Today I'm talking about authors who do gross things in public. These are the ten things writers do that give me the ick. I realize that “the ick” typically refers to attraction or interest. So let's just say that if I’m interested in reading an author's content, and then they do this shit, my interest declines.
Now, this stuff isn't necessarily indicative of their writing. It's more so how they talk about their writing, how they treat the business, and how they behave within the community. There are some badly behaved authors out there and they don't think we noticed, but we did. Some of the items on this list aren’t too terrible. They can be kind of cringy, but that's about it. But some of this shit gives me a visceral reaction. *Gags*
Let’s break down the ten things writers do that give me the absolute ick. If you do any of the things on this list, I'm sorry for the call-out, but someone had to say it! Might as well be this bitch.
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Number 1: I Wrote My High School Bully Into My Book, Just So I Could Kill Them Off
That'll show ’em! Except they're never gonna read the book . . . They're out living their life, blissfully unaware of your existence, while you're still stewing over the hell they put you through. So really, who's the one winning here? A lot of writers claim to write people they hate into their books as a villain, or so they can kill them off, and I don't think this is clever revenge. I just think it's kind of embarrassing. The best revenge is a happy life. It's not giving this person any more control over your feelings. But you're giving them so much control you need to fictionally murder them in order to feel vindicated.
On top of that, not only have you wasted time fuming over this person, but you've also immortalized them. You’ve made them a permanent fixture in your creation, something you poured your heart and soul into. You allowed them to permeate that, and they're gonna be there forever. Real talk, if I found out someone hated me so much that they wrote me into their book, even if I was just there to die, I’d be flattered. Wow, you care about me so much that you went to such an extreme length to showcase those feelings? Clearly, you've been thinking about me a lot more than I've been thinking about you.
Number 2: Naming Your Children After Characters You Wanna Fuck
This is something that's common among readers and writers, as well as fans of all kinds. Remember when Sons of Anarchy was popular, and everyone started naming their sons Jaxon? Women would publicly say, “I named him Jaxon, ’cause I wanna fuck Jaxon.” Do I need to explain why this is weird?
I totally get reading about a character and feeling inspired by them, connected to them, or even just thinking they have a pretty name. But naming your child after a character you rub one out to seems like a conflict of interest. The name you associate with fucking is now the name of your baby. I don't see the appeal in this. I feel like it would create a lot of confusion and grossness, as well as a ton of therapy for your poor child.
Number 3: My Character Has a Mind of Their Own
"I wanted to name my character Justine, but she just wouldn't behave until I finally named her Jules.”
“I had planned for the love interest to be the prince, but my heroine clearly had the hots for the brooding rogue.”
“I tried to follow my outline, but my characters refused. They had another story in mind entirely.”
Everyone knows the characters aren't real. We all know that they do not have a mind of their own. They don't have a mind at all–they’re fiction. So these statements seem try-hard, like you're embellishing your artistry, or deferring blame on an imaginary friend.
“But Jennaaa! Don't all writers believe that their characters are real and separate from them?”
No! I see my characters as three-dimensional and realistic, sure, but I'm very aware that they are creations from my mind. Every writer I know feels this way. I don't know of any writer who sees their characters as real, 'cause they’re not! You were there when you made them. We all know that. It's time to come back down to earth.
Number 4: AI Art
Oh, yeah, we're going there. I totally understand the appeal of AI art. When I first heard of Midjourney, I thought it sounded awesome. Like a lot of writers, I played around with the free version of the platform and made a few AI images of my characters, but I didn't share them publicly because they weren't professional. Leila had six fingers, and Tobias had three eyeballs. Plus, I didn't know if there were any copyright issues surrounding the artwork. About two weeks after this, I learned what has now become common knowledge: AI art is generated using images created by actual human artists without their consent.
In my opinion, this should have been the end of the conversation. As writers, we all know how horrible it feels to have our work plagiarized. Or at the very least, we know that that's something we never wanna experience. And yet despite this, I see writers not only paying for AI art but using it to make promotional images for their books. Let me get this straight. Not only are you knowingly paying for stolen artwork, but you're using stolen artwork to try to get people to buy your books. Do you see the hypocrisy here? I think artists of all kinds have to support one another, and profiting off of stolen work ain’t the way to do it.
Number 5: Purple Prose in Conversation
Writers typically have a wider vocabulary than the average person, but aside from that, the way that you write usually isn't identical to the way that you speak. But every once in a while, I run into an author who's gotta use flowery language in basic conversation. I've noticed this is particularly common among writers who fancy themselves “poetic,” but they're usually about as poetic as an elementary school haiku. I've also noticed this among some Harlequin writers. They'll talk about their personal love life like it's a scene from Taken by the Duke.
“My husband and I have shared many a titillating encounter. He kisses me passionately and ravenously, and I quite enjoy it. My heart is a flutter, my loins burning with lust.”
Literally no one asked. Everyone's different, and maybe you've always spoken that way. Good for you. I just find it weird and uncomfortable, and not at all titillating. Sorry.
Number 6: The Social Media Diary
I think it's great to be personal via your author platform. It's nice to show your audience who you really are. But there are instances where it deviates from giving a glimpse into your life to full-blown trauma-dumping. Or plain old bitching, if I’m being honest. We all need to vent sometimes, but that's what family, friends, or your therapist is for. And if you don't have those things, journaling is always available. But I’ve seen a lot of authors go straight to TikTok or Instagram Live to cry about even the most trivial things. Vulnerability is an asset, but constant complaining isn't appealing to anyone. Your readers are gonna see you as negative and ungrateful, and that is a major turnoff.
Number 7: Inserting Yourself Into Reader Spaces
There are authors out there joining private reading communities just so that they can monitor readers’ reactions to their books. There are authors who read and respond to their negative reviews, starting debates or picking fights. There are authors who post rants about reader opinions. And this gives me the ick because readers are allowed to have their own space, separate from authors.
And writers, I get it. We have all gotten reviews that have deeply hurt our feelings. It's perfectly fine to be upset, have a good cry, or vent to your friends. But it’s not appropriate to invade a book club just to spy or to confront reviewers who probably had no idea you were reading their reviews in the first place. And when you target a reader publicly, you are putting them in a position to be bullied by your audience. I once saw an author drag a review that honestly wasn't that bad, it was just average, and their fans ripped that reader apart. That's really inappropriate, unprofessional, and childish. If negative reviews upset you, that's fine, don't read ’em. Launching an online campaign against unassuming readers isn't gonna boost your credibility.
Number 8: Gatekeeping
You're not allowed to write this genre, because a neck-beard on Reddit said so. There are several genres where gatekeepers abound, but the two most obvious ones are fantasy and sci-fi. These genres have a very dedicated fan base, and a subset of them believes in keeping the genres “true to their origin.” But literature naturally changes over time. It's been that way since the dawn of the written word.
On top of that, sub-genres and multi-genre fiction exist. Typically gatekeepers want all sci-fi to be modeled after old-school space operas, and all fantasy novels to be modeled after old-school epic fantasy. And while that in itself is extremely limiting for space operas and epic fantasy, it's got nothing to do with the other sub-genres. Why are you holding epic fantasy expectations to portal fantasy, contemporary fantasy, or urban fantasy? All these sub-genres are different; they can't possibly meet your rigid standards. And even if we throw logic out the window, why do you care so much? If you don't like the way someone tells a story, don't read their story. Instead of forcing everyone to replicate Dune, why don't you write the story you want instead? Just saying.
Number 9: Competition
Did you know that some authors will leave negative reviews for books they haven't read, solely because they believe that author is their competition? This is especially common if said “competition novel” is being released around the same time as their book. What gets me is, no book is competition. Ever. This isn't a presidential campaign. Readers can buy multiple books. They can have multiple favorites. That competitor of yours isn't taking anything away from you. In fact, they could be a comp title! You’d be better off befriending that author and trying to collaborate with them, as opposed to undermining their success.
And just when you think that's as fucked up as it gets, did you know that some writers will buy negative reviews for other authors' books? That's right, people can truly be that desperate. I genuinely believe that if writers put that energy into writing an amazing book and putting together a powerful marketing campaign, instead of targeting other writers, we could all be bestsellers.
Number 10: Commissioning Pornographic Artwork of Your Characters
I know a lot of women are gonna be pissed about this point, but just give me a minute! If a reader makes fan art of my characters, I don't give a fuck what they draw. They can draw Tobias buck naked, holding his big old dick, shootin’ a massive load in the air. They could draw Leila’s butthole for all I care. I will be flattered and delighted because someone loved my book enough to draw that butthole. Someone took time out of their day to draw that hefty dick and I will cherish them until they die.
I also adore sexy artwork commissioned by authors. I've seen art where the characters are bathing together, or they're lying in bed naked together, and it's just lovely and romantic and beautiful. But when an author goes out of their way to commission explicit, graphic sex–I’m talking about a close-up of your OC ramming their dick in an asshole, or their mouth slopping around a snatch–I just pause and ask myself, “Why?”
All I can assume is that these pictures are for your spank bank, and if that's the case, do you. Literally, I guess. But they usually make these pictures public in some way, so now I am privy to your lecherous thoughts. I don't need to know about your masturbatory habits. I have zero desire to be in the loop. And honestly, they're your characters. Can't you just imagine them while you flick the bean? Commissioning pornography feels a little excessive to me but to each their own.
So that's all I've got for you today!
I feel the ick in my bones and I want to bathe in holy water because you have disturbed me to my core. I know this post is probably going to upset some writers. Point number ten probably pissed a lot of romance writers off, and I’m sorry. Don’t disown me from the team, I’m one of you! Remember, folks, this is just my personal opinion. One person’s ick is another person’s treasure, right? Maybe?
Are any of my icks on your ick list? Comment below.
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