddamned lines! I actually felt my intelligence go down when I read that! The honest truth is that around here you tend to attract writers with a similar mindset as yours; that is, they like the same thing you do. So, by reading those god-awful, airheaded reviews, I can conclude with a reasonable amount of certainty that your story is, in fact, god-awful and airheaded. That's why I included the summary for my masterwork (I use the term ironically) way up there at the top: hell, it's a harem manga. For those of you who don't know what that is, let me spoil it for you: all the girls are going to fall in love with the hero. I mean, for Christ's sake, it doesn't get more wish-fulfillment than that! But there's nothing wrong with wish-fulfillment. Still, if there's no meat there, and all you've got are a string of chapters where he does Something Cute and she displays her Heretofore-Untapped Resilience, then God help us all. Put down those romance novels and go read some fucking Dickens. Jesus Christ.

Your story is ridiculously short, but is generously spaced out over many, many chapters.

Be honest with me – what in holy hell is wrong with you? You want to know why I'm not reading your story? Because you have the attention span of retard. I'm not saying you are a retard, but you certainly do suck. (I'm not sure how exactly that logically follows from my "attention span of a retard" statement, but hell – I stand by it anyway.)

See, here's what it is you're thinking when you write those ass-short chapters. Don't deny it, because I'll know you're lying. We all will. See, you're so desperate for reviews that you write what amounts to less than a single page in Microsoft Word, then rush to get it uploaded to this website. Then your legions of immature friends will write legions of immature reviews, your reviews count goes up, and you feel good about yourself. How precious for you.

Here's the thing though. If your characters are going to have any sort of depth, then you'll need a bit more space to work with. If the characters are complex, then even the tiniest plot can inspire several pages of brilliant insight. The fact that your story doesn't inspire several pages means your characters are terrible, and you should feel very, very bad. The alternative is that they are nice and complex, but your plot goes nowhere. You should therefore also feel very, very bad. So you can see that the fact you even have a short story with lots of chapters means you should feel very, very bad. Not suicidal, of course, but I wouldn't necessarily rule it out.

You have the nerve – the nerve! – to tell me that your full summary is either in your profile or inside the actual story.

I'm going to let you in a little secret: part of the thrill of reading is not being told what's going to happen. There's a reason the summary option is so limited: you're the kind of asshole who's so proud of his back-story that he desperately wants to tell it now. Hey, schmuck, the back-story doesn't matter. It adds flavor to the plot, justifies the plot – but it isn't the plot. It's the fucking back-story! Some of those summaries out there are eight or ten goddamned paragraphs long!

Honestly, who the fuck cares?! Does your back-story change anything? Your characters are still going to do the same damned thing that thousands of other characters have done. YOU'RE NOT UNIQUE. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you're going to care less about the dorky little fictional seven-generation elf lineage that you worked out all by yourself, and deal with the actual people that populate your story. Your back-story won't make your story more interesting. Your characters will. If it becomes necessary to understand your hero, then, and only then, can you regale me with the story of his forefather Gorlack Greenleaf the Kickass (by the way, if any of your elves have the last name of Greenleaf or Silverleaf or Silverarrow or anything like that, you're beyond help and should give up writing altogether) and his seven sons and seven daughters, or whatever.

Oh yeah, that reminds me:

Your human characters have goofy names.

I guarantee that means I'll hate them, and by extension, you.

This one is tricky to explain, but that doesn't mean my violent, visceral vitriol (tee hee) is any less. Since I deal mostly with fantasy and manga, it's pretty much a given I'm going to encounter goofy names. It's expected. I do expect it. Honestly. But can someone tell me why it is that the heroine and/or female love interest always has a name that starts or ends with the letter "a"? And you guys, why is your hero always named something like Nighteye Ravenclaw or Raveneye Nightclaw or Clawnight Eyeraven? I recognize that part of the fun of fantasy is to come up with the names, and you might expect that, to readers, a good name should intuit something about the character. But what you fail to understand is that it goes both ways. If your characters were full, three-dimensional people (that is – not like they are now), then the strength of their character will also imprint on their names. It won't be like, "Hey, the name Clawnight Eyeraven makes me think of a brooding prince I read about in a story," it'll be "Hey, the name of this brooding prince makes me think of Clawnight Eyeraven I read about in a story." See the difference? No? Well, trust me - that's the mark of a good character.

You tell me your summary sucks, but your story's good.

Well guess what, asshole, your story sucks too.

You trumpet the fact that your story contains "random humor."

Without knowing a thing about you personally, I can tell that you're absolutely worthless to society. I'm sure you have a core group of friends you've known for years, and you've developed and refined a very specific sense of humor that just cracks the whole lot of you up. I've got one, too. But see, this sense of humor is not shared by anyone else, and to the rest of us, seeing a bunch of non sequiters in a story makes us think you're some kind of inbred retard. I'll bet you just love Family Guy, don't you? To you, it's the pinnacle of comedy.

Well, you can eat my shit. See, children, once you get your big-boy hair, you'll understand that your attempts at random humor aren't funny. They're pretty damned stupid. "But wait!" you say triumphantly, "you said you liked Family Guy!" Well, I enjoy it. But it will never compare to the first 7 seasons of The Simpsons. Watch a third- or fourth-season episode of that cartoon and compare it to a third- or fourth-season episode of Family Guy. If you still think Family Guy's better, then you'll never be a real writer. Ever. Ever ever ever. I'm sorry.

(Not really.)

Your chapters start with song lyrics.

God, you make me sick to my stomach. Having to rely on song lyrics to set the tone for your chapter is just proof that you suck so thoroughly that you're incapable of doing it yourself. That shit-tacular music that inspires such brief swells of emotion in your empty little brain does not belong in writing. That's the whole point of writing – you have as much time as you choose to carefully craft an emotional arc for your characters. Those talent-deprived assholes you listen to? They're providing you with the emotional equivalent of a sound bite. Plus I guarantee you they suck.

You want to know what doesn't suck? Classical music. Jazz. Anything without lyrics (with the possible exception of musicals). See, they have the ability to inspire swells of emotion too, only without words to spell it out for you. I can understand why you don't like it. Without the words, how can anyone hold your hand and tell you what you're supposed to be feeling? You'll have to do it yourself! Oh no!

You include a "Book the 1st" or "Part I" or anything like that in your title.

Odds are you won't even finish your first story, so what the hell's the point of telling us it's part of a series? And to you precious few who actually do finish their Book the 1st, let me ask you a question: Is it really necessary to add a separate entry for Book the 2nd? Does that somehow make you think you've really been published? That you've got a genuine series going? Well, take it from me – you don't. In fact, I take a look at the size of your first story, well under 100,000 words long, and it occurs to me that you could just as easily combine your two stories into one.

And I'm not just saying that because it means less shit for me to wade through. Not at all. I'm doing this for your sake. See, while I personally can't ever imagine reading your work, let's say hypothetically I did. Let's go one step further, and pretend that I finished it and actually wanted to see what happens next. Well, it could take a good half a minute to find Part II. Let's see – first I'll have to click on the link to your homepage at the top, then scroll all the way down to your list of stories, then I'll have to read all the entries 'til I find the one I'm looking for, and then – as if I haven't already suffered enough – I'll have to click on that link too! And all the time I'm thinking, is it really worth all this effort?

I think that's about it for now. God, was that therapeutic. I suddenly feel at ease. More will come as it occurs to me, and if any of you have anything that pisses you off, drop me a line in the review. If it also pisses me off sufficiently, I'll add it to the story (with proper acknowledgement).