Friday, February 19, 2010

Admin Essay: "To T or Not To T?" the HMonster Asks.




By HMonster4


Yes, T-rated. I said it.

As of 2/18/10, there were roughly 115,000 stories on fanfiction.net. After playing around with the stats, I figured out that stores are being added at a rate of roughly 6,000 per month.

Six Freaking Thousand.

How the hell do you break through the clutter to find a good story with all that noise? The last time I went fic diving…well, I think I am still a bit scarred by it.

So with that said, let’s get a few truths out on the table.

We’ve all been burnt by “bad stories” (characterization, grammar, clich├ęs, weak plot, etc), therefore we revert to the dependable; recommendations from friends, blogs, live journal, fan sites, etc. Sometimes we’ll even use the favorites function on FanFiction to peruse stories tagged by our favorite authors or reviewers. It’s a cycle that feeds itself, and in doing so, people are less likely to take on new stories without a rec from a credible source. Those credible sources, while potentially having good taste, have preferences or biases too, which further filters the type of fics that make it into the recommendation pool.

Yep, you heard me right, people have fic biases.

The two most common biases in the Twilight fandom are a) Vampire vs. Human and b) M rated vs anything lower. We’ll table the Vampire vs. Human for a later conversation, because that deserves an analysis of its own. Today is all about the T rated fic.

So let’s go back to the original assumption – we read what we are recommended, and that list is filtered based on people’s predispositions. The bulk of people surveyed (Live Journal, Twitter, Email) admitted readily that they read mostly M rated fics. If you apply that to the recommendation pool, it immediately nets down the number of stories. There is also a post Breaking Dawn effect (big surprise there) where the fics became more mature to fill in the blanks or proverbial fade to black. Mature content isn’t anything new, but the sheer volume these days has a number of people using that as their very first line of refinement. In doing so, an awful lot of potentially great stories are left out.

Don't believe me, well the numbers don't lie. Of the 115,000 Twilight stories on fanfiction.net - 51% were T rated. 25% M rated, and 24% were a combination of K ratings.

Yeah - you read right - over 1/2 of the stories Twilight stories are T rated. But people mostly read M.

I don't judge a fic just because it is rated 'T.' That said, most of the fics I read ARE rated 'M.' However, with how Twilight ff has grown, you just can't read by surfing the website anymore, so you have to rely on recs to find good fics. Frankly, most of the fics people c are M rated. I kind of wish people did recommend more T-rated fics because I feel like we're probably missing out on a lot of good stories. - Americnxidiot

'So let’s do the math – 6,000 new stories a month / preference for M Rating / Word of mouth. If you buy into the logic, there are some fabulous stories that are being missed, simply because they have a T instead of an M.


Where's the Love, Man?

The best way to start is at the beginning, right? So let’s do that. Why do people have a bias against T rated fic? First and foremost, is the expectation of content. Most people felt that a T rating was a surefire guarantee of no smut. Yeah, it’s another admission we need to get out on the table, because we are all thinking it. Smut, PwP (Porn with Plot) sells. Don’t believe me?

Fine, be that way. But I have back up - lots of people weighed in on both sides of the discussion:


I know some people might be surprised by this, but I love T rated fics. Just like with any story, the content needs to fit the plot and the characters. I would rather see a fade to black that leaves me wanting more than a sex scene that was thrown in for shock value. -TBY789

A few anonymous ones to get you thinking too:

  • Honestly? I have never even attempted to read a 'T' fic. It may sound h00rish, but the whole reason I started reading FF is to get what I couldn't get out of the original series.

  • I never read them. I'm sorry. I want to, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I need mature content I guess...whatever that entails. It doesn't have to be smut or anything, I just need it to be...more? I suppose I *could* read a T rated fic, but I feel like I'd always be left wanting.

  • For whatever reason, I find that many T stories are just... silly and badly written. But so are M stories.

One interesting side note, a few people admitted (off the record) to changing the rating of their stories from T to M simply to expand their readership. With the simple change of a rating, the number of readers shot up. The content didn’t change, just that one little label, which leads me to believe that the M designation is a lot more of a filter than anyone ever expected.

Those admissions, coupled with a comment by Giselle-LX really stuck with me, and is really a valid point.


For me, there is no T. There is no M. There is only good writing and those who wish to seek it. (Yeah, I'm paraphrasing Senator Palpatine, go away.)

Bear with me, this is a valid point. It seems as though the application of the ratings has come to be leveraged or interpreted as an indication of something more than age appropriateness. It's being used as a quality indicator too. What if, instead of thinking of T rated fics as inferior, think of it like a movie rating. Do you choose movies based purely on the rating, or because it looks interesting? If box office movie grosses are an indication, it's the latter, for only three of the top ten grossing movies of 2009 were R rated.

So if you choose a movie based on content, why shouldn't the same logic apply to your choice in fic? If you are worried about maturity of content, don't be, there are wonderful stories out there with depth of plot, amazing characterizations AND a great story line. Will you get things like throbbing members and wet folds? Most likely not, at least not in that context, but to paraphrase Martha Stewart, sometimes that's a good thing.

I'm not going to lecture or brow beat you into reading T rated fics. Some will, some won't. I simply wanted to give you an alternate perspective on the merit of T.


To close this long ramble out, I went to the source, my pal Ruby-Wednesday, who has been around this fandom a lot longer than I have. She's has a very sage perspective on the whole notion of T ratings:

Bottom line, smut or the promise of it equals reviews. My stats tell me that. The more reviews, the more attention etc. It's the same of the source material too. We see people talk more about the leg hitch in Eclipse than any other aspect of the book. We're here for the romance I guess and are free to explore the sexual side that the books only hint at.

Also even the older M rated stories were far less explicit than what we see today.

It's funny though, because if I was to name what I think are the highest quality and my personal favourite fics in the fandom, they are mainly rated T (Innocent, Vigilant Ordinary, Ithaca Is Gorges, Atlas Shrugged, Blue Moon over Mankas, Rosalie's Revenge) and the one's I love that are rated M (Hydraulic Level 5, Sanctuary, Mutually Assured Destruction, If Love Could Light a Candle) may contain sexual references but are adult in a way that is not based on sex for the sake of it.


So with that parting thought, I am going to get you started with a nice long list of recommended T rated fics. Some you might have heard of, others maybe not, but give them a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised.

And for those of you who worry that a T rated fic won't be emotionally complex enough? I've only cried over 1 fic in my 18 months in this fandom. It's on this list. Trust me, T rated is worth it.


Hmonster4 proudly reads T rated fics and has been known to write them on occasion, too.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the blog! We T writers don't get the hits that M writers do, and I think all your points are valid. One thing I've found, too, is that I get favorited a lot instead of reviewed. Is this the same in the M rated community?

    I'd also like to note I have a list of fics (including many T rated) at http://www.fanfiction.net/community/TwilightMoms_Favorites/56457/ if you're looking for a few more.

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  2. Gurrrreat article, H!

    It's not the letter of the rating that matters to me. IVO is one of my all time faves, and yes, it made me sob sob sob. I do miss it. I know, it's everyone's go-to-rated-T-fic, but it's everything a fic should be in this fandom.

    I usually only read M-rated fics, admittedly, but this is mostly because T-rated angst is both difficult to find and difficult to execute without the shock-value-presence of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Which makes me kind of sad panda. Then again, there are some EPIC M-rated masterpieces.

    I'm with Giselle on this one. There is no T or M. There is only good writing and bad writing. It just so happens that a healthy chunk of the good writers in this fandom favor mature content. I ain't complaining.

    Thanks for sharing, H! XD

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  3. Blondie - I find the faves to reviews are consistent regardless of what rating I write. I do also see a spike in reviews on chapters that contain sex or some sort of cliffhanger.

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  4. I haven't PURPOSEFULLY read a T rated fic until the Read-a-long I hosted the other day on twitter. I randomly pulled the fic from The Indie's Noms list - The Last Goodbye by Jmeyer - and was pleasantly rewarded with something angsty, plot driven and left me with a smile on my dial by the end of it. In the beginning, I read T .. it's not that I won't read it now, more that the fic's that I find get recc'd to me are all M rated. I'm with the delightful Giselle also.. good writing wins out every time, rating or no rating.

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  5. I have to agree with Giselle's comment, as well. Unfortunately I think that many readers equate a T rating with poor writing or lack of plot. This is most certainly not the case, though there is enough of that out there. For examples to the contrary, take into account Giselle's and blondie's writing. Both are amazing authors with exceptional fics.

    That being said, it is difficult to find quality and originality among all fics out there. I'll read anything, regardless of rating, as long as the story is interesting. I'll even deal with grammar mistakes and a style I'm not too into if the storyline is good.

    As a new writer who stays in the T realm, I sometimes wonder whether I should just slap a higher rating on a fic to see what results I get.

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  6. My favorite fan fics in other fandoms almost always seeme to end up being T, I believe, although I think they may be in that T/R-ish range...?

    And yeah, it's all about the UST, the banter, the intensity of the conflict. I love that shit.

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  7. Thanks for the T recommendations. I also laughed at your observations about how we find stories to read - so true! When I first started reading FF I didn't know where to start, so I just combed favorites of authors I liked and went from there. I'm always interested in a good, canon T story, but they are difficult to find.

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  8. I'm with Giselle as well. I really don't care about the ratings. I just love a great story whether is has smut of not.
    Thanks for the list, I've added lots to my ever growing list :)

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  9. Excellent article, H - you know how much the T rating stigma gets to me. And thanks for putting Separate Ways on your list - that fic is like my poor, neglected T-rated child. ;)

    I heart you and all you do.

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  10. Yay! Thank you so much for this post, and for the rec list. While a majority of my favorites are rated R and above, the fics that have been nearest and dearest to me are rated T, and are all included in your rec list.

    I am glad Giselle made the observation she did: regardless of the rating, it's how a story's written--and what it does to the reader--that makes it worth reading. I know that the original Twilight series left so many of us wanting more, but just the fact that it had such an effect on us, *and* inspired so many to start writing, proves that it's a worthy story in its own right.

    And it's decidedly rated T. Go figure.

    Thanks again!

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  11. I agree with Giselle, good is good, regardless of the rating.

    I've read a lot of badly written M rated fic. Probably a lesser number of badly written T rated fic, but that could be related to the fact I read less T-rated fics.

    I think T-rated has to rely on characterization and plot in order to generate word of mouth, so if people are talking about your t-rated fic, the chances are it is off the charts fantastic. I think sometimes an m-rated fic with mediocre characterizations/plot can generate buzz because of adult content.

    I think you compiled a great list H, I highly recommend all of them really.

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  12. thx for addressing this. I have started a fic that is probably technically a "T" but I rated it an "M." If we were using the movie ratings, it would be PG-13.

    I didn't use T, because I didn't want it to imply the content was for teenagers, and somehow placing the T on it, implies that, right?

    Wish there was a rating that would infer...this is for grown ups but it doesn't contain explicit sex or violence. THAT"s the rating I would use! :)

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