Rant time again.

We have here an imaginary teenager. Let’s call her Jenny. Let’s say that Jenny is into writing fantasy; though she’s only 14, she’s determined to become a fantasy writer someday, as big as Tolkien. She’s writing her first story, “Krystalynne the Princess,” about a girl from Earth named, of course, Krystalynne who finds out that she’s really the Princess of Temora, a magical Earth-like realm, who was sent to Earth for her own protection fourteen years ago. Now her mother the Queen wants her back in Temora, but the Dark Lord is trying to prevent Krystalynne from coming back, since she’s the only one who can defeat him.

Jenny decides that she wants everyone to share in this story with her, so she posts it on Fictionpress.com. And let’s say that the first three reviews that come in on the story are lovely and flattering, begging Jenny to write more. She’s flattered in turn, and her ego soars up to the sky.

Then, in one day, two reviews come in. One runs like this:

“This story has no sense of historical accuracy at all, and many problems. If Temora is just like medieval England, they wouldn’t let a woman rule without marriage, and Krystalynne wouldn’t have years to make up her mind; people would only live until they’re in their thirties, and she’d probably die in childbirth. There wouldn’t be crystal palaces and fairies flying around. And why is everyone waiting to welcome Krystalynne? And why is the Dark Lord so afraid of her? You haven’t explained this; you’ve just told it to us and expected us to accept it. Work on the plot of your story some more, and change Temora. It might be workable as a fantasy world, but you can’t base it on medieval England without studying medieval England.”

The other review says:

“This story sucks. And you suck. You can’t write about an original fantasy world at all; you’re just taking a bunch of Disney shit and sticking it together. And this plot is the most overdone thing in the universe. GET A LIFE.”

Both are from strangers, people Jenny doesn’t know.

In tears, she runs to her mother, and her mother reassures her that of course she’s a wonderful writer. The people who don’t like the story are just jealous of her talent. And of course she should keep on writing.

Jenny goes back to the computer, tears off a haughty response to the reviewers who didn’t like her story- “If u don’t like it, u don’t have to read it, and u suck”- and then goes back to writing the next chapter, where Krystalynne meets the handsome Prince and they fall in love.

The next review that comes in says:

“Why did they fall in love so quickly? You’ve told us that Krystalynne keeps tripping over her gown and doesn’t know any of the table manners. Would the Prince be attracted to someone like that?”

In tears, Jenny takes down the story from Fictionpress and posts in its place, “im going to stop riting now becuz every1 told me i suck, and that’s wrong. u can’t tell people they suck, it’s mean. im never riting anyting again. r u happy now?”

What’s wrong with this picture? And where does the blame lie?

With Jenny, I would say.

Shock! Horror! Why?

Three reasons:

1. Most things that people write when they’re teenagers aren’t very good. I am speaking from personal experience, and from the experiences of reading many stories, both fanfiction and original, written by teenagers. Teens rarely have the experience to represent realistic human emotions, and rarely have the sense of literary history to know what’s been done before. An exception sometimes rises, but the chance that Jenny is that exception is very small. Writing a cliched, overdone story filled with netspeak is only going to confirm people’s impressions. Writing should be put on the Internet, or offered for public consumption at all, only when you’re convinced it’s the best you can do.

2. The world is not Jenny’s personal mirror. It doesn’t need to reflect her back in the most flattering light, and strangers, especially on the Internet, are under no obligation to do so. Her temper tantrums only make it all the more obvious that she can’t accept criticism, and is not mature enough to be posting stories she’s written publically; see number one.

3. The flames that come in (and I wouldn’t categorize the first review or the third as flames, only the second) are not under Jenny’s control; saying something like “NO FLAMES!!!1!” only brings them in faster. But her response to them is. You can only say so many times “Well, I was really upset,” or “I was tired,” or “I’m a teenager!” before that, too, descends to the level of whining. And if Jenny is so upset by strangers’ words that she takes down her stories and never writes again- well, then frankly she deserves all the flames she gets. She’s obviously not committed enough to writing to keep at it. Probably what she really wanted was the attention.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying:

1. If it sucks, don’t post it.
2. People are under no obligation to like your work.
3. If people tell you that you suck, the worst thing you can do is prove them right.

Faraaagh. I don’t like flames and don’t leave them myself, but the whiny responses that teenagers have put me firmly on the side of the flamers.