Thamiris' Fanfic Survey

Here are the conclusions based on my survey of fanfic likes and dislikes.  I make no claims that this survey is exhaustive.  Instead, it's a glimpse into the minds of fanfic writers, especially slash lovers, in the Herc-Xenaverse.  The  message about the survey went out to mostly slash lists, including KSA, Joxerotica, Hercfic, Cupie, Hephs_Forge, Auto-Erotica, and Golden-Lust, although I asked that it be passed on.   Given that a few of the respondents name f/f pairings as their favorites, I assume it went even further in the fandom.  I've received over 100 replies since November 14, 1999.  Here are the questions, and summaries, including excerpts, of the responses.  Please note that these excerpts have not been edited except for typos.  I also made sure to include a variety of responses, regardless of my personal preferences, with some emphasis on representational comments. 

How long have you been reading fanfic?

The average here worked out to 4.2 years.  There were respondents who'd been in fandom since the beginning, and newbies who'd been here a scarce few months.

Do you write fanfic yourself?

The majority of respondents had written some fic, although a few were starting out.  86% said yes, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm, while 14% said no.

What is your favorite pairing(s), and why?

Favorite Slash pairings in the Herc-Xenaverse (# of votes)

Apollo/Iolaus: 1
Ares/Autolycus: 2
Ares/Caesar: 8
Ares/CupidGoL: 2
Ares/CupidGoW: 6
Ares/Hephaestus:  2
Ares/Hercules: 4
Ares/Hercules/Iolaus: 1
Ares/Iolaus: 16
Ares/Iphicles: 22
Ares/Joxer: 26
Ares/Sovereign: 1
Ares/Strife: 2
Ares/anyone: 11
AresGoL/AresGoW: 1
AresGoL/CupidGoW: 1
AresGoL/CupidGoL: 1
Autolycus/Joxer: 5
Autolycus/Iphicles: 3
Autolycus/Salmoneus: 1
Autolycus/Strife: 1
Autolycus/anyone: 1
Caesar/Strife: 1
Caesar/Iphicles: 2
Cupid/Joxer: 1
Cupid/Strife: 7
CupidGoL/anyone: 2
CupidGoW/anyone: 1
Hephaestus/Iphicles: 2
Hercules/Iolaus: 33
Hercules/Iphicles: 1
Iolaus/Iphicles: 2
Iolaus/Sovereign: 1
Iolaus/Strife: 1
Iolaus/anyone: 3
Iphicles/anyone:  5
Iphicles/Jester: 1
Jester/anyone: 1
Joxer/anyone: 3
Joxer/Strife: 7
Strife/anyone: 1

"I am a sucker for Hercules and Iolaus. I really like that they are not only lovers but friends and life-time companions. I also like the contrasts the two offer as a pairing: mortal v. demigod, small v. big, quiet v. talkative and many others. I also feel this tracks with the shop itself and lends to developing stories from existing episodes more easily."

"Hercules and Iolaus--Hey.  They belong together."

"Hercules & Iolaus -- they make my toes melt.  Ok, they're nice guys, who have interesting adventures, which makes it fun to read about them.  Plus, they're not hard on the eyes... Lots of eye candy.. even if it has to be mental eye candy (or would that be 3rd eye?)."

"Joxer/Ares. After reading so many excellent stories about these two, the pairing just seems right. In fact, I'm surprised when I watch an episode and don't see them going at it! <g> Seriously...We've all seen Joxer suffer along with his unrequited love for Gabrielle; and while I can (sort of) understand Gab's reasons for refusing him, the fact is that Joxer deserves love too, and lots of good things! (And having him be the lover of a god, one of the most powerful gods on Olympus, is a very good thing indeed!)."

"Ares/Iphicles.  Because they are the characters who interest me the most, both separately and as a pairing.  Iphicles' character in particular isn't fixed by canon, opening the way for many different interpretations which leads writers in sometimes diametrically opposing directions, none of which can really be claimed to be 'wrong'.  Ares' character is a fascinating mixture, which means that no two Ares/Iph stories are ever going to give quite the same emotional picture or power balance between the two. The other reason I love these two is that they are both so incredibly sexy."

"My favorite pairing is Ares/Iolaus.  This is primarily because they're my favorite characters on the show.  I also see them as dark vs light, similar but also opposite personalities.  And it would drive Hercules (my least favorite character) up a wall to know that the two were involved."

"My favorite pairing, although I don't write it as much as I should, is Ares and Iolaus. First of all, there's a physical contrast that I like; tall and dark, to shorter, compact, and light.  God of War to Sidekick of Hercules.  God to Mortal. "Evil" to "good."  Second, there's a dynamic between the two of them, and that is something that I try to play up to when I write this pair.  Iolaus denies what he is, and Ares always tries to seduce him and bring him over to "his" side.  Iolaus has the somewhat "bad" background of being a pickpocket, a thief, a womanizer.  Willing to brawl at the drop of a hat.  But he also fights with Hercules, fought with Jason for the Golden Fleece, takes on all of these causes that he believes in and fights in their name; that makes him a warrior, and all warriors, like it or not, serve Ares.  And Iolaus can't live with that.  Third, when Ares and Hercules get together, the tension between them skyrockets when Iolaus is involved.  It seems almost as if he's a catalyst for the two brothers.  Catalyst to what is the thing I like to explore."

"How much time do you have?? I guess it depends on the mood I'm in.  Instead of having a favorite pairing, I tend to have a favorite group of people who I like to interchange.  But if I had to pick, I would say that Ares and Hephaestus are a favorite pair, as are Caesar and Iphicles, and Ares and Caesar."

In Herc/Xenaverse fandom, my favorite is Joxer/Autolycus. Great humor potential and I like the chemistry of the actors on screen. Joxer/Strife can be interesting as long as the characterization of Strife is kept on target. Used to love Joxer/Ares but now I'm rather tired of it--no one's writing anything really original with the pairing any more and the  characterization of Ares is usually terrible (much too smarmy). In fact I've even begun to find some of the het pairings more interesting (Joxer/Callisto, Joxer/Xena) more interesting than the slash ones, if only because they haven't been done to death already and are still fresh to read."

"I enjoy reading stories about Ares/just about anybody male!! Ares/Iphicles is a good one, partly because Iphicles is such a sketchy character on the show, and partly because of that uncanny physical resemblance ... <G>  Iolaus\just about anybody will do, at a push.  It's not so much the pairings that I'm interested in as the individual characters.  Who they pair up with is less of a deciding factor, so long as a character I like is 'starring' in the fic."

"Now, Joxer, he's special. He transcends simple definition. In the show he's often a lovable buffoon, but in fanfic he is so much more.   The whole Xena/Herc universe is special because there are so many delicious pairing possibilities. Joxer, while retaining that core of sweetness, changes depending upon who he's paired with. My  favorite is Ares, of course, but I'm willing to see the boy with  just about anyone, as long as they love him like he deserves."

"Ares/Caesar Ares/Xena Xena/Gabrielle. Xena and Ares because of the darkness of their "relationship". Xena and Gabrielle because they're just too good together. Caesar and Ares...well who wouldn't love that pairing? Mnmnnn!"

"I don't really have a favorite pairing.  I read gen, slash, and adult,  and I'll check out any story that has Iolaus in it.  My favorite stories feature the friendship between Hercules and Iolaus, whether they're having sex or not."

"Herc/Iolaus: They have a lot of history together, best friends since childhood, been through a lot with each other. They seem to have given their lives over to one another, especially Iolaus to Herc.   It makes sense that they would take the deep bond of their friendship to a physical level. They fit well together, compliment each other: one is small, the other large, one is half god, the other mortal, one possesses hunting/stalking skills, the other strength.  They are both very attractive to me (esp. Iolaus)  I see their relationship as lasting and not just an encounter for the night. This gives opportunities for relationship problems, jealousy and other angst that makes fanfic interesting.  The difference in their statures/strength and the way they interact with each other on the show almost makes hurt/comfort scenes inevitable."

Slash Crossovers in the Herc-Xenaverse (# of votes)

Ares/Methos: 1 Iolaus/Illya: 1 Iolaus/Methos: 1

Het pairings in the Herc-Xenaverse (# of votes)

Aphrodite/anyone: 1
Aphrodite/Hephasestus: 1
Autolycus/Xena: 1
Ares/f: 2
Ares/Gabrielle: 6
Ares/Xena: 6
Callisto/Joxer: 1
Cupid/f: 1
Gabrielle/Iolaus: 2
Gabrille/Joxer: 2
Hercules/Xena: 3
Joxer/Xena: 1
Strife/f: 1

F/F pairings in the Herc-Xenaverse (# of votes)

Callisto/Gabrielle: 2
Callisto/Xena: 2
Callisto/anyone: 1
Gabrielle/anyone: 1
Xena/anyone: 1
Xena/Cyane: 1
Xena/Gabrielle:  10
Xena/Gabrielle/Callisto: 1
UberXena/Gabrielle: 1

Will you read a story even if it doesn't feature your favorite pairing(s)? Why?
The answers here are a little hard to quantify, since, while many people said yes, they qualified their response, asking for good writing, or at least one favorite character.

"I'll read a story that doesn't feature a favorite pairing, but I'm unlikely to read a story that doesn't feature at least one of my favorite characters.  I read fanfic (slash, het and gen alike) because I'm interested in certain characters; Iphicles, Ares, Iolaus, Hades - if it doesn't feature one of them, it'll certainly get put at the bottom of the reading pile, unless it's by an author whose work I've particularly enjoyed in the past."

"I am more likely to read a story based on who the author is than on the pairing. I have found that I just love certain authors, and they manage to make pairings sexy even if I don't happen to find one of the boys (ahem. Hercules) sexy normally."

"If the writing is good enough, I'll read pairings I can't see. It  needs more than sex, though sex is good:).  It needs emotion or a damn good plot though."

"Sometimes - I'm fussy about what I read, but not in terms of pairings.  I'd rather read a well written, well characterised story with a pairing I'm not fond of, than to read a story containing my favourite fuck-sluts, but is badly written and badly characterised."

"Sure.  Not many people share my exact tastes.  I'm not going to deny myself some good fiction just because it doesn't punch all my buttons.  Or any of them, really.  I 'm always looking for new buttons.  It increases my odds of finding something I like."

"Yes, definitely.  If there's one thing I've learned over the past year, it is never to close my eyes to any possibility. A good writer can get me to believe in any pairing, no matter whether I'd ever considered it on my own or not."

"Sometimes, but not often.  I might read it because I've read other stories by the same author, usually with my favorite pairing, and want to read other stories.  I might read it because it's part of a series, and just doesn't happen to have my boys in it.  It's very rare that I'll just decide to read a story lacking my favorite characters, or worse, including my favorite characters but pairing them with other people."

"Nope. I have very little free time, why read something that I'm not interested in as much?"

"I'll read just about any slash pairing from the Hercuverse - I like all of the characters.  Herkie-Sue and Iolaus one-true-love-forever stories are the exception.  That pairing makes me gag.  Most of these stories tend to be weepy, over-wrought excuses for fic.  H/I shows absolutely *no* imagination, in my opinion.  The Hercuverse is populated with some pretty choice manflesh; it's just *wrong* to keep these two glued to each other."

"I will not read anything that isn't HtLJ. I also don't read crossovers.  I find that I have no interest in characters I know nothing about, and I usually don't understand all of the story because I don't know the  background. I'm not interested in any other characters/shows at the moment."

"Not usually.  I mean if it contains one of them, I will.  But I'm not going to go read Joxer or Strife erotica - cause I really don't like their characters.  I tend to read slash, but I will read het if it's a good story
"If it features either Ares or Iphicles, I'll definitely try it, even if they're not paired.  If it has neither of them, then the answer is sometimes; if I enjoy the author's work generally, I'll read it, or if it's an author that I don't know and I have the time to read, I'll start to read it to see how I get on with it."

"Yes, especially if it's by a favorite author.  There are many characters I have come to appreciate simply through reading, Strife being a good example.  I had never seen an episode featuring this character when I stumbled across some Strife fanfic.  When I finally saw him in an episode I had a better appreciation for his character than I would have had if I were not already familiar with him."

"Yes, if I've read other stories by the particular writer, or if the premise sounds good.  No, if it's just not my thing.. of course.  Experimentation leads to all sorts of things.  I never imagined Xena-Herc fandom slash because I thought it was just H/I and X/G...Little did I know there was a whole world of it out there."

 a) it's written by an author whose other work I enjoy and admire
b) if it's recommended by someone I trust
c) if I start reading it by accident and find I'm actually enjoying it."

"Probably not.  I get into the characters.  If the characters don't appeal to me, then the story won't either.  I also don't like threesomes.  I know it sounds silly, but the idea that they would bring in a third party seems to reflect on their feelings for each other and diminishes them. Part of the H/I appeal is the relationship & their loyalty."

"Yeah, sometimes.  Sometimes I get bored and I'll drop out.  I'll usually sit through anything with Iolaus in it, even if it's not with Herc, but Herc solo stuff has got to be short or REEEEALLLY interesting or I'll get bored and go find something more...golden."

What is your favorite story-line(s), and why?
First times and angst were popular choices, as was hurt/comfort (although it's worth noting that h/c was also listed often as a least favorite story-line, too). Overall, readers were happiest with well-plotted stories and/or in-depth characterization.

"First times. This is my fav no matter what fandom. There is just *something* about all the lust, tension, uncertainty and seduction."

"Angst.  I love angst.  I'm amazed beyond belief that black strikes on a white screen or piece of paper can evoke an emotional response.  My favorite story-lines involve something that breaks the guys up, and then they work through their issues to fall in love again."

"Can't really say that I have one. But I prefer stories that in some way explore the psyche of the characters, suffering (I prefer mental or emotional to physical) is also good. Betrayal and the following pain can also be good. Or slow seduction that deals with the feelings of loneliness and isolation."

"I was just introduced to the First Time fics.  They appeal to me…the innocence the taking, claiming. It all has a strong draw. Some of the AU fics that I've read are wonderful.  I guess I like a little mystery and adventure best when it comes right down to it. When Ares uses all of his skills and talents to dominate and take control of a person or a situation…that gets my blood flowing. Smooth and seductive Ares. Yeah....I like that!"

"I like first times but you   can only write that story so many way. A new twist, a viewpoint   that hasn't been seen before, meshing history into fiction - all of  these things are good."

"Hurt comfort.... Why?  Because I get an emotional charge out of it.  It reaches out and grabs me.  I go through the whole gambit... Laughter, anger, hatred, fear, doubt, shock, relief etc.... I like being able to immerse myself in the story."

"Anything violent or kinky.  I like to read something that's going to push my buttons, something that's going to provoke me, and those two qualities/storylines in particular do that. I'm also very fond of first-times--I love the tension involved in those."

"I like to see the characters in a process of self discovery, preferably painful.  I enjoy "first time" fic, to some degree, although I tend to avoid "he was a sweet li'l virgin" type stories.  I like happy endings, but I love poignant and painful endings, when skillfully done.  Hurt/comfort is a favourite type of story, but I tend to avoid "X has been horribly brutally raped so now Y has to become his lover and kiss it better".  I like a romantic plot, and a political one, but in the end I'm reading for the characters, and if they seem "real", I'm not too choosy about the context."

"Definitely h/c.  When I was very young (like around eight or so) and just starting to write, most of my stuff was h/c, and oddly enough, slash-like, in as much as it always involved two guys who were closer than brothers.  I had no inkling of the sexual connotations there, I just liked the idea of one person loving another so much they were willing to go to the ends of the earth for them."

"I like romance in the story, but not too sugary.  The characters have to be able to stand on their own 2 feet and not be so entirely dependent on the partner to where they can't function."

"My favorite storyline is Ares trying to seduce someone to his side, to his point of view, or to his bed, both as reader and writer.  As a reader, when I read this kind of a storyline, I get insight into how Ares works, and it makes me think of how I am writing him, and how I can change it.  As a writer, it lets me explore many different facets of Ares' personality; sexy, defiant, submissive, commanding, charming, playful, ruthless, whatever the situation calls for.  And that is enjoyable to me as an author."

"I like smarm, the gooey emotional mush. The dreaded *tru luv* story."

"I love anything that deals with mind games and/or political/court intrigue. I love a story with sex, but a story that totally involves me with some sort of drama will win me over every time. Of course, if it has both...<thud> I'm in heaven. Which is why Ares/Caesar is one of my favs. <G>"

"Don't think I have a fave story line per se.  In general, I like dark, angsty, twisted, emotional stuff.   On the other hand, there've been some parodies and other craziness posted on the KSA list recently that have just brightened my day immensely.  I'd also have said, until recently, that I'm not at all a fan of AU or Uber.  But I've read some great stuff in this genre recently.  I'm more into the well-told story, I guess,than the story-line itself.  Oh, and I'd prefer some scorching sex with my well-told story, please."

"I don't think I have one. I like variety. I just like a well-plotted adventure or drama (with a good bit of smut thrown in). When all the plots I'm reading start becoming too similar, I get bored."

"I prefer violent stories, usually with themes of partner betrayal (resolution!); rape, major h/c.  One of the reasons for this would be it helps work out my own fears, frustrations and past history.  Another is it allows the characters to grow and develop, trial by fire, so to speak.  Another is the greater the pain, the greater the potential for happiness.  And yet another, I like stories which show peeps in overwhelmingly depressing situations, climbing those mountains, succeeding against all odds and eventually finding/demanding happiness and *getting* it!"

"I love humor - I mean, let's face it, throwing together two het characters into a homosexual relationship has its funny side. But, and I suspect this stems from my dark, repressed side, I enjoy reading about a violent Ares, bondage, rape, force...shesh...that's quite a dark side."

"I like happy endings.  I like them much more if the boys have gone through hell first, though <g>  I think I like happy endings because fanfic is my escape from reality, my little bubble of happiness and enjoyment away from all the hassles that RL can bring, and I'd like to keep it so that it puts a smile on my face.  Of course, if *every* story had a happy ending, it would diminish the effect, so although my preference is for happy, I'm glad that there are other types of fic as well and I like to read or even write them occasionally."

"First times.  I'm a romantic at heart.  It's the way I relate to slash.  I see the m/m pairings as the equivalent of Harlequin romances, with the names changed to protect the innocent.  <g>  It's schlock, but who cares?  I eat popcorn, too.  With lots of salt and butter, preferably."

"I like storylines that extend characterization and take the characters to places they don't/can't go on TV/film.  I like my characters to have to work for a happy ending, and that can mean suffering on some level.  Dark and angsty tales are likely to get my attention first.  Testing characters to extremes is always an interesting way to go."

"I enjoy a good PWP but I really enjoy storylines that involve a strong plotline. The plots I really like usually involve a dark subtext, lots of scheming and manipulating. I'm not ashamed to say that kinks, violence, voyeurism are a plus as long as they fit in the plotline and aren't  gratuitousness.  I also enjoy something with unexpected twists that you never see coming."

"I like pregnancy fics, gender benders, angst, sometimes death stories if I'm in a bad mood, comedy, you name it I'll read it eventually. Sometimes I may wait till I'm in the mood for that type of story but eventually I'll read it."

Will you read a story even if it doesn't feature your favorite story-line?  Why?
Pretty much everyone said yes to this.

"Yes, if I already know and like the author.  Also, if the description sounds interesting.  Ah, hell, I'll read almost anything!"

"Yes.  Again, if it's either character-driven or plot-driven, I'm liable to like the story.  Or if it's humor.  Humor I love and will read in any fandom, any pairing, het or slash.  I find most PWP's pointless, and they have to be really hot or romantic (without being frilly lace stuff) to keep my attention, or make me want to read it again.  I dislike the kind of angst that mutilates or kills one of the pair to create effect.  I don't care who is in the pairing, this squicks me bigtime."

"Yes. I'll give most things a go except Mary Sue. I tend to not read stories when I've read the author before and don't like their style."

"Sure. There is value and potential pleasure in all stories. I'll give anything a try, at least once."

"Yes. The author may present a new idea that I hadn't considered before and may well like, or present an old idea in a new and exciting way.  Fanfic slut that I am I don't want to miss out on anything."

"Usually.  The storyline doesn't matter much if the characters and the writing is there.  I have skipped a few stories in the last months cause the plot wasn't something I was interested in, although I had read stories in the past with similar plot-lines."

What turns you off as a reader?
The most consistent complaints were against bad grammar/punctuation, poor characterization, Mary-Sues, rape, heavy schmoop, violence and male pregnancy.

"Bad grammar, bad spelling, and bad characterization all make me vomit.  Seat-of-your-pants writing *really* makes me angry.  There are certain authors on the list who obviously sit at their computers, make stories up as they go and (seemingly) don't even take the time for a second read-through before sending their crap out to the list.  Unfortunately, the worst writers seem to be the most prolific; they seem to equate speed and quantity with good writing."

"Men who suddenly become female and or pregnant. Overindulgence in RL problems. Overly emotional characters who burst into tears at every turn of the story. Physical violence for the sake of violence without any actual need or demand from the story-line. Overindulengce in the description of the sexual act with too many technical terms where the erotic atmosphere gets lost or doesn't even exist."

"Bad grammar and spelling are a very big turnoff. They pull me out of the fantasy world and make me feel like an editor. Excessive violence and gratuitous violence are also turnoffs, as well as stories involving children and happy suburban family life with two warriors or gods as the lovey-dovey suburban mommy and daddy."

"Schmoop. That's the number one thing. Not just a touch of romance, I love that, but that whole "guys sobbing on each other's shoulders, confessing their eternal love" bit. Gag me. That usually leads to my number two problem, bad characterization. The instant I see a giggling, "misunderstood" Ares or Strife cuddling with Cupid and calling him sappy nicknames, I'm outta there. Actually, I suppose bad grammar and/or spelling should come in at the top. If I see constant mistakes, I won't read the fic."

"I hate, hate *hate* bad characterization. Ares seems to be one of the worst victims of this in Herc/Xenaverse fiction (I hate overly mushy/romantic Ares stories, unless there's a damn good reason for having him act so completely different from the way he is portrayed on the show.  Smarm makes me gag. Save the purple prose for Harlequin Romance books."

"I don't particularly care for dark, bloody, violent, or disturbing fiction.  Particularly if one or more characters is in a control/loss of control situation."

"I do not like plots that have nothing to do with the characters or their motivations (ie. the writer uses a canon character as a mary sue).  Mary Sue (or the male equivalent).  I usually don't read stories where it is obvious that the original character is the focus of the story, or where it is told from the oc's point of view. BAD CHARACTERISATION--I will not read weepy mushy stuff that turns my GOW (or any of the boys) into a sniffley co-dependent mess."

"Obvious re-hashes of existing fic.  The word "thru" and other abbreviations in the text. "Sex Manual Fic", where you could just as believably call the pair "Andrew" and "Bob" because they bear no resemblance whatsoever to "Ares" and "Iphicles".  Serious bad spelling, grammar and punctuation.   Stories which are preceded by a lengthy apologetic introduction/backstory session, and original character fic where the OC's are more central than the show characters."

"Stories where the writer features as a character and, of course, has sex with the hero. I find these very boring."

"I'm really turned off by bad grammar, poor spelling, and over all poor writing.  A writer should know how to construct a sentence or get a beta reader who does.  There's no excuse for misspelling character names since they can be found all over the internet and especially on the list the story is being submitted to.  I also don't like it when the characters aren't in characters.  Many writers turn the male characters in slash into mushy love-sick wimps.  This may be how the author wants them to be, but it's not in the personalities given us in the shows."

"Bad grammar.  Bad punctuation.  Bad spelling.  Bad characterization. Babies, children and pregnancies.  Writers who take short-cuts to try to manipulate me (for example, writers who tell me that Ares was abused/raped as a child and expect me to automatically identify or sympathize with him).  I find this a cheap way of avoiding real characterization.  Lack of internal logic and consistency within a story.  Mary Sues.  Stories told from the POV of the good, wonderful OC who saves the day, is stronger than the gods yadda yadda.  Stories that are overly melodramatic - again, I like good melodrama (I'd classify most of Dumas' work, such as The Count of Monte Cristo as good melodrama).  But stories where Ares/Joxer whoever goes through more perils than Pauline get to me.  Stories where the male characters are in essence written as female.  (Iolaus  and lately Ares are common victims of this.  It's often found in h/c stories).  Stories where strong male characters like Krycek, Ares or Spike are reduced to whiny victims either to gain my sympathy or to somehow make up for their past misdeeds.  Stories where the above are turned into heroes for no logical reason."

"Illogic. If the characters act illogically or stupidly or the plot doesn't make sense, I give up. Also, if I find myself saying "So-and-so wouldn't/can't do that", it makes it harder to read the story. I get enough stupidity in my life to waste leisure time reading it."

"Pregnant male stories. Male turning female to get pregnant."

"1) Writers who get slash couples to call each other 'husband', who make the boys cry or get pregnant.
 2) Apologising and make excuses for them being the characters they are.  Ares is the god of war - he kills people! Or Krycek in X-files - he's  a baddie, he's not looking for an excuse to set up house with Mulder.
3) Bad spelling
4) Crappy punctuation - i.e. worse than mine :)
5) Mary Sue stories."

"I am really not into gory rape scenes. And I find it kind of hard to believe with the victim, usually Iolaus, bounces back and is ready to have sex in a matter days."

"'Plot What Plot stories.  I mean, they have their place, and some people enjoy them, but I like to have a bit of a plot stuffed in around the nasty bits.  I especially dislike it when two characters that are not in a canon relationship are dumped into bed together with no lead up or background provided.  PWP stories are okay in the middle of a series, where non-canon relationships have been established, but outside of that, I find them pointless and not something I enjoy reading."

"Mary Sues..... AAAGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!  Het fic - boring. Been there, done that and got the t-shirt.  Not too wild about BDSM - but those are all personal choices. Mainly what turns me off is terrible characterisation. I can read Mary Sue's if the main Herc/Xena characters are believable. What I hate is where someone has written dialogue (for Ares for example) that makes him sound like he's speaking Shakespearean English! You need to hear the characters voice when reading otherwise - why bother! Good fic to me is the sort I read and I *don't* see the words, I actually *hear* the (actors) speaking..."

"Beating round the bush.  Some writers take so long to make a point, they think it's creative but I find it annoying.  Just get to the point and move on to the next part of the story."

"Stories that try to convince me that Ares is really a nice caring fellow, who only did all those bad things because he was a poor little abused child, and who will be nice again once he gets a good fuck and a shoulder to cry on.   Stories where Ares and Hercules suddenly declare their love for each other and set up housekeeping, with no set-up and no internal conflict, as if all the bad history between them has been magically wiped out.  Babyfic.  In general, any story that makes me feel as if the characters have all had wholesale personality transplants.  Also, bad grammar, and frequent spelling and punctuation errors.  With so many people out there willing to beta-read, there's just no excuse."

"Bad grammar, misspellings, mary sues...Stories with no real concept of their own, from people just trying to write something...Bad writers. If you mean squicks, well, really weird sexual practices either intrigue me or turn me off...Too much violence, and rape in the strongest form of the word...A little n/c is fine if everybody enjoys themselves."

"People who write the same story over and over again, or the same story other people have written over and over again.  These are usually the same people who don't make any attempt to make the characters anything other than two unrecognizable male (or female) bodies and don't make any attempt to convey setting, mood, or atmosphere.  What turns me off is stories that you could use the global replace feature on in your word processor, change two or three names, and make the story Trek, or Highlander, or any other fandom.  Right now I'm really sick of the Iolaus as wimpy girl with Herc as Big Daddy stories.  And the stories where Herc and Iolaus, after knowing each other for 20 years, suddenly realize they're madly in love when they accidentally catch sight of each other naked, like that's never happened before.  I have a lot of friends who are gay, so I really hate the slash stories that are just dressed-up Harlequin Romances, where neither man acts like a guy."

"Pedophilia. True Rape. Excessive Graphic Violence. Improper Characterization. Falafel."

"Stories written just for the sake of rape, torture, degradation, humiliation turn me right off and I do not bother to read the story any further, or if the author was kind enough to label the story clearly, do not read at all.  I can, on occasion, overlook spelling errors if they are few and far between but they do tend to jar me to reality if there are too many. I am tempted to get out a red pen and make corrections.  Comments made to the reader (me) by the author throughout the story. Well written stories do not need explanations by the author and tend to distract my attention away from the story world I inhabit when I am reading.  Exaggerating a 'characteristic' of a character.  A 5'11' tall man is not "slight" no matter how much the author wants that character to feel dwarved by his partner, or how much the author wants the reader to feel the difference in power between the partners.  A wide shouldered well muscled man is not "lithe" no matter what the author wants to get across.  To me, it just means that the author is lazy in describing the relationship interplay and therefore chooses to use size to describe the power balance of the partnership. Inappropriate descriptions like those tend to jar me back to reality just as much as comments sprinkled throughout the story."

What prompts you to send feedback, if you do?

"I used to send feedback all the time, for every story I read.  Now I don't have the time (I don't read as much either).  I send feedback when the story touches me or just involves me so much that I get caught up in the story.  Something like I really enjoyed, whether it made me teary-eyed or made me laugh."

"When I want a sequel, when I was really moved and loved the story."

"Courtesy. The author took the time to write the fic and if I read it I feel I should let them know. If it wasn't great, fine, I can usually find *something* nice to say about it. I think it's just plain good manners to do it."

"If I really like something, I send a note to the author.  If I consistently read an author's work, I send a note, even if the latest story wasn't my favorite.  I want to encourage the people who write what I like to read.   The only way to do that is to provide positive feedback to them.  If  a favorite author writes something I hate I'll write if I have suggestions for improvement, otherwise, there is no point in pissing off someone I want something from."

"If I like what I've read, I send feedback. Sometimes I send feedback wayyyy late.  But I do send it when I've enjoyed the story. I think it's a form of 'currency'.  How to repay the writer for the time and effort they put out. And I like to think that it encourages more stories, or maybe more stories that *I* like."

"Usually I'll send feedback if the story was so good I felt like I was in it. It's got to make me have some sort of reaction to it to get some feedback."

"If I like the story I feel I should say so. If there are a lot of things I like about the story I will try to give detailed feedback. I particularly try to give detailed feedback to favourite authors - since they are consistently entertaining me I feel I should consistently tell them so, and why."

"I write to authors of stories I have particularly enjoyed and also try to write to new writers to encourage them."

"If the story REALLY reaches out and grabs me.  There are a couple of stories I really mean to send feedback to and never do.  But when a story really shakes me to the ground, I just have to tell the author what a great job they have done.  These are the stories that have me laughing, and crying all at the same time.  Or screaming at my monitor.  As a writer I know how much feedback means and I really wish I was better at giving it myself."

"If the story really affects me, as opposed to me clicking "back" and thinking, "aww, that was cute."  If I feel like I want to share it with somebody, I'll respond to the author."

"Usually when I read a story I send feedback even if it's just a 'I really liked your story.' I want the writer to know I appreciate the work they put into their story."

"If it's an extraordinary story--if the characters are DEAD ON, if the plot is intriguing, compelling, grabs me by the throat. If it's a first time writer that is GREAT but needs feedback, CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, and encouragement."

"When a story is really well written and an author has clearly put a lot of time and effort into the story. When the story evokes an emotion, is really sexy or erotic, makes me cry or makes me laugh."

If you don't send feedback, why not?

"I really don't have time to respond to everything I like. There is lots of stuff I have read and enjoyed where I just haven't had time to go back to the author. So I tend to amass a pile of stuff and then write complimenting them on several stories at once. I don't believe in giving feedback for feedback's sake. I'm not going to say I enjoyed someone's story if I didn't. And I don't want to criticise unless the author specifically asks for criticism (constructive rather than evil!!!)."

"I guess I am intimidated by the writers and the number of people who would read my reply.  I am not quite comfortable having the world know what kinks I am into."

"On occasion, I mean to send feedback and I don't. I think that after a long time goes by, one begins to feel awkward about sending such a late response, and also, as time goes by, the story is not as fresh in the mind as it was."

"A story found through lurking, or general web browses: I send feedback if I've enjoyed something a great deal, ie, above the average.  A story on a mailing list where I'm an active participant: I try to send feedback to as many people as possible, as a courtesy.  After all, I'm hoping some of them will respond to *mine* when they are posted so it only seems fair!  I politely ignore anything that I really don't like, otherwise I try and make a positive comment about some aspect I appreciated.  Fulsome praise is still reserved only for stories I *really* enjoyed immensely!"

"If I don't like a story, and the author hasn't specifically asked my opinion, I don't say anything.  This isn't a writers' workshop, after all.  Also, sometimes I do like a fanfic, but just don't have anything in particular to say about it.  In that case I just don't say anything.  I don't like sending generic little "nice story" messages.  They have such an obligatory ring to them."

"If I don't care for the story, I don't LoC [LoC=Letter of Comment] it.  I would never write just to say it didn't please me, or I don't see the people in that way, or it was a boring plot, etc.  If I am up against the gun for time, which is almost always, I won't LoC simply because of the pressure of RL, and some of the best stories I've ever read didn't get LoC's simply because I hadn't the time to do it and forgot later, when the time did arise.  Sorry."

"Mostly not knowing what to say beyond "Great story".  I enjoy reading 99% of the stories that I see posted, and they are all wonderful.  I don't feel that I am qualified enough to critique their work, as I am not an experienced fan fiction writer."

"More often than not it's because I don't have time... Also I hate to be the 47th to say "good job" and if I have nothing more original then I won't send."

"Poor writing.  It is especially frustrating when the plot has potential, but the writer doesn't take the time to develop it."

"I'm a voracious reader, but I rarely give feedback.  I think the primary reason I don't send feedback is because I find it hard to put into words how I felt and why.  (Example: It took me about ten minutes to put together this answer)."

"Time, mostly. I'm getting better about being able to say "Loved it. Can't wait for your next." I feel like I should take the time to analyze what it was that particularly touched me, but that takes time, as I don't naturally read with any eye toward the analytical or critical."

"Very busy.  And a little too shy."

"Sometimes I don't feel like writing, so a story that would get feedback one day doesn't on the next.  Stories that have hideous spelling, grammar, etc. mistakes don't usually get feedback from me.  And there are some stories that I just can't think of a single nice thing to say about.  I just try to pretend those don't happen.  Chicken's way out, I know, but I hate to criticize."

"I do, but I only send feedback to someone whose story meets all the criteria above. Sometimes I don't because I'm too busy with my own fic and find I don't have the concentration to think about other people's interpretations when I'm so embroiled in my own."

"Lack of time due to sheer volume. I'm on several mailing lists with fairly high traffic on each one, which sometimes results in an *incredible* amount of reading material in my mailbox. I feel somewhat  uncomfortable with just a one-line "Loved it!" post; I try to say something personal whenever I send feedback, and sometimes it's just too hard to think of an individual response to so many stories  (especially when there comes a run of pieces with similar themes).  But I do as much as I can, and would like to find a way to send more."

"If the story isn't really memorable or I thought it was only okay, I'll leave it to other people to send feedback.  Also, I don't read everything I get through e-mail, so that is another reason that I don't always send feedback.  I only send feedback to the truly spectacular stories."

"I'm a lazy bastard."

Have you ever sent negative feedback? Why? Why not?
I should've written 'constructive' feedback, because that's what I meant. Fortunately, most people figured that out. General consensus:  no one wants to do it, although a few have tried.

"I will occasionally point out if a scene or sentence is confusing, but only to a writer whom I suspect is very experienced and would take the suggestion the way it was meant. I have a great fear of criticizing a newbie and crushing her creative spirit."

"I have sent negative feedback, although it was solicited and I couched it in the form of a gentle suggestion.  I usually don't, because even if I personally think a piece sucked huge donkey cock, I know that the author has put a lot of time and effort into their work, and it's not my place to slam it."

"I'd never do that.  That's rude.  And only if asked will I send a critique, but even then it's polite."

"No, I haven't.  As a writer, I'd rather not hear complaints about a story I care deeply about just because someone doesn't agree with my vision."

"No, because I'm a chicken. However, if someone asks me for a direct opinion, I *will* give one."

If I don't like what the author wrote, hey that's my problem.  I don't want someone ragging out on me, so I go by the golden rule  "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

"I once sent some "constructive criticism", along with my compliments, to a talented author who did a great job, but rushed a very important  scene. I only did this because the story was very good, and I felt it would be fantastic if the key scene was thought though a bit more. I made sure she knew I was very impressed with her work, and was only offering my opinion."

"Once. I had mis-understood something in a story, and I wrote about that. I don't usually send negative feedback because there are some stories out there that everyone but me really likes. I've learned to not read some authors; I just skip to the next post."

How much of a story will you read before deciding that you don't like it?

"I usually give it an honourable chance... maybe 5 minutes.  If right from the beginning it's poorly structured, horribly spelt, or just plain bad, I'll usually get disgusted and throw it.  Half the time I read through the bad ones though... hell, fic is fic, you've got to rake though the shit to find the once-swallowed diamonds... or something."

"If the grammar is really awful, I'll probably stop after a few  paragraphs. Beyond that it just depends on how quickly the story turns  me off by hitting one of my squick buttons, or just being too boring to finish."

"I can usually tell within the first chapter or so.  Although, I won't immediately dismiss something.  I usually skim through something first to see if anything catches my eye, later on in the story."

If I read the first page, I can usually tell if I'll like it or not.  If I can't tell where the story is going from there, I'll skim a  paragraph here and there to get a better idea. Although, I have been known to read half a story and decide not to finish it."

"I figure that if the writer hasn't gotten me hooked within the first page or two, it's either going to be a long set-up for the story, or it's going to be a long story."

"It depends.  Sometimes a story starts out good and then I drop it because it's too long, or gets boring, or whatever.  In a few cases, I've picked up a story in the middle, when, out of curiosity I skimmed through it I found it was more interesting than I thought.  Also, titles sometimes intrigue me."

"It depends on how much I hate the way the story is going. Sometimes, I'll make it almost to the end but other times in the first 3-4 paragraphs. I usually try some before bailing, in this fandom."

"If there is a summary I will read that to decide if it may be something I'd enjoy.  Usually if something is posted in parts I'll read the first part before making a decision."

"If it hasn't hooked me by the second paragraph, bye-bye."

Additional Comments
I thought this was a good concluding comment--it put everything nicely in perspective.

"All this talk about likes and dislikes is kind of vague, because no matter how much I might hate some particular concept, I can always point to some story that used the concept brilliantly, and say, "but here I liked it."  Good writing will make up for almost anything, just as bad writing can spoil a scenario I normally would like."

Thanks to everyone who participated in this survey!

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