Constructive Criticism and Flaming 101
written by Al's Waiter

Now, there may be many different people reading this.  

a)  People that regularly visit my msting site and wanted to see what this was.
b)  People who have shown a common interest in this area of fanfiction critic and have encountered it far too many times.
c)  People who are reading this purely for academic purposes


d)  I (or someone) have reviewed your story with proper CC, in which you have thought it a flame, and you were sent this webpage in response.

Welcome all.

Now, the purpose of this page is because I personally (and many others I might add) am just getting absolutely sick of young writers asking for help with their stories on and when they receive it, leave nasty messages to the reviewers, thanking them for the stupid flames and to never review their stories again.


Doing something completely immature, like reviewing the previous reviewers story with a flame of their own. In the latter case;  Suck it up and grow up.

Now... this article may be a hybrid of rant as well as essay, so bear with me.

'Don't kill the messanger because you don't want to hear their message.'

Constructive Criticism; everyone's aide, whether really wanted or not. This is essential for every writer that wants to do something with his or her writing, while taking their readers on a fantastic journey with their beautiful descriptive words.

In a little experiment of mine, I posted a [purposely] bad fanfiction up on my account just to see what kind of reviews I would get. Call me morbidly curious, but I just wanted to know. The story's spelling was fairly good, the grammar was correct - the only problem with the story was the plot itself; it was a Mary Sue.

This is one of the reviews I received:

Jane Doe 2003-05-05 1 Signed
Hey! No fair! You have to continue. I want to know who's there. Poor Elrohir, he's all abandoned. :( Please get the next part up soon.

While these types of encouraging reviews are very nice to get, this doesn't exactly help the author with his or her writing talent.  This review above is not constructive criticism; it's praise for your writing. Sure, I love to get these; we all do, but when you really want to improve on your writing skills, getting "I love this story! Please write more!!!" doesn't tell you how to make your story better. If you only receive these types of reviews (which is nice for the ego), it's not good for becoming an excellent writer.

For proper CC, please look at the example below (which is referring to my bad Mary Sue story, but not a official review):

Jane Doe2 2003-05-06  1  Anonymous
Your fic is not terrible, you have a good grasp of grammar and spelling.  But, there are some questions to ask yourself:  Why did I create this girl?  Could I have accomplished the goal of my story without her? Exploring Elrohir's emotions after his mother sailed - that's a very interesting idea... go with that, and try leaving out the random girl?  See what you come up with.  Don't be afraid to ask for help, people are usually more than willing to give it.  And a beta reader might help you, some of your sentences were a little awkward.  You have potential.  Reach for it.

This tells me how to improve on my story! It gives me suggestions, plot ideas, encouragement on continuing on my fiction piece and telling me that I'm on the road to a good fanfic, but as the fiction stands right now, it needs work. That's what CC is for. It's not to tell you that your story is terrible if you make mistakes, but to help you to "reach your potential" as a fanfiction writer. This is the type of thing that you want people to leave in your review board, if in fact you made some errors in your story. This is the type of thing that you should be asking for.

There are those of you who have received reviews such as the one above and have put in an author's note stating that you didn't ask for flames. Let's get one thing perfectly clear:

That. Was. Not. A. Flame.

I haven't even got to that part of the article yet; it's coming, so don't worry.

If you indeed think that that review above is a flame, you have a lot of learning and growing up to do. That is no where near a flame. Just because it points out errors in my writing, and it may not be what I wanted to hear (like trying to change my story with taking out my original [created] character and changing the entire plot along with it), it's the truth. Perhaps my original character does suck rocks and should never have been introduced to the plot in the first place. Maybe she is in fact, ruining a perfectly good drama fanfic. Maybe I could make my story ten times better if I take my Mary Sue out and focus only on Elrohir and his emotions towards his mother leaving home.

If your view of CC of your writing, is mindless praise to boost your ego, then you're in the wrong profession. Turn in your pencils now, because you will not get far with that form of thinking. Even the best writers that have published work out there have things called "editors"; I'm sure you've heard of them. Editors tell the writer what they need to change about their submitted work, and they don't have to be polite. No where in the rule book does it say that CC has to be polite, but on the net when review functions, like the one on, the majority of people who leave proper CC do it in a polite way (I didn't say "all"); it's just proper etiquette
, plus it's the nice thing to do.

"QUICK!! Get the baking soda!!!"

Flames; the thing that all writers dread. They're not nice. They're down right mean and they insult the writing, the author and perhaps even the author's dog. They hurt. Sometimes they appear without good cause, when other times, the author asked for it. Every situation is different, but flames turn out everywhere.

This was the most recent review I got for my first chapter of my experiment fic:

John Doe    2003-05-06  1  Anonymous
This is such a piece of crap that you shouldn't be threatening not to post. It would be great if this story didn't go any further, it's gone too far as is. Your OC is a bobby sue or a gary sue. Some would say since it's a son it's orginal story line but it's not. Get a beta and in regards to your 'not going to put up next chapter till I get so many reviews' grow up, you aren't that good of a writer

Now, ladies and gentlemen, is everyone paying attention? This is a flame. There is no suggestions to make the story better, no pointing out mistakes of characters being out of canon, nothing good to say about the story. Yes, there is a mention of getting a beta reader (which is crucial in all writing), but that's about it. There's insults, there's discouragement towards the author to stop writing, and put downs to me as a writer. Sure, the story sucks - I fully admit that because of the content; as a twenty-two year old who has been writing fanfiction for nearly six years now, I know better, but there are hundreds of stories just like this one online and I may be a young writer who is just starting out and trying my brain at creating a piece of fan literature.

I generally save my flames for very rare occasions when the author has done something to deserve such a "review". Some people flip out flames like some people pop candy; that is just inconsiderate and childish. Those people need to be taught some manners, but such is life.

One Final Note:

Now, as a final note is to the response of a CC with flame.

A friend of mine reviewed a story that gave proper CC review and was trying to help the author correct mistakes in the story. Later that same day, a review in one of my friend's stories was left by a character from the first story. Yeah, that isn't obvious. This is what was left (used with permission):

Eodred    2003-05-26  2  Anonymous
What kind of name is Jen? And how did you even manage to get anyone to put your stories on this website, they are hideously boring, and there is no plot. At least you seem to be sharp enough to get the facts right (for the most part). Oh yeah, by the way, you ought to edit your stories, you're even worse than most people, you use all the wrong words in all the wrong spots. Didn't your parents care enough to send you to school (if you're not sure what I'm talking about, school is a place where you learn)?
And Wizards are Istari, not Maia!

This is completely childish, uninformed, and uncalled for. People who do this and don't even read the story, are just trying to make themselves feel better with justifying this flame with "they did it first". No, you stupid git, "they" didn't. What Jen left was a CC, what you left was a childish flame that had no basis for it. In this regard of leaving flames when you really deserve to get a thwack on the head (or more): Grow. Up. Suck. It. Up. And. Get. A. Life.

And just so you know, yes, the wizards are Istari AND Maia. This person didn't research far back enough and just made himself look even more stupid. Kudos dude. You're my hero of the day.