On many occasions I get posts and e-mails that raise the issue of why in those places such as Literotica, Stories OnLine and Lush Stories that have the facility for readers to vote and give ratings to stories that my contributions don’t rank at all highly. These comments fall into two camps. Those who think that my fiction should rank much more highly. And those who believe that this is clear evidence of how crap my fiction is.
Obviously I’m far more inclined to the former view, but I don’t want to suggest that the votes are all by idiots for whom posting my fiction is like placing pearls before swine. This is a view that is very persuasive given the nature of the fiction that ranks most highly on these sites.
My view is that the votes are genuinely a fair view of the majority opinon of the readers. After all, most readers who go to these sites do so because they’re looking for a particular kind of story and if my fiction doesn’t conform to what they’re looking for, then it is voted down accordingly. The readers aren’t necessarily interested in the sort of stuff I write and there’s no reason why they should be.
But what do the readers want?
Well, beyond the obvious in sex story sites (i.e. sex), it isn’t that obvious. Certainly stories on incest, bestiality, child sex, etc. get a lot of hits, but they aren’t actually the highest scoring. In fact, the stories which get most rewarded for the nature of the content are decidedly vanilla and quite soppy. What readers aren’t looking for (judging by the votes) is adventurous style, imaginative narrative or even compelling story lines. Unless the world is truly made of two-dimensional characters who talk rather too much about what’s just happened to them and have a very binary view of love, sex and human relations, it’s not even about plausibility or realism.
In fact, the most popular stories tend to be re-working of previously popular themes and the worldview is distinctly conservative, sometimes downright reactionary, but never very questioning of social norms. Those on Stories OnLine are especially reactionary from an American perspective whereas those on Lush Stories are generally coy and quite slushy. But I can’t criticise them for that. This is what readers want to read and this is what they choose to vote for. Those writers who supply this demand score well, and I guess I should say deservedly so.
So, why don’t I write the sort of stories that would score well on these sites?
Well, I don’t think it’s matter of ‘dumbing down’ my fiction. I could never write in the popular style about the popular subjects and remain at all convincing at it. Despite some comments I’ve received, it’s not about writing badly, but writing appropriately. The average reader only notices style, grammar, spelling or such things when it impedes their understanding (which is why I sometimes get some very weird ‘corrections’ to my grammar and spelling from Americans who don’t appreciate that theirs is just one variant of the English language). The reader wants a story that, for instance, considers high taxation to be more of an issue than economic fairness. Or has a very chauvinistic view of the roles of women and men in society. Or expects stories that plod along pedestrianly with frequent recaps and has a rather adolescent view of sexual activity. It takes a certain type of person to write all that and to do it convincingly.
The truth is that I write fiction that in a sense is written according to what I believe fiction should be and then submit it to whatever web sites or places where it might be read. I don’t think that is arrogant or presumptuous. No one has to read my fiction (or vote for it) and I’m not making any money from it.
Of course I’d like to get good votes for my fiction. I’d love to get high scores. Then I’d get more people to read my fiction and I might even be in a position to make some money from it. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to write fiction with the intention of getting high scores. Firstly, I don’t think I’d be very good at it. And secondly, I think I would be very dishonest in my intentions to do so.