Looking back, I don’t exactly have much of a right to be a smartass about Benny with how he handles criticism. Development aside, the first time I had gotten any sort of peer review for the fics I had been writing, I was dead certain it would be glowing.
Not that the amount of effort I had put into it was any different. The lack of criticism was enough of an opiate.
The first story I had written was DOA. Not a peep of feedback from the masses, even after I tried posting it again, against all etiquette. By that time I had just written it off as falling through the cracks, which is basically another way to say it was “misunderstood genius”, and when a few wordless hits had made themselves known, that was all the reinforcement I needed.
Not quite “shipwrecked men turning to seawater” material, but the mental reaching I resorted to in an effort to cure this artistic thirst was still there.
The first comment I got on the next story hit me like a hammer through a mirror.
Needless to say, the story in question hasn’t aged well. The fact that it was named after a song, Best Forgotten, should have been a big enough hint the first time I tried to reread it. The fic itself was basically a giant middle finger to a supposedly sympathetic villain. He’d killed a few main characters’ parents, but the writers thought it was okay cause his daddy didn’t love him enough.
Also, they needed to contrive a reason to keep the heroes’ hands clean, so they have the bigger bad swoop in and take him out. Even had the gall to have one of them give a dramatic “NOOOO” at the prick’s demise!
Man, that story was useless. It didn’t even work out all the bile.
Point is, my first reviewer took exception to a number of things.
“First problem is not only do none of these character voices feel on-point, but you’ve made them all sound like the same person.”
It was me. I made them all sound like me because the advice “write what you know” gets abused just as incessantly as the character name “Rose”.
“Secondly, you’ve thrown everything that made Robbykins”
Sigh… I may have been too harsh on the bastard, but names like that never help one’s case.
“a likeable character out the window. Nothing on his tragic past, why he does what he does, or even a hint at his good side.”
It was around this point that I’d shrugged it off. Clearly whoever this ‘HemlockBanana’ person was, they were just a blind apologist. Probably the type of person who’d grow up to marry a mass murderer from his cell. Not an ounce of objective critique in this, I thought as I flung the dissent away!
But that kind of deflection only works for so long. Day after day, the comments, and the type of person I imagined who made them, slowly crept their way into my fragile ego. I had crafted a nemesis out of someone who had the gall to criticize my labour of hate.
The fact that she was the only one besides myself to even have an opinion on this, let alone express it, was certainly lost on my self-involved ass.
So rather than do what Benny would have done and stew in it, I eventually snapped after a matter of weeks and pounded out an untimely-as-hell ‘rebuttal’ to the only other person willing to give my story the time of day.
“You had me at ‘Robbykins.’”
I had her dismissed at ‘Robbykins’, but who’s counting?
“What seems to elude your addled mind is that Rob Anderson is a murderer. End of story.”
Certainly the end of an abridged story.
“The fact that two of the heroes have lost family to him, along with countless others, isn’t mitigated by his dime-a-dozen daddy issues.”
It was around this point that the media I was consuming was so dense with that character trope, I was convinced that certain authors were handed out tax cuts for including it.
Now I just think it’s part of a malicious cycle.
“You defending this guy says more about you than whatever problems I may have.”
Looking back at this, I can at least find some shred of pride in mentioning the chance of my doing wrong. Shame that gets brought up in the same sentence as an ad hominem attack.
“Either you’re attached to this guy purely for physical reasons,”
Nothing wrong with that, btw.
“Or you’ve got the same bargain basement daddy issues as he does, and you’re overcompensating for the fear that YOU might end up just as bad.”
Careful with that edge, boy.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave this hack-job of a rival character in the dumpster where he belongs. I’ve got actual heroes to write about.”
If I was on the receiving end of this bullshit, I would have cut my losses, closed the tab, deleted the email notification, and never looked back at this conceited motherfucker again for the rest of my life.
Thing is, Ms. HemlockBanana turned out to have a way thicker skin than you’d expect from…
well, pretty much anybody on the internet, really.
Not one day after I was sure I had done away with my one and only critic, she came back with a reply that I’d have described as “shockingly chill.”
“Woah there, tough guy. I never said Rob (is that better? lol) was some saint. Just that you seemed to have it out for the guy.”
Well then, I probably thought. Here comes the backpedalling so they can save themselves after my Sick Burn!
The haughtiness didn’t last long.
“I mean, I’ve got a soft spot for the character (clearly) but that doesn’t mean I want him to ride off into the sunset and chill on a beach for the rest of his life, just have his character get a bit more definition than him being ‘the bad guy.’ Try and give him that at least, and maybe then people won’t write you off as a hater after the first paragraph and might even consider it worth their time. Just a thought.”
It was at this point that I was choking down on crow-filled humble pie6, but at least I could have taken some solace in the whole ‘projecting’ crack seeming to slip by her.
“ps, me and my dad are on great terms, better luck next time.”
By the time I had finished reading, it didn’t matter what fragility had caused me to go for such a low blow in the first place.
I had never in my life been gladder to have missed the mark.