Monday, March 16, 2009

Reader's Series: vi0lentserenity

There is so much give and take between people on the fanfiction sites, outside just giving someone the enjoyment of a story. I spend every spare minute reading and even with all my exploration, I don’t feel completely at ease calling out specific stories or themes and speaking about their brilliance. I couldn’t if I tried, mainly because what really drives my love, loyalty and enthusiasm for a story is the author behind it. Reviews absolutely make a story; they might not dictate events but they can push the author to really expand their horizons or put the author off from writing at all. Despite the distance I place between myself and the controversies around certain authors, I still hear often enough what a sour taste an author’s attitude can leave on readers, making it easy to forget the positives an author can bring about. What I want to rattle on about though is how authors can push their readers as well, from getting them to speak up and pushing their imagination to inspiring them to personalize this fandom with art of their own. It’s something I’ve felt personally, as well as seen around me, and I really couldn’t be more appreciative of the pushes authors have given me through responses and notes alone.

When I first started on the site, I was a lurker to the extreme; it wasn’t until one low key author’s note poured over with appreciation for her readers, that I realized how much a simple good hearted review could affect an author, and in turn, the aura of story itself. So I spoke up; I wanted the opportunity to be a part of an authors’ pride in their story, to show that they had one more active reader. In the beginning, I didn’t really know how small reviews are easy and a dime a dozen but I was nervous to say more since it seemed as if some writers just wanted the count. Thankfully, a much more popular author got me to review in a manner that I’m, for the most part, proud of.

Her tone might have put a lot of people off with the way she went about conveying her feelings, but she absolutely had a point. She was a huge factor in my stepping forward and really stressing my support to an author. I wouldn’t have any of my relationships in the fandom if withthevampsofcourse hadn’t used her soap box, so for that I am very thankful. She drove me to make my responses count; a story has no hope of improvement and no chance to shine if the author isn’t made aware that the reader notices the finer details of what s/he has written. She drove me to be much more comfortable with voicing my opinions and in banishing worries that an author might assume I’m over-thinking it, by making it clear it’s bothersome when a reader doesn’t put more thought into the story.

Personally, I spend more time reviewing less popular stories and allow my reviews to fade out once the author and/or story has gained a strong following so I can sing praise elsewhere. The more popular the author, the harder I feel it is to really connect with them because the in-depth reviews are much more common. Smellyia and ThisColony are prime examples of author’s that really encouraged me to review. They went out of their way to make me feel special and appreciated amongst all their growing success because of the constant returned appreciation and reminder it’s quality, not quantity, of the reviews that touch them. I’ve never really felt comfortable on forums and in communities so my chances to connect with author’s on a personal, sometimes playful, level is rare. The back and forth I’ve shared with certain authors, even with the simplest of conversations gives me a boost to review on, regardless of how tired or distracted I may be. After the sheer laziness of spring break, I fell into the lurker state of mind, and I was content to stay there till Kirmit and voldemortperfumes really pulled me back into the swing of things. Their enthusiastic posts and replies really kicked my butt into gear so I could once again greet this world and reconnect with authors I had missed.

The enjoyment I get from authors really carries around me, around the site, and also into real life. But I’ve also experienced authors inspire their readers to be creative in their own ways. I can only use my creativity in so many ways, and for a couple years now I have let my sketchbooks gather dust. Then an urge to draw Bella, with curls and collarbones on display, hit me hard. Wide Awake has had a place in my heart since the first chapter; I have a hard time getting through a day, or night for that matter, without being reminded of it; checking for updates on my phone, outbursts in class about unicorns, and full technicolor dreams about it. However,
Dogtags & Diamonds by PhnxPrncss. Click the above image to go to the Twilighted story discussion thread.
the drive to draw was entirely unexpected. At one point in time, art was a huge part of my life but the majority of it had been at someone else’s request and until I fell into the Wide Awake state of mind, the compulsion to draw at my own desire has only happened twice. Since then, it has further caused me to expand out; stirring up other images for me to work on, from the yummy Jasper shirtless to simple abstract pastel work in order to de-stress. I know I’m not alone in this, from music selections to fan art to writing their own stories; reviewers can take a serious part of the author to heart.

Even with all this internal encouragement, I didn’t know what I was missing till I bonded one on one with an author off the site, PhnxPrncss. It started off with reading her co-write of This Time Imperfect with Nothingtolose15. I was pulled in by how they depicted the bonds between characters. I explored her work and offered my eyes for one of her story’s rewrites, in case she ever needed someone to bounce ideas off of, or help push her stories out sooner, and it all just clicked. I’m not typically one for deep emotional issues because it’s so hit or miss, but nothing could stop me from appreciating the time and understanding she puts into the emotional traumas behind her more serious stories. Going beyond the hurt, she has something for everyone. Who doesn’t love hearing about Edward and Jasper in the buff with the exception of dog tags (Dogtags & Diamonds), or football Jasper shielding Alice from a voyeuristic Muzo (PostGame Touchdown).?

I don’t think twice about calling her one of my closest friends, or about singing and spamming her praise. She is pistol to my holster. Her skill pulled me in, but there isn’t a better display of how a writer can affect a reader than my bond with her. Beyond the personal level, she keeps me around and exploring. We psychoanalyze various stories together, which only aids in my writing better reviews. Any creativity that might be sparked by other authors is fueled by her, because I wouldn’t trust anyone else’s blunt and honest encouragement to do something for myself; though it helps that she provides Jasper smut for me, and never hesitates to cut me off if I cut myself off. I always worried that since I wasn’t a writer that my thoughts on stories wouldn’t be taken seriously. I might be appreciated, but an author could easily write off what I have to say because I’m not experienced. But she’s only added to my comfort because of how much she takes every reader to heart. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to see what the author experiences which only further infuses to my appreciation for every post and kind word of all the stories I read.

Basically what I’m saying is that it is a very wide two way street. I see my love for authors tote them along, but they also push their readers along just as much. I really consider myself lucky for my experiences here and I look forward to any future ones. Writers really have the ability to inspire their following, drive them for the better. I know it sounds like an afterschool special with the message of ‘you never know how you can touch someone.’ but it’s easy to forget among the static and drama of the Internet.

Author's Blurb by Angstgoddess003

When Smellyia informed me that vi0lentserenity would be featured in this week’s author series, I immediately requested the opportunity to write her blurb and sing her praise. There’s a whole story you see, and I realize this must be wordy and babbly, but bear with me here because I can’t NOT tell it. It makes me all sentimental.

When I first began posting, I was beyond nervous about putting myself and my concept out there. I couldn’t decide which outcome was worse. Getting no reviews at all, or getting reviews that were negative. Both were equally terrifying possibilities. It started out slow with the first few chapters, and I was jubilant with the nice reviews that I did receive.

But then I got this one review in my inbox. I remember the afternoon and day following with perfect clarity. The name "vi0lentserenity" alone made me both snort and pout enviously. Why couldn’t I come up with a name that creative? I began reading the review, and in all honesty, it took me a while, because it was long. It was so unreal to me that someone actually put so much thought into something I wrote, and then felt so strongly about it that they spent the time to put their appreciation into all these… words. I was beyond elated. I was smiling like the fucking Cheshire cat. Her words made me feel like my story was special to her. I thought to myself, “Maybe this fiction thing isn’t so bad after all.”

Without shame, I actually went back several times that day and night to re-read it. I cooked dinner, I read it. I woke up, smoked a cigarette, I read it. I let the cat out in the morning, I read it. I began the next chapter, paused every couple paragraphs, I read it. And then when I posted that day, I stared at my inbox and waited. I waited for reviews. And I wasn’t waiting for just any review. No. I was waiting for vi0lentserenity’s review. I chewed my nails into stubs while I watched the screen and read the six incoming reviews. All of them were great, but few as truly satisfying as the one I’d received the previous day. As the clock chimed midnight, I gave up on watching, and figured that she surely wouldn’t expend that much effort twice. My story isn’t worth that much attention and time, I thought. Though saddened, I understood, and felt blessed that she at least graced me with one of those reviews. I went to bed.

At four, I awoke, let the cat out again, and eyed the computer anxiously. Though I was still half-asleep, I sank into my chair and cautiously clicked on my inbox to read the three new reviews. The second one in the list, all nestled up nice and shiny between two one-liner anons, was an epic review from none other than ‘vi0lentserenity’. I squeed aloud. REALLY. I said at the top of my lungs “SQUEE!” Like the word… not the sound. Humiliating, but warranted.

And so it began. Every chapter I’d go through this routine of waiting for her to review, and every chapter she always faithfully delivered, and always made me feel like my story was worth the time for her to expend on them. They were always long, drawn out, thoughtful, and filled with her endearing commentary. After three of these, my fiancĂ© grew accustomed to my ritualistic squees, and would commonly shake his head and tell me, “I don’t think you’re supposed to actually say the word. You don’t say ‘growl’ to growl, babe. You just growl.” Whatever. It eventually became referred to in my household as the vi0lentsquee, and I chide him harshly for not using the zero aloud when he mentions it bemusedly during conversation. “ Dammit! It’s ‘vi-ZERO-lentsquee. GAH. Respect the fucking zero, dude! RESPECT!”

Vi0lentserenity is a very unique type of reviewer. She doesn’t review for the sake of verbal fellation, nor does she review to be critical and point out errors. Instead, she reviews to illustrate her appreciation for her favorite facets of the story, to ask questions, and to make the author really think about where the story is progressing. She’s truly a credit to any fic that she sets her sights on.

In all honesty, she gave me the courage to continue pursuing Wide Awake so passionately at a time when I wasn’t getting much feedback, and was uncertain whether or not I was even worthy of getting any at all. I’d like to say I didn’t post daily just for the sake of seeing one of her reviews in my inbox every morning, but I probably wouldn’t be entirely truthful if I did. Her comments became a vi0lentincentive. Motivation. Validation. Inspiration.

I know she extends this same courtesy to so many fics out there in the fandom. She is my ideal model of a perfect reviewer. Always thoughtful, never rude, never curt, and always thorough. I'm willing to bet a significant percentage of stories and authors in this fandom have been positively effected by her reviews. I'm sure most would agree.


  1. Yes, YES, YES, to everything AG said about Miss Vi0lentserenity. Her reviews are so epic, and she was one of the first people to really give me a deep, well thought out opinion on what I was writing. This is the kind of feedback a person really waits for.

    I really love the fact that TLYDF has a reader's series, I think this was a fantastic idea.

    I'm completely sleep deprived and beaten down by a weekend love affair with the flu, so I know I'm not adequately expressing what I would like to. I guess, in short, I just feel she is such a generally fantastic person/reader/friend that I would like to sing her praises in any way I can. Glad to see she had an article here, and that someone else was able to eloquently express just how valuable she really is, and how fortunate I feel to have had her read and review the things I've written.


    Pretend that made sense, yes?
    Thank you.

  2. I'm going to preface this by first stating that I tend to ramble. A lot. Seriously, ask Erica - err, vi0lentserenity. So if anything I say doesn't make a lick of sense, I blame my chaotic mind, lack of sleep and my month old monster that continuously decides that he'd much rather stay up all night. Literally.

    Anyway, as I've read this blog numerous times (decidedly skipping over any mention of myself because, hey, I really love my dark corner), all I'll say about her blog itself it's that she's so spot-on it's ridiculous. I could sit here and recount every anxiety ridden IM I got from her about how she feels it wasn't "good enough" and how she didn't want to do it anymore, etc. It didn't matter how many times I told her it was great and that it definitely did not suck, she was resolute in her stubbornness. Honestly though, all that just made me appreciate her - as a beta and friend - even more because I now realize all that shit she puts up with when it comes to my neurotic self right before I post anything - to the point where she's stopping mid-review to tell me I need to pop a Xanax and shut up (though not necessarily in those words).

    As far as everything that AG said goes, I couldn't agree more. Even though she reads anything (and everything) I write god knows how many times before I post it, and even though we talk about it incessantly even after I post it, her reviews are still the ones that I look forward to the most. Hell, everyone else could stop reviewing as long as she kept it up and I wouldn't care one bit. Why? Because she actually thinks them through and really goes above and beyond with her - almost always - wordy reviews. It's what keeps me writing - well, that and the fact that she harasses and threatens me non-stop via AIM, but that's beside the point.

    She's just absolute WIN and I love her something fierce.

    *retreats back to dark corner*

  3. I’ve been putting off replying to this for days…even though I’ve read it so many times its practically memorized.

    I just don’t know what to say about the blurb and the comments because I’m still in shock. I had very serious thoughts about responding the night of but it wouldn’t have translated well…There’s still some unfortunate evidence of the absolute spaz attack upon checking the blog at 2am on Monday. I squeaked, squee-ed, bounced, twirled, and tripped (but only twice) between bouts of word vomit.

    I just want to say thank you, I know that’s what my whole mess of a statement was about but every time someone takes the time to acknowledge something I say…well it just means a lot. I was already honored when I was approached to speak up…so this is just like epic for me. I now kind of feel a little bad about being behind on reviews…but I’m working on it.

    AG, I’m kind of embarrassed to say but you get the more serious cases of my rambles. I do try and limit myself but I rarely proof read or edit. I almost feel as if the character you set up are tangible, you give so much to work with and between firsthand knowledge and school studying of the issues brought up...I just have a lot of fun with it (after I come to terms with the heart fails). The emotional and mental issues are already enough but then I have daily reminders of the story…in class outburst are very serious thing…some guy thinks unicorns are a prime example of something not to believe in (it’s a bit of a long story but a science and superstition class). He’s does kind of look like a virgin when I think about it. Basically what I’ve been trying to say is that your blurb really touches me because it came out of left field. I had prepared myself all week for a Smellyia remark. Your blurb and the times you have replied to my reviews…well my reaction is always similar to yours. Epic squees with repeat reads. You’ve left me giddy.

    ThisColony, I hate to say it but I’m kind of glad the first few chapters of Salacious were overlooked by other readers because it gave me a chance to come in and make a little corner for myself. As if it weren’t enough that you have this deep and emotional story and you respond to my reviews with serious thought…you then turn around and have kick ass taste in music. You’re musical soul mate or my ear bud buddy…or something.

    Tania. Tania. Tania…I finally understand the epic anxiety you go through when it comes to posting and sharing. Good luck getting the slash fic out of me now! You hear constantly how much I enjoy your work, and after writing two paragraphs on you…it’s awkward for me to show my love on here. You already (or at least should already) know how much your comment and input means to me. Pistol & Holster. I think if we hadn’t come into contact at the time we did and have those really ADHD driven conversation…I’d be way to chicken to do any of the things ff related I have done.

    Hope that wasn't too long.
    Thank you everyone :)


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