Fan Fiction Reviews
Social media tools and online spaces are part of the fabric of many young adults’ daily lives. In the United Kingdom, OFCOM research shows that 69% of young adults share their photos and 44% share their original videos online. Similar studies by the Pew Research Center indicate that 38% of young Americans post their original creative work online, such as stories and artwork, and 21% produce transformative works or remixes inspired by others’ words and images. In short, youth are creating and sharing their work online, including stories, photos, and videos.
In a recent Literacy article, entitled ‘Words on the screen: Broadening analyses of interactions among fanfiction writers and reviewers,’ Jayne Lammers, Alecia Magnifico, and I looked closely at how fan fiction writers and readers interact. While writing fan fiction has become an increasingly visible and mainstream activity, many fan fiction writers also take part in related practices such as reviewing, reading, management of fan spaces, and sharing favourite stories. In our separate online ethnographic studies, many of our participants saw reviews as critical pieces of feedback. They felt that these motivated them to share their work, but also enabled them to develop their craft as writers.
In our article, we conducted a linguistic analysis of fan fiction review comments on Figment.com and FanFiction.net. To do so, we developed a linguistic analysis method to (1) closely analyse the comments and suggestions that readers make, and (2) establish the content as well as the linguistic and social functions of these remarks. Essentially, we wanted to examine what reviewers were saying and how they were saying it; we then sought to understand how that may shape the process and product of fan fiction writing.
While fan fiction readers provide writers with an authentic audience for their creative work, our findings indicate that the review comments they leave generally do not offer specific feedback regarding the craft of writing. Reviews such as, ‘I love the details in this story,’ are incredibly common. Although readers may be avid consumers of fan fiction, they are usually not experienced reviewers who know how to offer timely, accurate, and constructive feedback to writers. In fact, only 3% of reviews identified any writing issues, and these comments were not detailed or specific.
We argue that teachers’ expertise is definitely needed in the complex task of developing young adults’ skills in writing, peer review, and critique. Very few readers and reviewers learn how to give constructive feedback without instruction, whether in classrooms or online environments. Developing one’s craft as a writer demands more than just a captive audience – it also depends on receiving constructive criticism.