Growl, Then Walk Away

Reviews. That double edged sword writers live–and die inside–by. Every writer knows that checking out reader comments on Amazon or Goodreads can bring both joy and tears. And we all know that, no matter how much you disagree with what someone says, you should never, ever address the issue with said reader/reviewer. It will get you in trouble. Just walk away. Growl if you want, but walk away.

Good advice, but hard to follow. What do you do when the reader/reviewer says something that’s just, well, stupid?

Another writer (I won’t use names here) posted on Facebook yesterday, stating that she received a complaint from a reader. The book in question is historical fiction (and actually alternate history historical fiction) and the reader didn’t like the fact that the writer didn’t use historically correct language. Now, bear in mind that these people wouldn’t be speaking English at all. But apparently this reader just couldn’t suspend disbelief over this and had to let the writer know that she was unhappy about it.

I suggested the author write back and tell the reader that the TARDIS was nearby, instantly translating everything for everyone.

I was dealing with an issue of my own. A review for one of my books complained about part of the plot. In the book, a young man supposedly leaves town in 1984 and isn’t seen since. Some people think he may have met with foul play. The reviewer couldn’t believe they just didn’t Google his name to see what had happened to him. Okay. Try Googling someone you haven’t seen since 1984 or so. See what you get. Mind you, you only have a name. You don’t know where they’re supposedly living or anything. Would you expect to get anything? And if you didn’t, would you automatically assume they were dead? Just to test this, I Googled someone I know who died just a few years ago. I came up with zilch after checking through ten pages.

Mind you, I wouldn’t think of contacting this reviewer and telling her how erroneous her notion was. What would it accomplish? She didn’t care for the book, and that was that. She may have grasped at straws to come up with reasons why she didn’t like it, but her view, to her, is valid. Hopefully others won’t feel the same way.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that authors are people, too. Yesterday on that other writer’s post, several of us were having a grand old time, sharing stories of stupid comments from readers and laughing–and grousing–about the things we have to endure. Some would say it was bad form, airing our grievances in public like that. Probably so. But we needed to vent. Deal with it. We have to.

We love readers. We love reviewers. And yes, we have to take a smack on the side of the head every now and then. But we don’t have to like it.

It’s not just us, though. One of my books had a character in it that was partially based on a friend of mine. This friend knew the character was based on him. By chance, he read some comments from a reader on Goodreads who stated that this character was obnoxious and just plain unlikable. My friend exploded, screaming at the computer screen. “Why don’t you write a f*cking book and see how I f*cking respond to it, b*tch!”

I had to laugh.

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