You can never please everybody! An attempt to encourage discussion!!

Ever look at your story stats and notice certain points in the story where readers suddenly drop off? I don't mean the casual curve in decreasing hits as the story goes on, but downward dives of decimation!

I've noticed a couple. I can only hazard guesses as to why, but it amuses me to do so.

The first is when it appears I'm not writing straight fantasy, but a high-school serial.

The second is when it's clear I'm not writing a high-school serial.

Who else has noticed potential patterns in their serials? Do you have any ideas as to what might have put people off? Does it bother you? Do you contemplate changing your story to please the readers, rather than lose more? Or do you stick to your guns and tell the story you wanted to tell, and to hell with the readers?

If it's a case of JUST the story, then no, I don't think the writer should change direction.

But I do suggest the writer think carefully about how the story has been painted, and whether they can make it clear from the beginning what the story is.

If readers are that annoyed by the revelations, then it might be time to take a long, hard look at the writing. Disappointed readers are unlikely to come back.

What has happened to drive readers away? You say it happens when it's clear you are "not writing straight fantasy" and "not writing a high-school serial".

How have you marketed this story, that those revelations are a surprise to the reader?

Genre should never be a surprise. Twists, yes, but don't expect readers to hang around if they are expecting one thing, and you give them something else.



Yeah, screw genre. ;-)

Write the story *you* want to tell, and no other. Make it the best you can make it. Don't go blindly changing things to satisfy some anonymous reader: first of all, you'll likely fail to guess right what you should change to satisfy them, and more to the point, if your readers wanted you to tell them the story *they* expected to hear, they wouldn't need you at all.

All I can say is continue to work on your skill as a storyteller, and accept that every piece you ever write is going to fail in some way. Developing skill as a writer is a life's work -- that means that, if you are doing it right, what you write now won't be as good as what you write a few years from now. And that's okay.


What has happened to drive readers away? You say it happens when it's clear you are "not writing straight fantasy" and "not writing a high-school serial".

How have you marketed this story, that those revelations are a surprise to the reader?

Wry British self-depreciation for the most part. A bit like the original post XD

To answer my own questions: I don't really care whether they read it or not. I'm writing the sort of story I'd want to read and have no plans to change things in order to garner reader approval. If they abandon because it's "not what they expected", that's their choice.

I actually find it humorous when they expect something they won't get. I've had comments from people regarding initial chapters and their interest in reading further, knowing full well that they're expecting something utterly different to what I've written (usually they expect it to be child-friendly and a happy, Disney-esque tale, which could very well be another reason for the first drop-out point - it's around the same time the story features a suicide attempt, a nightclub and mid-teens discussing/using drugs XD).

It's all a good laugh. You shouldn't take this shit seriously!

Surely someone's had a sudden exodus because a chapter introduced a talking goldfish cursed to speak in haiku?!

Surely someone's had a sudden exodus because a chapter introduced a talking goldfish cursed to speak in haiku?!

Can't say I have, but I totally need to include a talking goldfish in my story somehow now.

Surely someone's had a sudden exodus because a chapter introduced a talking goldfish cursed to speak in haiku?!

They LEFT when you did this? That sounds brilliant!

"Surely someone's had a sudden exodus because a chapter introduced a talking goldfish cursed to speak in haiku?!"

My idea now!

Also, I'm with Chris. The only stories that you are going to be able to competently tell are the ones which interest and entrance you. Pandering rarely pleases any audience, even if they ask for it. Although the danger is you might end up shouting at an empty theatre... well, just as well, empty theatres need sounds to fill them.

As for genre, that's a bit tricky. Genres are after all a simple invention of booksellers to let staff know which shelves to put things on- and there's quite a lot of confusion these days about the lines drawn between genre areas. For instance, if you have a Noir thriller set in a dystopian fantasy land with spaceships and cyborgs, you are... what, exactly? Free from conventional publisher's restrictions, one of the best things web-fiction should be able to do is market itself outside of such strict borders.

I hate genre definitions. I've never been able to place a single thing I've worked on into a comfortable genre. Of course, just having a single fantastical element will get it branded as FANTASY, which in turn means either LORD OF THE RINGS or HARRY POTTER.

But, as I've said, I do LOVE assumptions, and playing on them. I'm going to have a serpentine villain. I expect Harry Potter comparisons, even though the serpent=evil idea has existed for thousands of years. It's like how Star Wars OBVIOUSLY invented the Evil Father. Jung? Archetypes? Mythology? WHAT ARE THESE STRANGE IDEAS? Characters that 'transform' into more powerful/demonic forms? That's well a comicbook thing. No basis in mythology AT ALL! Cu Chulainn who? Next you'll be telling me Lord of the Rings ISN'T an a original story and Tolkien DIDN'T create elves, orcs and dwarves!

...Sorry, I've had to put up with all sorts of hilarious FACTS like those over the years. FROM LECTURERS TOO! "What do you mean he got his ideas from the Norse? There wasn't a magic ring in Norse mythology!" indeed...

BTW, if anyone is wondering, the goldfish wasn't just random, but a character in a sitcom I wrote some 10 years ago about a cross-dressing detective (the goldfish was his mentor). Seriously.

"Surely someone's had a sudden exodus because a chapter introduced a talking goldfish cursed to speak in haiku?!"

He was cursed into speaking Haiku??? What bullshit, I'm leaving!!


Don't know about talking goldfish, but we sure ran into a storm of freek-out over our "boinking dolphins chapter". Like women don't have sex with dolphins all the time. Or it's not like consensual sex between adult beings with large brains.

That would be here:

Those dolphins and Curtsy will be back this month, by the way.

The curse thing never came up.

"Write the story *you* want to tell, and no other."

I agree. And also: write the story *you* would want to read. :)

That's what I'm trying to and it's not as easy as it sounds...

Can't please everyone indeed. I teach high school for my day job, and some of my students' parents stumbled upon my site, completely misread everything, and called the Board of Education because they thought I was trying to push Satanism on their kids.

I can't even describe how upset I am. For one thing, I'm worried about my job and I had the most awful conversation with my principal today, who was really quite supportive and said that since it really didn't have anything to do with my teaching, she didn't think it was that big of a deal. But she told me I should be careful not to tell kids about the webstie. And the whole thing felt absurdly like I was being scolded. For another thing, I just feel so stupid and embarrassed. I had a bio up on the site which loudly proclaimed the fact that I wasn't a Christian, and I wish I had realized, even just from a marketing perspective, that that was a stupid move. Finally, I think it just hurts because there's an implication that I am somehow out to manipulate or harm my students, and I really just don't like that. I truly care about my students, and I want them to be successful. I certainly don't want to ever try to coerce them into believing what I believe. One of the reasons I'm not a Christian is because I dislike proselytizing.

Anyway, I'm sorry to just dump this here. I've been afraid to mention it anywhere on the internet for fear of further discovery by these parents, but I hope this forum is a relatively safe place to do so. It probably isn't, and I'm being stupid for saying anything about it.

But pleasing people and offending people are things that writers have to deal with. Offending people is kind of a good thing if you're making art. It's good to shake people up. I mean, emotional responses to ideas are what connect us to them in the first place.

Anyway, back on track. I've never changed a story to please anyone, but I did rewrite my bio and put up a note that the story in no way endorsed the occult. :P

Hi VJ,

I'm sorry to hear that. :-( It's odd that people would take fiction so seriously, but I guess it's not the first time. Good luck with things -- hopefully it will all blow over. Please keep us informed.


@vjchambers - I am also sorry to read about the way you have been treated.

Some people who lack imagination and creativity seem to have a problem with other people expressing their own.

I hope everything works out well for you.

Why'd you have to put a note explaining you didn't 'endorse the occult'? Would you put up a note saying you 'didn't endorse Christianity'? Unless you count noting your non-Christian-ness in your bio as that...and why do you regret that? It's not a 'stupid move' at all!

Let them say what they want about your work. What can they do about it? If your principle understands and your job isn't at risk then what have you got to worry about? If they continue to harass you just threaten them with legal action or something. Unless they have solid evidence you're an EVIL SATANIST trying to CORRUPT CHILDREN they don't have much to stand on.

Of course you can always corner them with a reasoned argument on topics such as free will. Or something like "if you have any confidence in your faith whatsoever, why would you even feel threatened by me?". You're not the one with issues here, so you shouldn't be the one making concessions. Doing that only gives them power and helps convince them that they were right!

Of course this is all coming from an infamously irresponsible bloke who would make a terrible teacher XD

VJ, a quick note from someone who went to law school in a previous life - if things get bad, spend the money on a lawyer. The school board will hesitate to act if they're convinced it'll be a big, messy, very public lawsuit. You've got every right to write any kind of book you like, and that's a statement backed up by the first amendment and the strong tradition of academic independence in American education.

Best of luck, it'll be OK :)

Thanks everyone. I felt the need to restate the bio and put the note in because it is a young adult book--though it's aimed for older teenagers. I don't think the book deals with any topics the kids don't see on TV shows aimed at teenagers or a large portion of YA books that are on the market today. However, when you're dealing with minors, you can't be too careful.

I really appreciate your comments. :)

That's awful, VJ I hope you can work it out.

I agree whole-heartedly with DevinO's comment. Sometimes just a letter from a lawyer can work wonders and it's pretty cheap to just get a letter sent.

I would take an aggressive posture, myself. Not asking them to lay off but communicating the idea that you are going to sue their ass off.

And not just you... your teacher's union should be in on this. Not to mention the ACLU if you live in the United States. If not, perhaps your country has similar rights watchdog groups.

As a journalist in a former life, I would also suggest that you play that card. It can actually be more effective. Talk to some reporters about what is happening to you. The bigger their paper, the better. They LOVE to rake this sort of muck and defend writers (which they wish they were or are hoping to become)

Good luck

Man, that sucks, VJ. Another thing we'd suggest is to contact the National Writers Union. See what they suggest. They are tough to defend members and could probably give you some tips on this.

Good idea would be to start documenting the whole thing. Put it on a blog or website, step by step. Project "I am SOOOO going to sue these people". Definitely try to get some ink for it.

Of course, legal advice would be good on any such steps. Our advice always turns out to be illegal.

Seriously, there are people who stick up for writers. ABSOLUTELY call the ACLU. They get all wet just thinking about taking on Christian persecution.