gratitude vs attention bait [personal]

On Tumblr, an anonymous question was asked of ao3commentoftheday:

I wanted to talk about the authors’ feedback and how important it is for the reader either. It is often discussed how crucial are comments for the author and their desire to invest their effort into their new works. But authors’ replies to the readers’ comments are also important and they influence readers’ commitment and willingness to leave comments. Dear authors,please don’t ignore,please acknowledge us and our comments on your works with replies,bc it goes both ways. Please and thank you!

ao3commentoftheday left a fairly standard response stating that “everyone has reasons why they do/don’t leave comments and do/don’t reply to comments,” but it opened up that age-old discussion as to what readers feel owed when they comment and what writers are obligated to do if and when comments start rolling in.

There is one camp of that states, “I wrote the fic and charitably gave it to my fandom. If I am expected to respond to the gratitude my readers have for my gift, is it really gratitude they are sharing with me or just attention-seeking bait?” It does end up being more work for authors in addition to the laborious task of writing.

The other camp is, “Of course I will show my gratitude to readers by responding to every comment!” And those authors take time out of writing to reply.

Unhitched has over 800 comments.

If 1-10 or so comments are left per reader, assuming they comment on multiple chapters (most do not), that leaves 400 comments to be written by me, which is, of course, in addition to the (current) 171,852 words of the actual fic. That’s a lot of writing!

I’m not complaining. I’m just stating that expecting a reply is sometimes not physically possible, especially if the author has multiple fics in a very active fandom, and I’m not sure I like the idea that readers will only comment if they think they will get a reply. I have heard that elsewhere and it rubs me the wrong way. Refusing to acknowledge the fact that you consumed something the author produced simply because you don’t get the added bonus of being thrilled when the author responds, seems a little greedy … or maybe a lot greedy.

If readers knew how much time goes into the free entertainment they so quickly and happily consume, they would never again ask for a reply. It is a hellish amount of work to keep up with.

That said, I applied all these thoughts I was mulling over to Hannigram, of course, because it makes for a fun writing challenge.

Hannibal Lecter invites you to dinner and serves a delicious human leg all done up nicely with assorted fruits and nuts. You partake of the leg and find it unquestionably rich – divine – your mouth has never tasted anything so decedent. Without hesitation, you thank him for the invitation to dinner.

Being a man with ample time, skill, and a love of both compliments and fine dining, Hannibal Lecter would probably serve you dessert for your politeness. Sanguinaccio dolce. You could consider it a “thank you” for joining him and fawning over his leg.

Will Graham, by contrast, is nervous around new people, but he doesn’t want to appear standoffish, so he invites you fishing one afternoon. The stream is beautiful, the sun-dappled ground peaceful, and Will shares anecdotes about the flora and fauna. You are enraptured. After a few hours, you sit by a fire along the bank of the quiet stream and he plates some pan-fried trout caught by his own rod and reel. The fish flakes like nothing else. It’s light and fresh and melts in your mouth. You thank him, which he wholeheartedly appreciated, but given his demeanor, doesn’t even nod in reply.

Will didn’t bring dessert, unless you count the smashed granola bar under the seat of his car. He brought a tackle box and wants to get back to fishing. You are free to sit on the shore and watch, but if you only went fishing with Will Graham so that he would serve you pudding, then you had no business agreeing to join him. Will Graham is not Hannibal Lecter.

One man is about the sharing of a meal – the give and take – watching you eat human flesh while you give praise and adoration of his efforts; the other is about sharing a single experience that means something profound to him and that is all. 

Hannibal appreciates thank-you notes, fine wine, and long-winded conversation where he can preen. He will gladly play that game; he has the time, the patience, and the desire to do so.

Will Graham will give you what he can, but that’s it. The trip was what he offered, nothing more than a nice view, a tin plate with fish, and a thermos of coffee.

Some authors can offer a five-course meal with all the trappings, including replies to comments.

Others pour their time into the fic itself and are drained by the end of it, unable to scrounge up even a granola bar.

In the end, authors range in their abilities to cook, fish, and socialize. Some look at writing as a smorgasbord – a buffet of delight – and reply to all comments without question. Other’s took you fishing and shared a warm afternoon with you, and that is where the lovely day ended.

In the end, writers are all adorable cannibalistic murderers, but since a reader can never tell which kind, it is best not to expect things. A simple “thank you” after a nice day out or a fine meal is all that is needed. To expect anything else might just be considered rude, and rudeness is not looked at favorably by certain someones.

If you enjoy my writing, please consider dropping me a comment here or, if applicable, on AO3 or by supporting my hot beverage habit on Ko-fi. Thank you!


3 thoughts on “gratitude vs attention bait [personal]

  1. Yes to all the aforementioned. The trip is more than enough; though if curious I will look under the car seats once in a while for that granola bar.

  2. I like the comparison, and I definitely enjoy both the fishing trip with Will and the dinner with Hannibal. They’re just different people, with different ways of going about things. We should all just respect that and go along with it.

    As a reader, I leave a comment because I appreciated a fic and the work the author put in it. I never expect or feel entitled to a response. That doesn’t mean I don’t squeal in delight when I get one, no matter if it’s a simple ‘Thank you” or another 1.5k essay about the characters (I’ll have to admit those make my heart flutter of course).

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