When you write a story and then ask someone to read it and give you feedback, you are asking two things:
1. How well have I said the thing I’m trying to say?
2. Was it worth saying?
Obviously you can give an opinion on both of those, but in order to help the writer improve things, you may also want to offer some suggestions.
The problem with no.1 is that often it isn’t all that clear what the writer is trying to say. Sometimes they get close enough so you know roughly the sort fo thing they're aiming for, but sometimes it isn't clear at all. You can say to them, I don't get what's going on here, but if it happens early on and you have more story to read, you ahve to make assumptions. And those assumptions may well be wrong. As will any suggestions you make based on those assumptions. It’s like giving direction to someone when you don’t know their destination.
In situations like that, it can feel a lot safer to offer generic advice, spelling grammar, use fewer adverbs, that sort of thing. The writer can get frustrated that he’s getting a lot of nits and typos pointed out but not big picture stuff. That’s because it’s not clear what the big picture is supposed to be.
Embarrassment can appear on both sides. The reader doesn’t want to be too negative or critical, nor does he want to appear stupid or admit that he just didn’t get it.
The writer doesn’t want to clearly state his intentions, in case his ambitions are ridiculed and mocked. Oh, the dragon's meant to represent the totalitarian state is it? How very la-di-da.
Of course neither of these things will actually happen, but writing can be a very exposing activity that makes people feel vulnerable.
However, in order to get help with your writing at more than a basic punctuation level, you need to have someone who you are willing to explain yourself to, as excruciating as that might be. It helps if they too are a writer; then you can swap humiliations.
Point no.2, whether what you’re doing is worth doing, is obviously very subjective. Plenty of people will dismiss everything you’re interested in. At the same time, some people will be into the same stuff and give everything you do a free pass. Neither approach is very helpful.
While point no.1 is about the technicalities of getting things as good as possible, point no.2 is much more personal and can be taken as an attack on the writer as a human being. There’s not really much you can do about that, it’s always going to come down to a difference of opinion. I might think my idea of a zombie detective who hunts down serial killers and eats them is genius, you might consider the zombie genre a little passé.
Of course, a mature discussion about whether the characters and their narratives are as good and original as they could be would be very helpful, but that’s not an easy thing to find.
Personally, I feel the writer is the one who will gain from any comments made—the reader is doing work for free, and even idiot comments take effort to produce—so it's behooves the writer to accept whatever advice or commentary is given, no matter how asinine or wrong-headed, and then move on. Because every now and again someone will come along and offer you the suggestion that helps beyond measure, and that’s worth suffering a few fools for.
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