A Homestuck’s Guide to Fanfic Commenting Etiquette

Leaving comments on things one likes is the most basic way to participate in a fandom. Kudos and Like buttons helpfully convey the most basic of thanks, but at times one wants to leave something with more substance. However, sometimes one may find oneself at a loss as to how to leave a good comment — perhaps one is feeling tongue-tied or particularly anxious about social interactions, and is worried about how to proceed without embarassing oneself or offending the person one intends to compliment.

Or, perhaps, one is already an enthusiastic commenter but has been gently guided here by a kind friend or stranger as a polite way of saying ‘Please step up your game’. 

In either case, this guide is for you.

Why We Want to Take Care to Comment Well

For all we’re in the same fandom and have a shared bond due to that, the fact remains that for the most part, we’re all strangers to one another! Yes, even that writer whose blog you read every entry of and comment regularly on — you only know of them what they choose to put up, and what they know of you may only be a name. What’s more, we’re from a multitude of backgrounds, cultures, and countries — it pays to be polite, even if it seems to be a little formal, so you don’t unwittingly overstep someone else’s boundaries.

Anatomy of a Good Comment

A good comment can be very simple — variations on ‘This is great!’ or ‘I love this!’ They are, however, very basic, and don’t convey much when you’re full of feelings about the fic you want the writer to know about.

The trick to making a more in-depth comment is to be specific. Commenting on specific aspects of the fic that really grabbed you is a great way to let the writer know what they did right — and a great jumping-off point if you want to get more in depth.

Specific things to ask yourself when you want to compliment a fic:

- How the fic made you feel, and what part of the fic made you feel that emotion the strongest. “This fic was so beautifully sad! The part where Kanaya was wandering the desert for all of those days really drove home how lonely and isolated she really was at that age.”
- What about the writing itself you liked — descriptions, scenes, dialogue are all good candidates. “The way you described that ruined city she hallucinated gave me the chills.”
“I really liked the dialogue between her and the ghosts, it was funny and unsettling at the same time.”
“The action was so good, when the zombies rose up and attacked I felt like I was right there.”
- What you liked about the characterization — if the writer kept the character(s) in character well, if the writer made you see them in a new way, and/or if the writer believably wrote the character(s) in new situations. “You wrote Kanaya well, I can easily see her having been like this when she was 3 or 4 sweeps old. It was really interesting seeing her in a supernatural horror situation played straight.”

One or more of these things, expanded upon as you choose, makes for a great comment the writer will remember and even cherish.

Commenting Subjects to be Wary Of

I Want to See More!

You have reached the end of the fic, or the end of what’s there, and you want more. Perhaps it hasn’t updated in a while, perhaps it’s complete but with room (in your opinion) for a sequel — this story has hooked you good and you’re hungry for more, and you want the writer to know!

Sit with that feeling and get comfortable with it, because it is not appropriate to bother the writer for updates. Yes, you really like the fic, yes, it’s been a while since it’s updated and you worry it will be abandoned when you desperately want to see what happens — it is still not appropriate to bother the writer for updates. 

When you bother a writer for updates, you pressure them in a way that turns what is supposed to be a fun way to participate in fandom into a job. It doesn’t make them feel appreciated, it makes them feel demanded of, like they aren’t appreciated as people but as vending machines for entertainment.

This means no:

- Joking about how the writer ‘has’ to write more or update soon. This may be funny amongst you and your friends, but unless you know for certain that the writer is your friend, your joke will come off as overly familiar and rude.
- Joking that you will stalk or kill the writer if they don’t write more. For a great many people, this not funny under any circumstances.
- Asking or telling someone to write a sequel.
- Asking when the fic will update. If the writer has an obvious, consistent update schedule it will already be posted somewhere.
- Asking why a fic hasn’t updated. There are a multitude of possible reasons someone hasn’t updated a fic, all of which boil down to ‘none of your business’. Asking for a reason is demanding, and especially so if it’s only a few days since the fic last updated.
- Telling the writer to update. Remember how, when you were very small, your parents got annoyed with you when you demanded toys or candy when out shopping? Well, that same feeling applies here and it’s even less charming to strangers.

If you have the urge to put any of the above into your comment, take a deep breath, repeat to yourself that patience is a virtue, and find something else to focus on.

"But wait," you say, "I still really want the writer to know how much I’m looking forward to more, or hoping for more along the lines of what they wrote!" Fortunately for you, there are ways to express this without pressuring them inappropriately. Try:

- I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this fic!
- I’m looking forward to the next update!
- I know this is a completed fic, but I love it so much I hope you write more in this vein.
- I’d love to see more fic like this from you.
- I’m looking forward to whatever you write next.

This won’t get you the knowledge of when the fic will next update or if the writer will write more of what you want, but then again, neither will the other methods — and these will leave the writer feeling appreciated.

I Want to Know What Happens!

It is frustrating to be left on a cliffhanger or wondering if your favorite character is going to appear in a fic. Writers know this. Once again, however, patience is a virtue. Asking for spoilers is obnoxious to the writer, who is very likely still in the process of fleshing out the plot.

Wait for the far more satisfying experience of having your questions answered by the story itself.

I’m Confused About Something In the Fic!

Are you sure your question wasn’t answered in the fic itself? Are you positive? Do a word search and/or skim through and check, just to be sure.

Wouldn’t it be Cool If…

You’ve read a fic, possibly in progress, that is so exciting and interesting it really gets your mental gears going! You want to speculate and analyze and what-if, and you want share them with the writer in hopes that that will inspire them.

However, this is quite a rude thing to do unsolicited, whether it be in a comment thread or a reblog chain of a fic. Writers almost always already have a direction planned for their fics, and more often than not have friends that they go to when they want to brainstorm ideas. Giving writers long speculations unasked-for feels pushy and even controlling.

This doesn’t mean you can’t speculate a little in a comment, but the key words here are ‘a little’. Keep it to a sentence or two, and keep it directly related to what has already happened in the story. For example:

"I’m really curious who Kanaya has run into! The vision problems she’s been having means they could be another hallucination, but the way the air got colder means it could be another ghost. But it talks like she does — maybe it’s her alternate timeline ghost? I can’t wait to find out!"

Perhaps it isn’t speculations you have, but ideas about their fic you want to share. Once again, however, ‘offering’ ideas unsolicited is rude. It won’t feel like an offer, it will feel like you’re giving the writer a laundry list of things you want in the expectation that they will write it for you. Trust me, dear reader: writers usually have no problems coming up with plenty of ideas of their own, and when they do get stuck, they have friends they will go to for brainstorming. 

If you have a lot of ideas related to a fic, why not try building your own fic around them? It can be hard work but it’s worth it — you get a fic just how you want, and telling a fic writer that they inspired you is a wonderful compliment to get.

Speaking of compliments…

A Compliment That Isn’t

"Your fic/writing is so good, it makes me want to give up writing/kill myself."

This is not a kind of comment I am going to try to psychoanalyze, as it may come from a lot of different places, many of them unhappy. However, it is extremely rude and you should never make it. You cannot make this kind of comment in a joking way and have it actually be a joke.

This kind of comment takes your bad feelings and poor self-esteem and makes them the responsibility of the fic writer — a person who, remember, is pretty much a stranger. It’s halfway to an insult as it insinuates they made you feel this way by being too good at what they do, and that’s passive-aggressive in the extreme.

Fic writers aren’t writing their fics AT you. They aren’t using their skills AT you. They’re doing their own thing, and you are having reactions to it. That’s okay, but sit with your emotions, let them happen, ask yourself why you’re having them, talk to a sympathetic friend about them — but don’t take them out on the writer, who very likely doesn’t even know you.

A Brief Word on Critique

Advice on how to give a good critique is well outside the scope of this guide, as it would be a guide all its own. However, a few pointers:

- Pointing out some typos, word confusion, or asking about a confusing passage is one thing; giving a lengthy critique of a piece is another. Unless the writer has asked specifically for critique or you have gotten permission from them to give it, keep it to yourself.
- Writers are under no obligation to take your critique. If you offer critique and are turned down, accept it politely.
- If you’re keeping it to yourself, don’t then make a comment where you’re vaguely disapproving. You’re keeping it to yourself, remember?
- If you absolutely must say something, say it in the most straightforward yet polite way possible.
- Be polite and friendly. No one takes critique well from someone who takes on a superior attitude.
- Balance the negatives with positives. It is as important to spot what worked as it is to find rough parts.
- If you can’t find anything positive to say about a fic, keep your thoughts to yourself. Fanfic isn’t literature writing class and you are not the writer’s professor.

Leaving comments is great thing to do — writers love to have their fics and and love it when people let them know their fics were enjoyed. Carefully considering the effect your words can have on others and making an effort to be polite and thoughtful will help make sure that a writer greets new comments with joy, rather than dread. Hopefully this guide has given you useful insights on how to leave those good or even helpful comments. If you have done less than well in the past, worry not; take this guide to heart, and you will improve.

Now go forth, and spread the fandom love!

  1. turntechgodhime reblogged this from lencrypted
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  4. the-nth-angel reblogged this from mercurialmalcontent and added:
    A good rule of thumb for Fanfic Commenting Etiquette in general.
  5. lifeiscarrots reblogged this from mercurialmalcontent
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  7. w-the-idiot reblogged this from mercurialmalcontent and added:
    This is useful for any fandom, really.
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