Okay, so I’ve touched on this one before. But this time I’m not going to sum stuff up that bothers me about some popular stories, I’m going to tell all of you how to actually get reviews. Lots of people wonder about how they can get more reviews, and I’ve watched very closely, and I can actually tell you how to do that. There’s that whole sociological observance going on, and I can see with my critical evaluation the route to getting there, that should make any SVM fic a hit. It’s SVM specific, but it should work in the True Blood section as well, because the only mega-popular fics there are ones SVM readers read.
An important disclaimer on this: THIS WILL NOT WORK IN PROFESSIONAL WRITING. If you ever hope to make an actual career out of this, for goodness sake, do not follow this. It wouldn’t even work in the romance genre. It works only for fanfic, where rules are specific, and stuff is topsy turvy. This is the sort of stuff I avoid reviewing like it’s got the plague. But I am one, and the people who love this sort of fic are many. I usually assume that people want to go into respectable works, but the reality is that some people love internet stardom. They don’t want to go any further, and lots of people want to know how to get reviews.
Why am I writing this, if I avoid these fics like they’re diseased? For the same reason I don’t sneer at my waitress, even though she’s poor. Just cause I don’t like these fics or hanker for internet stardom, doesn’t mean other people don’t love the idea of winning the internet. It’s just as valid a choice as mine, and I felt I was being a snobby person keeping the information to myself when people actually ask how to do it. And someone asked me recently by PM how they could get more reviews, so I figured I’d write it out here and link it in future. For all I know, someone is at home with their kids, or are young, and they need a self esteem boost. This is how they can get it. They don’t have any other way to validate themselves, so there’s no harm. I promise I’m not trying to take the piss out of people, but write a guide that could help people, even if it’s not what I want. Some people flounder on how to get reviews, and I feel mean not telling them when I see them ask. It might also help people who aren’t getting reviews – so they can tick off why they aren’t.
One thing I would like from this – if you use this guide to write a winning fic, could you PM me on Fanfic.net? I won’t out you, promise. I don’t review this sort of thing, but I’d like to know it’s coming before I’ve read the first sentence so I don’t even think about giving a review, rather than having to figure it out by myself. I’d also like to see what works in the field, and tweak this guide for those that follow after you. I’m not bogarting the information, so I’d like if you didn’t either. Even though I’ve published this guide, not many people read here I think (I really don’t care about internet stardom – I don’t check stats for my LJ) – not enough that they’ll be able to see what you’re doing anyway. So even though I’ve written this, it should still work.
First thing you should do is get a Twitter account, and make an effort to be there every day. Even if it’s from your phone or whatever. It’s important to be friendly to people and network. I’m one of the select group who actually thinks about whether I should review – most people don’t review with set criteria – they like you, and they will review your fic to show they like you. Some people will feel sorry for you if you don’t get reviews, and people are social animals. Plus, they feel guilty watching you tweet an update, and so they review. I’ve had people in the past contact me and ask me how I deal with it on when people ask for a review – and some people feel bad. I never feel bad – I just get really slippery, or act stupid.
The other thing you should try to do is befriend the popular writers as well. People want to be included in the popular group, so they review the popular authors, and the popular authors’ friends. Plus, if they see a popular author review something, they assume it’s good. It’s probably a good idea to make friends with the persistent reviewers as well – a few of them have Twitter accounts. I would follow people first, because people want to feel specifically wanted on the internet, so they’ll like you better if you follow them first. Just think about all the ways you’d feel wanted, and just do them. Don’t suffocate people by being too pushy though. You’ll notice when you’re getting pushy, people will be quiet to you. So just carefree and easy.
If you put yourself out there, and just bluntly ask, people won’t want to tell you no, so you can just bluntly ask for someone to review you. I know people have done it to me, and I’ve noticed their review counts jump afterwards. I don’t do it, but some people will. If you’re on Twitter, you should talk for a couple of days about how you’re a bit worried about putting yourself out there. I’d like to tell you those reviews mean something, but this is a numbers game. If I were you, I’d put on anonymous reviews as well. It’ll serve your later purposes, and those that don’t have accounts and don’t want to log in review pretty often. Try not to review yourself, because I think it would be easy for that to turn into an unhealthy obsession, and I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your life. 😀
I’d also get a blog, and other social media stuff. Some of the writers with the most reviews have Facebook accounts, which offer updates. I dunno if they also bully family members into reviews, but the more places you can network, the better for your review count. I’d get a Tumblr as well – lots of readers love blogging and reblogging photos of Askars and porn. You have to have a bit of an online presence to make people feel like there’s something to be included in. It’s a bit like high school – befriend the popular girls, be out there all the time. For fuck’s sake, act as if you don’t know me, or at the very least that you don’t really like me, but are nice enough to give me the time of day. I’m persona non grata with my honesty and my “You can report fics” stance. But I won’t mind, honestly. It’s not as if being friendly with me gets you reviews anyway – others have tried that route and failed. I don’t even consistently review my friends. Writers have to actually earn a review from me, so seriously, I’m not worth the waste of your time. 🙂
It’d be in your best interests to have a couple of days on Twitter to follow people and get the lay of the land. Look around and see which popular authors are friends with which ones, and then check out their friends’ reviews. There is no point in being friendly with an author if they don’t review at all. Some authors don’t, but it’d be a good idea if you did. Lots of people have this whole “I’ll pay you back a review” thing going on – occasionally I’ll review someone, and they’ll review me back. So make nice with some reviews, and you might get a bit of a return on your investment.
One of the essential things is to update really frequently. It can be irregular if it’s relatively often – as in more than weekly. If it’s weekly, you’ve got to stick to a schedule. I would recommend every Thursday – that seems to be a spike in the amount that I read, on US Thursday. So you update on a day when everyone else does – which means that readers of existing fics are looking around at what’s new. You want to be on the front page for that. If you can’t write that fast, write the majority of your fic before you publish the first chapter. That way you can update frequently without having to lose readers. If you can update more frequently, you’ll have better chance at more reviews, merely because people want to read fic now, so they’ll read what’s available now. Lots of reviewers just love frequent updates – they don’t care if it’s top notch stuff.
Speaking of top notch stuff, seriously, don’t bother. Don’t bother following any of the other LJ posts here. These posts are to help writers become better writers, and you don’t need it to become a more reviewed writer. There’s one legitimately published author in the SVM fandom I know of, and her review count is really low (unsurprisingly I actually reviewed her before I knew) and there’s one writer with a Masters in English lit. who has low review counts (unsurprisingly I review her too and did before I knew). Being a good writer has nothing to do with getting more reviews. I’ve often found the inverse to be true. In fact, like I’ve said before, I will leap on something with a low review count, because it’s likely to be spectacularly craptacular, or really good. Some of the worst writing is considered desirable by the majority of readers, probably because they’re not rating the writing itself, but other things.
In fact, as your writing gets better and has more substance, rather than other things, you’ll get less reviews. It’s really not in your interests to become a better writer if you’re doing the review game. If you follow stuff on this LJ, your review count will go down, not up. This is a numbers game, and quality really doesn’t have anything to do with it. Your characters can be absolutely paper thin, and no one will care if the elements I outline in this post are there. They don’t really need to be consistent either, or seem like Eric and Sookie – in fact, as you’ll see later, they really shouldn’t be Eric and Sookie – not as you write them.
Okay, down to the nitty gritty. I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to have to write sex. You can’t not write it. Don’t even bother to try hitting high numbers of reviews with a sex-free fic. Not enough people will read it. It’s why I’m confident many people won’t read this post – I don’t write sex, so there’s no reason to come visit my LJ. If you’re going to take a relatively long time to get to the sex, inform people on the first page that it’s a “slow burn” and keep reassuring them. In that period of time, they can’t really be oblivious to each other – “Sookie and Eric” should definitely think about how they’d like to have sex with each other. Not too over the top though.
It doesn’t really have to be unique, just highly descriptive and relatively constant. I don’t think there are any things that you shouldn’t do – most authors remark on the fact that the presence of sex in a chapter will make their review counts go up. The more sex you put in, the better it is. Seriously – readers won’t remember anything but the sex, and there’s the ESN hounds. Have a look at popular fics – not one fic that doesn’t have sex (or won’t have sex soon). The ESN hounds are a valuable resource. If you’re in the numbers game, you have to put sex in it. If you really need help writing it, just look at those fics – I can guarantee you, I’ve read all of them – if only a chapter. They all have sex in them – or I can see them gearing up for sex.
Now, one precautionary – don’t say you’re writing sex or porn. In all seriousness. People like having a little bit of story around the porn to make believe they’re reading a story. Lots of the readers come from conservative American backgrounds – they don’t see themselves as “porn readers” – they see themselves as enjoying a story, that might happen to have “smut” or “lemons” in it. That’s why grown women are using euphemisms, and why I never do. They will back you up a hundred percent of the way if you call it a story, because really, they don’t want to see themselves as sitting around reading porn all day. Lots of the writers of these popular stories can get their readers to swear black and blue there’s storyline in their story – as reflected by the reviews “That’s hot” lol. If the sex takes on three-quarters of the chapter, and the “plot” is how “Sookie” fell in love with “Eric” through sex, that’ll make people feel like they’re reading a story.
Don’t worry too much about what sort of sex you write. You don’t really have to be more out there than missionary. Mild bondage gets reviewers (a few of the hounds love anal and Sookie getting the shit beaten out of her) but don’t go too in-depth with it. And it doesn’t have to be realistic. One thing reviewers love is mutual neckbiting, which not anatomically possible if you have a chin. There should be constant description of the penis, and of “Eric’s” body. I probably would give a nod to gracious plenty, even though some people hate it, but don’t use it as the dubbed name. It wasn’t the dubbed name in the books, either – it’s a term for quantity – a gracious plenty. It means lots without being too much. My Dad used the Australian version – an elegant sufficiency, and he always used it with food quantities. Use it once or twice to hark back to the books, but not more than that.
Bizarrely, the most popular fetish is exhibitionism. It’s apparently only boring people who do it in bed. The most popular scenes – the ones loved by many – are the ones that don’t take place in bed. If you have to default to somewhere, make it the shower. But I would personally recommend public places, and particularly Fangtasia, but fucking in public places as much as possible. I think reviewers like the idea of “showing” people they’re with Eric – wanting to be the cool girl fucking the gorgeous guy. There’s some definite wish fulfilment going on there, to do with showing up the girls that never thought they were cool, and wanting to be desired. I also think that’s why this fic doesn’t appeal to me – I was cool in high school. 😀 I don’t need to imagine how it could be if I was popular.
Your couple should do it in restaurants, shops, go on vacation to do it, and everyone should hear it. I’m really being serious – this polls very positively with readers. They should know that “Sookie” has been serviced in a thorough manner, by virtue of her screaming. “Eric” roars though – not in the books – in your fic – screaming isn’t masculine enough. If you really want to take them to a bed, you need to start in the bar (before they get home). Don’t skimp on your descriptions though – you want to talk of every little nuance of movement, and remember – all about “Eric’s” body. Don’t bother too much with “Sookie’s” body, because no one cares what it looks like – just what’s been done to it. Lots of hyperbole about how good the sex is too, mentioning that it’s never been that good.
We’re not just talking one sex scene – those with the lowest popularity have the lowest amount of sex in them. If you really want to hit the big time, it has to be no less than every second chapter. If at all possible, heavy petting in in-between chapters. Once the “Eric and Sookie” have sex in that fic, that’s where you’ve got to keep going. No pauses, unless it’s for another element of this formula. I know that porn writers talk of burn out in the professional porn-writing world, so I recommend that you get really über-horny and unembarrassed about it. The ESN hounds will have you batting 1000 within 25 chapters alone. No one is reading you for your writing skills, just for your porn, or potential porn skills. Once you’ve shown a propensity to write lots of porn, you can even skate for a bit on that reputation. After one story with heaps of porn in it, the ESN hounds will show good faith and review you for new fics, in anticipation of porn.
I would recommend writing a “canon” fic – because they are more popular. There’s a whole heap of women who go nuts over the idea of vampire Eric’s thousand years of skills, and they don’t seem to buy it if he’s not a vampire – or not as much. AH gets you less readers, but you’re not really sticking to canon anyway, so don’t worry about how you can fuck up writing a canon fic. Plus, then you can introduce bizarre sex rituals, which seem to be really popular, and when stuff is not possible, shit, a vampire can totally do that. You’ll be imagining Askars anyway, and leaving “Sookie” as blank as possible. No one reads porn for Sookie. I remember the first time I read about the cleft in “Eric’s” chin, and I was lost, because it’s not canon. But it is Askars, as I figured out much later. Some of the most popular AH fics are based on the idea that Askars sweeps a woman up out of obscurity and falls in love and marries her, so those do well too. But I still say go for “canon” for maximum chances of reviewers.
Now, two of the riskier things to do in “canon” fics is to have “Sookie” turn, or to get “Sookie” pregnant. A whole heap of people don’t like those things, so don’t make your story go that way. You want to be able to have “Eric” talk about how warm she is, and how her blood tastes like orgasming chocolate or something – she can’t taste good if she’s dead. Pregnant women don’t go out to dinner and fuck in the coat closet either. So just don’t do it. I know it might be the way you like your vampire fics to go, but you’re better off going with the idea that some special fae quality means “Sookie” will live forever as “Eric’s” happy meal.
Now, as for “Sookie’s” fae powers. You can make them really whatever you want. It can be complete shit you’ve made up out of your head. But I would recommend using other sources – either the Wiccan tradition, or fairytales. Maybe X-Men, if you’ve seen that. The Wiccan tradition is really popular though – anything with Wiccan stuff in it, is almost guaranteed to make it to a popular fic. There’s a whole heap of people who peg that as really spiritual, and you can go in depth with that stuff. It does require a bit of research though, and visiting shops with those sorts of books in them. But you can go to google for stuff about Norse gods – it’s all over the internet. Just have a god or two pop in or out. Don’t bother to research any other culture – just Norse. Your “Sookie” will co-opt “Eric’s” gods as her own. Don’t mire it too much – it’s hard to pick up new readers if you get too in-depth with it. You should know about Freya, Odin, Thor and maybe a few of the lesser gods. (Sorry Thyra if you’re reading this!)
The main thing to get out of the fae powers is immortality and beauty though – nothing else you need. “Sookie’s” only ever going to use them for “Eric” and at “Eric’s” direction. The whole point is to get “Eric” something special, not to say anything about “Sookie”. Your “Eric” shouldn’t fuck anything but the best. And that’s fae. Hell, your “Sookie” shouldn’t even know how to use them or when to use them until “Eric” tells her, or until “Eric” is in danger, barring that first time “Eric” discovers them. “Eric” should know of some previous fae – and it’s important for him to make the connection, and to know how to deal with fae traits. To my mind, book Eric wouldn’t have a freaking clue about how to deal with telepathy or fae powers, or care to know, but your “Eric” should.
Now, the other part is personality. “Sookie” shouldn’t really have any. Not taking the piss, promise. She’s there to be directed around the room by “Eric”. Your readers really want to read about “Eric” – there’s no way they should identify with “Sookie” at all. They should want to be Sookie, not respect her. Give up hope that anyone will say anything about “Sookie”. Some of the hounds review and never mention her at all, even if the chapter has “Eric” gone. They just say that they can’t wait for “Eric” to return. They really only pay attention to her if she’s done something wrong (and you have to have that happen), so they can rouse on her for causing “Eric” trouble. Check out the reviews on the popular stories – look at how many reviewers say nice things about Sookie. Save yourself the trouble, really. No one ever mentions her unless she’s wrong.
The most personality that “Sookie” should have is that she’s willing to grovel to just about anyone, and particularly “Eric”. You know how much personality Bella has in Twilight – she should be that fleshed out. She should take direction really well, and when you get the fic past the initial stages, she should be able to do anything that “Eric” desires. What seems to be really popular is when she has the self concern of a dog – which is just about keeping themselves alive, but other than that, they live to fulfil their Master’s desire. I know that sounds really awful, but I swear to you, it works really well. “Sookie” in popular fics is pretty starved for attention, and she will do anything to please “Eric”. Don’t make her incredibly weak though – just she should do as she’s told. “Sookie” should only stand up to others in “Eric’s” name – never to “Eric” himself.
There are two archetypes of the popular “Sookie”. That’s genteel Southern “Sookie” the Southern belle, and gregarious “Sookie” the modern woman. The genteel “Sookie” seems to poll slightly better, and she’s easier to write. She doesn’t have any friends, so you don’t need to worry about having other characters in there – or she has one – usually Amelia. This “Sookie” is a virgin. Gregarious “Sookie” is a near virgin. Don’t even think of giving her an extensive sexual history – really don’t. Genteel “Sookie” is like a dewy eyed naive fool, and she only ever gives resistance to “Eric” because she doesn’t think she’s good enough. Gregarious “Sookie” has just never found her match for awesomeness until she meets “Eric”.
It’s important that she’s like a really good wife. I wish I had this kind of wife, but I don’t. She’s the sort of chick who gets up at 5am and makes his breakfast, she keeps a scrupulously clean house, she can do things that are really hard for someone in a snap. Solving problems and logistics takes zero time. She’s not tired, gross, grubby or messy. She’s not sitting around writing fanfic either. 😀 I actually was this kind of housewife for a short amount of time – when my kids were little – and washed dishes at like 3am, to rise again at 7.30am. I wasn’t writing fanfic then either. 😀 I did learn to live on coffee though. But, she should have genteel pursuits like embroidery, or conversely, she should be out there making new style and helping people. If you’ve decided to go with quiet, mousy “Sookie” who doesn’t know her own beauty, she can turn her hand to any handicraft, and if you’ve decided to go for gregarious “Sookie” who hasn’t met a man as fabulous as Eric, she can do every single pursuit – singing, playing music etc. My husband often teases me because I complain about this sort of person in fiction, who can do everything they put their mind to, because he maintains that’s me. I must say, I do quite despise the Detective Gorens of the world, but lots of people love them.
This is part of the whole wish fulfilment thing. I mean, as I sit here writing this LJ post, I’m not doing things around my own house. But I would love a clean house (as would anybody) with no work, so readers like to entertain a little bit of subterfuge, and make out like they could have a clean house if they had an Eric – it’s got nothing to do with reading fanfic instead of doing stuff. Anything for the character is effortless – and I mean, if she’s a corporate high-flier, she shouldn’t really need to spend any time at work. People in these fics don’t disappear to work for hours. They go for like, at most, an hour or two. “Sookie” should have plenty of money to live on, and never struggle. Only reviewers like me will ask where the money comes from, but I would recommend if you have to put it in, make believe some distant relative left her a lot of money. Not more than “Eric” though. If “Sookie” has a million dollars, “Eric” needs to have a billion.
Now, if you’ve taken my advice and made it a “canon” fic, then make “Sookie’s” telepathy also easy to deal with. Most fics don’t have it being a stumbling block – but your “Sookie” shouldn’t have any trouble dealing with it. Treat it like the fae powers – it’s only when it’s useful to “Eric” and “Eric” knows just how to deal with it. In your standard popular story, it’s very much in the background until “Eric” needs it. You can mention it of course, but never actually make it a problem on the page – no discernible problems if “Sookie” is in New York City etc. If “Sookie” has any problems, then “Eric” should have a quick and easy solution. A popular one is ‘sheltering’ in “Eric’s” vicinity – so that’s why “Sookie” will want to be close to “Eric”. No one cares about what “Sookie’s” doing, so don’t waste any time thinking about it. No one else will either.
As to “Eric”. I’m going to be really blunt. He’s really Bill. I covered this a little in my Billsorbency post. But your popular “Eric” is more likely to be Bill than not. I know, I know. Everyone hates Bill – or they say they do – but they don’t really. They love lots of stuff about Bill. Your “Eric” won’t work anything other than flexible, scanty hours. Your “Eric” will control almost every aspect of Sookie’s life – what she wears, what she eats, when she sleeps. Your “Eric” will feed exclusively on “Sookie”. Your “Eric” will spend almost every moment with her. Your “Eric” will rip undies and clothing off (this is really popular, seriously). Your “Eric” will buy “Sookie” stuff like she’s a kept woman. Your “Eric” will be a raving jealous lunatic. Remember that scene where Bill comes out of the darkness in Living Dead in Dallas and says few words and fucks Sookie with “passion” and possessiveness – that reviewed really well when it was done by Eric. The reviewers said it was “So Eric! OMG that’s hot! He’s so passionate!”. Yep. Bill’s hot. But only if he’s called Eric, apparently. I thought for sure that readers would see it as identical to that scene, but they totally missed it.
Another thing I’ve seen lifted almost from the books is ripping up trees. Bill says he rips up trees in Dead Until Dark to take out his anger, but when “Eric” does it, it was praised with many shouts of “I love how Eric showed his temper like that that’s so him!”. “Eric” in a popular story takes his anger out on lots of things like Bill does. So lots of violence, and lots of jealousy. Eric in the books doesn’t get physical with his anger, but reviewers loooove it when “Eric” does it in a story. Really – they can’t get enough. It’s even a good idea to give your “Eric” Bill’s bathroom – that’s a popular one and as long as it outdoes what you read in the books for Bill, it’s good. Particularly if you can make “Eric’s” shower incredibly luxurious, with multiple showerheads and stuff.
Your “Eric” will take up Bill’s primary purpose in the books – he’ll be teaching “Sookie” all about how to handle her telepathy. “Eric” should give lots of lessons to “Sookie” about everything – he has very much the Dad vibe of Bill. Lots of your reviewers either yearn for a husband who will take all pressure off them and do everything, or they only have a Dad so they can’t tell the difference. This is an important bit of wish fulfilment – he should take care of her absolutely and completely. I know I’ve often cringed to myself and wondered if the “Eric” in question would like it if “Sookie” slipped and called him Dad in bed. You don’t need to worry about crossing any of those lines though – because you can even make a popular story if “Eric” actually takes care of “Sookie” from when she’s a baby.
Your “Eric” will love to travel – like Bill does when he goes to Peru. He’ll love technology (Eric says he hates it even if he does use it, but Bill’s computer savvy). He’ll love to keep stuff around – one popular one is a sword from his human life – like Bill has his old family bible. But your “Eric” could have a library, and should probably have really old ornaments. Your “Sookie” can spend a whole hour or two before “Eric” gets up marvelling at them and how awesome your “Eric” is. This gives her a reason to do whatever he says – she can argue with herself that “Eric” has survived so long (lol – and kept a house full of crap in Shreveport – lol) for over a thousand years, so she needs to follow his rules. Your “Sookie” hasn’t got any other friends, and doesn’t spend her day working, so apart from sleeping and fucking “Eric” when she’s awake, this gives her something to do around the house. House is safe, so it’s desired.
Your “Eric” should also talk about his human life and human family like Bill does in the books. Book Eric doesn’t reminisce about his human life very often as it’s so long ago, but your “Eric” should. Sometimes it can be object lessons on how “Eric” lost someone long ago, and it hurt him a lot so now “Sookie” should do as she’s told. But don’t make those people too important to “Eric”. If at a random moment, your “Eric” was asked, he’d say that “Sookie” is worth more to him than his long dead kids. No one wants to hear that “Eric” loved his human wife – only marriages of convenience. Usually it’s pretty popular for “Eric” to have known famous people in history – if in doubt, make up shit about their lives – no one will ever check.
I’m pretty sure you could almost translate “Bill” to “Eric” and do an almost word for word copy and paste from the books. The possessive bit of Bill is still well loved by reviewers though – cutting her off from Sam is pretty essential. You can’t have anyone else vying for “Sookie’s” attention. If you keep them in, make them pains in the arse. Usually in your popular fic, “Sookie” just drifts away from them because they don’t approve of “Eric”. I know that it’s relatively popular to make Bill or Quinn or Sam a raving lunatic, but there really should be only one single chapter on that. If you have “Bill” on the page (who should be creepier than Mickey) then you’re not writing your couple having sex. That’s wasting time. In lots of popular fics – a couple come to mind, Bill is nothing special – he’s bland and stupid, but he doesn’t do anything. Occasionally he might lecture “Sookie” on how lucky she is to have “Eric” but other than that, he sort of disappears into the background and looks sad he missed out.
Now, as to storyline. I can’t stress this clearly enough. No break-ups. No dating other people, no hint of other romances. “Eric” can have sex with other people until he learns his lesson, but nothing more than that. As I’ve said before, this uninvests readers in storylines. Lots of writers keep doing it, truly believing that they’re being daring and realistic, but I have yet to read it done well in a story I haven’t reviewed. They seem sure they can prove it’s doable, but they do get people walking away. Usually people don’t say anything because of the positive review culture – they bow out quietly. It’s usually done crappily, because it’s pure plot device – the writer is trying to reinvent the story out of the ditch. In real life, it’s not standard romantic comedy stuff to break up and get back together again a couple of months or years later. You break up, and that’s it. In my opinion – and most other people’s opinions – only complete idiots try to make something work the second time round that didn’t work the first time around.
Usually it’s one day of being disheartened about how worthy “Sookie” is of the wonderful “Eric”. You can maybe, maybe push it out to a week, but I really wouldn’t bother to put in that much effort. You’re creating more work for yourself than you really need to. Trust me – there is no need for a unique storyline. No one cares. They’re not following your story – they’re reading your porn. Even if they do notice gaping plot holes, they’re not going to care because of the porn. Now, the hounds – and you’ll know who they are, because they review stories with lots of porn – they’ll let you know when you’re uninvesting people. They don’t like to see break-ups. Break-ups don’t have sex in them. If you do the disheartened for a day or so, you can have the couple have “passionate” make-up sex. That was an absolute meme at one time – I couldn’t read popular stories without reading about make-up sex. I hated it, but it reviewed really well as passionate and hot. Eh, it probably still works.
You do have to be aware of some of the memes that go round the community. One of the popular ones, and it’s been around a long time, is moaning while eating. I dunno who first wrote it, but it’s really a “stick-it to vampire Bill who hates eating”. It doesn’t seem to be too popular any more, and I think that’s because it’s been done to death. The meme of the moment is “lady bits”, “little one”, “tiny hands”, “Sookie” being enslaved or forced to parade around like poodle in front of other vampires “for her own good” and vampires as overlords. You can probably get a clue from memes at the moment if you do follow my LJ – they get on my tits far faster than they do on everyone else’s cause I read and remember. I am the canary in the coal mine with this stuff. My critical eye does me no favours.
As for what sort of storyline you should think about – any variation on Dead to the World goes gangbusters. Any “Sookie” goes back in time to the Viking age goes gangbusters. Any “Sookie” where you can find a way to circumnavigate Bill entering her life will work. Making your “Sookie” a virgin for “Eric” goes down really well too. You can pretty much copy any particular movie you’ve seen – the more obscure the better. Don’t make it a complicated movie. Just look up highest selling rom-coms on google and pick the storyline from one of those. There’s a few fics I can think of where entire storylines are lifted from obscure movies that maybe other people haven’t seen. I’ve seen them though, and recognise them. But I don’t tell anyone. Don’t worry too much about what your story is going to end up like – because the story really isn’t the point.
If you take it as a “canon” fic from DITF, there aren’t many of those. If I were you, I’d make a “canon” fic, re-writing the ending of DAG. That moment when Sookie refuses to see Eric’s suggestion to quit work – that’s a good moment that one. Lots of people would love to inform “Sookie” how it ‘should’ have gone. Another popular one is “What if” stories – what if Sookie never met Bill, what if Sookie took off with Eric the first night he wanted to bone her etc. As long as the “what if” diverges earlier in the story for “Sookie and Eric” to be together sooner, it doesn’t have to make logical sense – you’ll have a whole heap of people rousing on “Sookie” for not doing it when she could have – book Sookie wasted time when she could have been Eric’s personal bed warmer for much longer. 😀
One of the things that will have you going really well straight out of the gate is having “Sookie” be in the wrong from the very first chapter. That polls really well with reviewers. That’s the sort of thing they leap on. I mean, that’s the only time they mention “Sookie” in reviews at all, and if there’s no sex, at least “Sookie” is wrong. You can start with a chapter with sex in it, but if you want to give a nod to plot, then that means taking a break, and that’s not good. It works better if you have “Sookie” make some sort of mistake from the very first chapter, because then she can spend the entire fic grovelling to “Eric”. He’ll be seen as kind for talking to her again – he really doesn’t have to do more. Plus, you’ve set up an overarching reason as to why “Eric” suddenly gives the orders – it’s because “Sookie” is a ditzy idiot.
So I would recommend starting “Sookie” on the back foot. It can be as simple as “Sookie” thinking she’s a one night stand, or “Sookie” thinking “Eric would never really want her. Just so long as she feels like she’s worth less than him, it’s all good. “Sookie” should generally feel unentitled to anything – not with “Eric”. She should act like an honoured guest in her own house – asking permission to do things. Reviewers looooove that stuff – no demanding “Sookie”. If she’s demanding, you’ll have to get her beaten up until she learns her lesson about not following “Eric’s” rules. Then, for the rest of the fic, she should grovel to “Eric”. There’s a whole heap of irascible Sookie haters who love to see “Sookie” grovelling to “Eric” – so don’t discount them as part of the numbers game.
I think you should also know that because “Sookie” will be grovelling for most of the fic, you need to put in EPOV. It’s really simple EPOV though – where he never thinks nasty thoughts and he never does anything nasty to “Sookie”. If you don’t put in EPOV though, most people don’t want to read chapter after chapter of “Sookie” internally grovelling at “Eric’s” feet. They will identify with “Eric”, not with “Sookie”. Grovelling never looks good from the inside, and after a while, people lose interest in being weak. If you have “Sookie” grovelling internally, she can still be having sex with “Eric”.
So if “Sookie’s” grovelling, what should your plot be? Usually external forces and “Sookie” not getting her head out of her arse. The external forces should be for “canon” defeating Bill, Victor or Andre. It doesn’t work so well with Sam or Quinn as the external force, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work at all. It’s relatively easy to convince readers that Sam and Quinn are bad people, but the work is already done with Bill, Victor and Andre. Sophie Anne doesn’t work so well because, well, she’s a girl, so she can’t defeat the great “Eric Northman” and also, people don’t think she’s a threat because they only remember AB’s Sophie Anne, who’s made weak as a character.
But how you ask, does Bill/Victor/Andre get their hands on “Sookie” to give her a beating, or at least a real fright? Ah, that’s where the ditzy idiot comes in useful. “Sookie” should inexplicably leave the house to do something stupid. Don’t make the mistake with thinking she should save herself – look at the reviews for the popular stories – reviewers don’t ever consider she could save herself. They always want “Eric” to jump in at the last moment. This isn’t book Sookie – this chick shouldn’t be able to do anything for herself but grovel, do her hobbies, cause trouble, look pretty and get fucked all night. The only real time “Sookie” pulls out any battle skills is to save “Eric” or sacrifice herself for “Eric”.
Don’t move your plot too fast, as some tend to do – and thus don’t quite get to the popular story level. The above rescue scene should happen about chapter 10-15. Here’s a run down of how fast it should go – chapters one and two introduce the characters and their first meeting – chapter eightish, they should think about fucking, but pull back, under the auspices that they’ll fall in “love” this way. Usually in one of the early chapters, Eric tries it on with another woman, but discovers that they taste and smell bad and he can’t fuck them. It’s made clear he’s not interested in any other woman but her. This polls really well with reviewers – they love the idea that he can’t bring himself to touch another woman. It plays on the secret fears many women have that they aren’t beautiful enough, and that a man will eventually get tired of them.
Bear in mind too that anything you need done or known in a fic, “Eric” will know it, and care about it enough to know it. Like the telepathy – there’s some school somewhere where “Eric” picked up skills no one else in the world has. I often wonder to myself, that if “Sookie” was in a wheelchair, would he toss her out and show her how to do it better? 😀 Don’t worry about “Sookie” picking up those skills though – again, no one cares, and she has “Eric” for the rest of her fae eternity. If she does pick up any skills from “Eric” have her grovel over picking them up, and saying how much he’s changed her life.
You should probably know you can’t really start this scheme right now – it’s off season before the book – lots of people stop reading fanfic altogether and re-read the books. But I would recommend being ready for the new book. If you can write really quickly, you can have “Sookie” quit her job, and then incorporate all the new storylines from the new book – just have “Eric” do anything like saving “Sookie”. I can tell you already that people will not like the new book because of what’s done to Eric. I can guarantee they’ll complain there wasn’t enough Eric in the new book. Plus, you want to give any people time to forget where they saw this post, if they see it at all. People can’t maintain effort and pretence for long, so when the new book comes out, re-write it about oh, a month after release.
Now, how to get a spike in your reviewing. A new popular way of getting reviews is to get people to talk about themselves. People loooove talking about themselves. This is a trick some police interrogators use – and certainly, it’s great spy technique. Ask them questions and tell them you really want to know what they think. People will jump at the chance to talk about themselves. Your reviews will get longer because they’ll want to tell you all about themselves and their lives. Then, some reviewers start to get a bit competitive with each other, and they review longer than anyone else – you can get whole essays if it goes on long enough. Always be interested in your audience.
You should also reply to reviews too, just to be sure. I know, it seems like a lot of work, but if you just write a different sentence for each week, and put an extra space in that sentence every second review reply, you can post back to people in no time flat. I can’t say for sure that all of the popular writers do this, because I’ve never reviewed some of them. But many seem to – and people love to think you’re taking time to be personally special to them. Some reviewers don’t have much contact with the outside world cause they’re at home with kids, so a little bit of interaction makes them feel really wanted. Wanted people like you, and people who like you review.
If you want to pull reviewers out of the woodwork, and get them commenting on your story – get a spike that will pique the interests of others – then this is where anonymous reviewing comes in. Usually, someone will take the chance to say something nasty into an anonymous box. I know I’ve been tempted to write an anonymous review for a few people saying that their Eric is Bill (I don’t though cause I think I’d say too much that sounds like me and end up not actually being anonymous) so other people do too – but they don’t restrain themselves. If you get a nasty review, don’t take it personally. It’s one more number. There’s even a writer who posted a private PM as an anonymous review – it’s all numbers. No one ever reads too far back anyway. One crazy or angry reviewer isn’t going to put anyone off.
The opposite in fact. I’ve noticed that every single time someone gets a nasty review, and leaves maybe a 2-5 sentence telling off in their A/N, they get a jump in reviewing. Not more than a couple of sentences though – and go with the sad vibe rather than the angry vibe. One fic, it didn’t have many reviews – reviews increased by a third after they bitched in their A/N. In my early days, I gave such a review myself to someone cause someone “picked” on them. Nowadays I don’t bother, because the internet is not made for delicate hothouse flowers. I’d be more likely to tell them “Harden up princess” so I just keep my mouth shut – positive review culture and all. But you can get people rallying round in support for you (lol unless you’re Charlaine Harris). 😀 People who don’t usually review will review to tell you how much they lurk and love your story.
If all of this doesn’t get you over the thousand review mark, just wait for your second fic. Whereas with those pointless story bits you’ve tacked on before have put the hounds off, they’ll know better the second time round, and your reviews will increase. If you have a look at some of the authors with most reviewed stories, they had to pony up and show good faith on the porn stories before they hit it big the second time round.
For those of you with existing stories, who want to know how to get more reviews, it’s as simple as just have them have sex with each other. Quickly have them get over whatever problems they have with each other and fuck. I’ve noticed if you reassure your reviewers that your story is about more than sex, then they will believe you, even if your story has whole chapters full of sex. It’s that whole thing that goes on with the books with Eric – if you say one thing out loud, but do another, no one will notice or call you on it. Positive review culture and all. If they do notice, then just do the complaining A/N, and you’ll have another jump in numbers. People are social animals – they want to be in the cool group, and they want to be included. They will agree with you if you tell them what they want to hear.
Now, one last piece of advice. If you choose to go this route, don’t try to come back. It really has to be a permanent decision, or at least one that you know is what you want for the foreseeable future. I’ve been burned many times with watching the oh-so-familiar style. There are writers I don’t trust any more not to do this, no matter how different their premise, or their style. Don’t bother to toss in a salve to see if you can get me to review you too – I won’t. If you go down this route, then I’m not going to review you because I’m deliberately staying uninvested in your story. So too with other people who read for quality. Except other people will give you no second chances – I will give writers a second chance by dint of the fact that I read more. I can think of one person who probably would have gotten a review from me last chapter update, because their Sookie actually stood up for herself, and I dipped in and read it, but I don’t trust them not to fuck it up in coming chapters. I think she’ll be grovelling to Eric within two chapters, as is the popular story meme – and so I stay uninvested.
In order to show good on your return from the phenomenon, you have to write one whole story that doesn’t do the popular story thing, and then when you start the second one I will think about reviewing. Mainly because that’s the only way I know I can become invested in your story. So too it is for other readers who read quality, rather than porn. Really, who wants to do that? No one would, I would think. Too easy to fall back into the same old patterns, plus, if you’ve been this shallow, I doubt that you’ll have much of substance to offer readers like me. So make your decision a permanent one, because the hounds won’t be reviewing you if you write good writing, and I’m not going to be reviewing you if you have a history of writing this tripe. It’s only new writers nowadays that burn me, because they start with a clean slate. Don’t count an alert from me as an indicator of anything – I don’t always alert stories I intend to review.
So, like I say, drop me a PM on Fanfic.net so I can be aware of what you’re doing. I know it’s worked for a lot of people so far, and I bet it works for you, if you use it. I know I made this sound a little awful, but I didn’t want to be vague in how to get there. If people could figure it out by themselves, they wouldn’t ask how to get more reviews in general. They’d be able to see it, but they don’t, so I have to reduce it to the essential elements to show them the technique. I realise that in a sort of Catch-22 situation, that might take some of the self esteem boost out of it, but your reviewers won’t know what’s going on, otherwise they would have figured out the same patterns these stories follow and get bored with it. I also hope those few small time writers who read my LJ at least got the reason why they’re not getting recognition too. It’s not about your writing – it really isn’t. 🙂
EDIT: Thyra just contacted me to tell me that her fics aren’t like that – and sure, anyone on my fic recommendation list isn’t like that, but I never said “all” and this is an aggregate study of most popular fics.