Sometimes, I wish I could turn off the comments.

I posted a romantic thriller trilogy in 2009. A few months later, I got an idea for the same characters, so I decided to write a sequel trilogy of three more books. Since there's a strong romantic element, I'd put my two lead characters into a happily ever situation at the end of the first trilogy. Obviously, to keep the tension high in the sequels, I couldn't keep them that way.

So I split them up.

I'm currently posting the chapters of the latest book (the first in the sequel trilogy.) After every chapter I post, I am inundated with comments begging me to put the two leads back together (which is probably the plan, but not until the end of the series). At first, I was able to see the comments as a sign that what I'd done to keep the tension ramped was working. Now, they're really starting to bug me.

I know it would be a bad idea to go off on my readers. I need them. I love them. I'm so pleased they're still reading. (If they really hated it, I suppose they'd just stop reading the book, right?) So, instead, I came here.

There's a quote from Joss Whedon: "What people want is not what they need. In narrative, nobody wants to see fat, married Romeo and Juliet, even if fat, married Romeo and Juliet happen to be Nick and Nora Charles and they're really cool and having a great time in their lovely relationship and really care about each other and have nice, well-adjusted children. Guess what? People don't want to see it."

I agree with him, but gosh it's hard to want to keep writing for people who just whine constantly about your story. What do you think? Do readers know what they want?

If there's one thing I've learned from writing and game design, it's to never listen to the whiners. There's a good reason why negative feedback in comments and other easily-used vectors can begin to outweigh positive feedback: people who are happy with the story don't complain. Oftentimes they'll rarely speak up at all. At the end of the day, you have to write the story you want to write, and you simply can't please everyone. Losing readers shouldn't even be a concern; it's unlikely anything you did would please them into silence.

On the other hand, if you feel like you've written yourself in a corner, you may think you have nowhere to go. Not so. If there's one thing I've learned from watching Scrubs, it's that characters can hook up and break up and hook up again as many times as you want, with or without acrimony/tension. Even stable relationships can be interesting and full of conflict. The best example of this, I think, is actually from a Whedon piece -- Firefly's Zoe and Wash. They are simply great to watch and provide lots of pathos. Until Whedon mucked it all up in the film, of course, but we'll choose to ignore that little error of judgement.

In short, don't let other people ruin your story for you. If you're creating something you believe in, that's all you truly need, and damn the naysayers.



Actually, I'd prefer the whiners to drive-by raters, especially when the rating is poor. It's like someone posting "this is crap" in your comments section and failing to elaborate.


If you're referring to Jason and Azazel, your audience is practically built around the romance they had from Breathless. This is much like 'fairy tale romance', where the hero and heroine are 'destined' to be together, and your audience really wants that.

But they don't really.

Their separation is what keeps them reading; they -want- to know whether Jason and Azazel get back together. If you gave it to them now, it'd kill the suspense. Unfortunately, your readers have a typical teenage way of relaying their anticipation by posting their dislike for Azazel's new boyfriend, or typing in all caps about their discontent with them being apart.

Don't get too pissed off; they really do like your stuff.

Sayer, it's been scientifically proven that nobody pays attention to contextless online ratings. Neither should you.



Thanks. I've been feeling better since I posted. :)

I'm still kind of curious as to what other authors think about the idea that readers do not know what they want in an ongoing series. Or to put it another way, that readers want something to happen in a story that would effectively end the story. Is that true? It's not true for me, but I approach story so much differently now that I've been writing for so long.

I think of it in terms of delicious candy; you want the candy now, but the longer I make you wait for it, the more delicious it tastes.

I think of it in terms on TV shows. A lot of shows are built on the will they/won't they tension. And the audience wants to see them get together. And almost invariably, once the couple does get together, the show is almost always doomed. It usually marks the beginning of the end - I think there's a whole category on Jump the Shark dedicated to the two leads actually getting together.

That's a good problem to have. It beats being inundated with silence any day.

Don't lose heart, noodles. I've been running STREET for four years now, I even sell a fair few books, but the only thing I have to show for that relative success are traffic stats and sales figures. Pretty much no reader feedback at all except the occasional review here and there. My site doesn't even have support for comments, but if it did, I doubt it would attract many. My readership just isn't the commenting kind. STREET's Facebook page stays virtually dead of feedback.

Now, keep in mind that it took more than 12 months of solid updating before I started getting the slightest bit of attention. I posted a full novel like clockwork but in the entire first year I got less than 25,000 pageviews. By web traffic standards, that's beyond wretched. But things grow, people learn, and we get better at what we do.

Sci-fi is a lot less popular than fantasy these days, but regardless of genre, the simple fact is that unless you are a great self-marketer the only things that will help you are skill and perseverance. Not every work is a smash hit right out of the gate, but I for one would be happy with 'cult classic' status. There are always more stories to write, and all the chances and opportunities they bring with them.



I think it's worth noting that different kinds of stories can inspire different amounts of feedback. My sociological SF, which brought up social issues, got a lot more comment activity than my straight SF adventure. People read some kinds of stories and say, "Well, there's not much to say to that except 'wow, cool' or 'I wonder what happens next.'" But other kinds of stories inspire them to say, "Hey, I don't agree with that!" or "That makes me uncomfortable," or "Is that even possible?" and then they discuss.

I'm fine with the relatively low comment volume on my current serial. My next is designed on purpose to require user interaction. We'll see how that goes. :)

I've had similar experiences to M.C.A. Hogarth.

My superhero serial ranges in genre from action to urban fantasy to science fiction. I get more comments under a variety of different circumstances including:

1. Times when the worldbuilding becomes obvious. The existence of superpowered people would change laws, culture, etc...

2. When tension is building.

3. Character relationship issues.

Oddly enough I think I get less on things that are more or less action scenes.

I also get less when the update doesn't solve the most recent big tension. I think that's because people are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Unfortunately, I end up wondering what I'm doing wrong anyway because I also get less comments when the update isn't quite right in some way.

I've gotten comments about the readers not liking certain characters, but I'm okay with that, mostly because that's not all anybody says.

Thanks for the happy thoughts, Ryan! I'm not losing heart, I just happen to find the "problem" of "too many comments" to be impossibly exotic! Like having "too much money"!

I think it's like Ryan said, noodles. It takes a while for the audience to show themselves.

I didn't get much reader feedback until I switched to wordpress. The blog format encourages comments more than my link to the forum I used to have.

Personally, I'm wishing more of my comments were made by MCAHogarth's audience, because apparently, they're much more articulate than mine. I'd love a, "This makes me uncomfortable" as opposed to "wy u mks jsn n azl aprt? zat is dum."

Guess I should start writing for adults instead of teenage girls, though, right?

Much like Ryan for me in terms of comments on the site. KAT AND MOUSE is going on two years. I'm not innudated with comments. A few here and there, and mostly to say they're enjoying the read. If they're enjoying, then I'm doing my job.