Advice from the Fandom—The Influence of Readers’ Opinions


I hate to say it to all those reviewers who make suggestions on how things should go, but not at all. When I write a story, I’ve already figured out what I want to accomplish or how I want things to go. If the readers hate the direction my story is going, I’ll most likely recommend some of the stories I like that they may enjoy better, but I won’t change my story to suit them. Writing is a selfish thing. You’re manipulating these people to follow your wishes and create the situations you want. It’s about writing the story you want to read. Some authors may incorporate readers’ opinions into their thought processing, but personally, I don’t. I’m too self-centered I guess, haha.


Reviews are helpful because they let me know when something has been conveyed incorrectly or where readers need reassurance. I try to work that stuff in minimally. Opinions on the main plot points are regarded, but I stick to my outline. It hurts me to hurt the readers, you know? It really does, but I try to make sure that everything that happens in the story, happens for a reason and is balanced.


Not a whole lot. I have occasionally changed a minor detail because of a review, but it never affects the story arc as a whole.


If you’re asking whether I change anything about the story due to readers’ response, the answer is no. They have no influence. I hope this doesn’t sound elitist, but the story is the story. I hope a bunch of people will like it, but if they don’t…well, that’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. Just as in life, you are never going to please everybody with every word you write. You just have to please yourself and hope that someone, somewhere, will also be pleased. If you are a writer in the hope of becoming popular, boy have you chosen the wrong field.

I won’t say that I don’t take my readers’ opinions to heart, though. At one point in my derivative fiction story, my Edward made some bad choices. The response of many readers was extremely negative and I may have lost a few (or a few hundred). I took this very personally. I love my Edward, his flaws included. And let’s face it–all people are flawed. Part of our beauty is our ability to work around and even overcome our flaws and how we go about doing that. His making mistakes didn’t make him irredeemable. But even though I was hurt by some of the negative reaction, I didn’t change the trajectory of my story at all.

I did recently have occasion to rethink that stance, however. I have a chapter in my derivative fiction which features an elderly Chinese lady in San Francisco. While that chapter was posted months ago and nobody has ever said anything but good things about it, I recently got a review which said it was offensive and the reader basically said I had played into a racist stereotype. I asked this reader to expand on what they meant (obviously I was ignorant or I wouldn’t have written the character that way in the first place), but she never responded. I also asked a few other readers to take a second look and offer me their opinion. Nobody I asked found it offensive, but it is still worrisome for me and I may end up changing that passage. I would never want something I write to be offensive in that way (though I am fully cognizant that some people are just overly sensitive and that we can go way overboard in trying to be Politically Correct, so I hesitate to change anything. It’s a quandary).

I have read Author’s Notes wherein the writer is basically asking his/her readers where they want the story to go. Honestly? That’s a HUGE turnoff for me and will make me stop reading. If you do not know what you want to write, why are you writing? You’re the writer. Have something you want to say; have a story to tell, or don’t sit down to tell it. Period.


Readers’ opinions matter a lot. I love feedback, and while praise is great, I get more excited when I see a review or receive a PM in which readers are offering their opinions. I have never, and will never change my story, add an epi, rewrite anything because of what the readers think. It’s my story, not theirs. Sometimes as a reader I forget this, and rage about where an author has taken her story, what she’s done with it, and wish it could be different. The way in which we are presented with fanfiction – the wait between updates, sticking with something since the very beginning – makes us feel like we have some ownership over these stories. It’s hard to remember that we in fact, do not. Okay, I went way off topic there. So in answer to the question, I don’t think their opinions really influence the current story they are commenting on, but I take a lot of what readers say into consideration, especially when it comes to my writing. It’s always great to hear what the readers are thinking.


My reader’s opinions have had a very positive influence on my story. There was actually a review that someone left me, that inspired me to write one of my favorite outtakes for it. They give me a lot of constructive feedback that I think really helps to improve my writing.


Hardly any. I love to get feedback, and constructive criticism is always welcome (and if I’m genuinely getting something wrong, that’s pretty much the only time I’ll change something in response). But as far as my plot goes, the answer is none.


I’d like to say they have a lot. While I value their input, it’s never used in the story. Especially since my outlines are so ridiculously detailed.

Obsessing Over Edward

They have little influence on my plot, but usually a lot more on character development. I’m not saying that I don’t listen to my readers, because I absolutely do. Some readers are so insightful into the characters that they think of things that I wouldn’t have ever considered. Sometimes personal experiences are shared and I get a glimpse into the lives of someone that has lived what I’m writing and it makes me reevaluate my convictions in the direction the story is headed. I’ve taken ideas from readers and inserted them into my story (with their permission and giving them credit) on several occasions. However, because I wrote about a controversial topic in Fanfiction (*gasp* Edward had a wife before Bella, AND she was actually a good wife/mother that Edward loved *double gasp*) I didn’t pay too much attention to people that wanted me to make the first wife a secretly horrible person just because they couldn’t handle the idea of Edward loving someone before Bella. I won’t change the main plot points in my story for a few closed minded people.


Depends on the opinion! If a lot of readers give me the same exact feedback, such as they don’t understand why a certain character did or said a certain thing, and I thought it was clear, I will often try to figure out a way to explain it in the next chapter. There are two chapters of Canzone (both in Act I) that I wrote for this reason. As a result, I think I’ve grown more careful, because it seems to be happening much less. Well, sometimes people still don’t know why something happened, but if it’s deliberate suspense, they can wait for the story to unfold.


Because I usually have a very specific idea of what I’m trying to accomplish in a story, my readers’ opinions usually do not drastically affect my writing process. I’ve never consciously changed a story arc due to pressure from reviewers, although I do think that the morsels of feedback you receive enrich the story in subtle ways. You’ll feel better about yourself and your story if you stick with the vision that you originally set out to accomplish.

rochelle allison

On my attitude, plenty. On what actually happens in the story, very little.

scarlett letters

None. I’ve outlined and will write to that.


A little and a lot. There comes a point when the author has to be the author, and if you’re going to kill off Harry or Ron just grow some balls and do it. (I mean, erm, wrong fandom.) I mean that, to a degree, the story belongs to the author and if they’re trying to say something, they need to say it without letting readers hijack it. EXCEPT, readers are also, you know, your readers, and you don’t want them totally alienated. They’re an excellent mirror and source of review for your story because they don’t know what’s going on in your head, so if you forget to tell them something or explain something thoroughly, or if your characters start acting all weird, they’ll let you know. I tend to pick a dozen or so readers whose opinions I really respect and hone in on their reviews. You want to listen to the opinions of readers who are intelligent, appreciate you and your writing, but also are passionate about the work and want to see the story be the best it can be.


I never change the story for the readers. If I’m seeing consistent questions about what a character is thinking or feeling, I might pay particular attention to that in an upcoming chapter, so make sure I’ve been clear. But I never change what I had planned for the story.


Readers are wonderful, as are reviews, but when I get someone who rants and tells me I am a horrible writer I tend to ignore it. Sometimes not replying is the best thing you can do. Let it stew–it might end up enlightening you–it might fall to the waste side.

As for frustrated reviews, they kind of spur me on.

I can take critique, but only if I feel that the person giving it to me is coming from a place of neutral clarity and not personal preference.

There are readers that go into a story with an open mind, others delve into into fan fiction for quick fixes–everything from smut to far-flung romances. Sometimes, reality bites and people fail at handling it in actual life much less in fiction.

Tallulah Belle

By way of the overall story? Nothing. I’m staying true to the plot and Muse. The only influence I have used is to give a bit more detail in some areas.


Quite a lot. I try and not let them influence the story too much but if they give me an idea that I think will be funny or work well in the story then I will use it.


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