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Reader-Insert fics: yea or nay?

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ThriceCharming The Suce Is Loose from Texas Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
The Suce Is Loose
Nov 19th 2016 at 10:49:07 PM

There's always been a lot of hoopla about self-insert fanfics, but how do you guys feel about reader-insert fanfics? That is, stories written in the second person so that you, the reader, can enjoy a fun fantasy about meeting (and befriending, and often romancing) your favorite characters and becoming part of their world and adventures.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the genre; to me, that's what fandom has always been about. In fact, I recently enjoyed writing my very first reader-insert (it's Super Danganronpa 2, for those of you who didn't see my other thread). Unfortunately, most reader-insert fanfics I've seen are very badly written and rapidly devolve into awkward sex as described by teenage virgins. Sometimes, all you want is to hang out with the canon characters, help them fight the bad guys, and find out that they think you're hella cool too. But those are in the extreme minority.

How do you guys feel? What would you say are the pros and cons of the genre? Read any good reader-inserts you'd like to recommend?

Me, I feel like I'd like to write a few more (non-lemons), but I don't think there's a big enough "market" to make it worthwhile.

edited 19th Nov '16 10:50:40 PM by ThriceCharming

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Karalora Manliest Person on Skype from San Fernando Valley, CA Relationship Status: In another castle
Manliest Person on Skype
Nov 20th 2016 at 6:37:43 AM

I would like them better if more of them followed the narrative style of Choose Your Own Adventure books, referring to the protagonist as "you" without attempting a description. Nearly every reader-insert fic I've ever seen is loaded with brackets instructing the reader to fill in their own name, hair color, eye color, etc. It's awkward enough when any story, fanfic or otherwise, obsesses that hard over the main character's physical traits; the brackets make these things effectively unreadable.

Stuff what I do.
Nov 20th 2016 at 9:27:13 AM

I don't like them because it's far too likely for me to say "I wouldn't do that" or "character x wouldn't do that for/with/to me", through no fault of the author (except for writing a second-person fic).

MetaFour AXTE INCAL AXTUCE MUN from a place
AXTE INCAL AXTUCE MUN
Nov 20th 2016 at 12:23:06 PM

Yeah, stories with the conceit "You, the reader, are literally having this adventure" don't work for me. Either because the protagonist does something that I wouldn't actually do in that situation (even in Choose Your Own Adventure stories, sometimes what I want to do just isn't given as an option)—or because the author goes out of their way to avoid alienating the reader, and winds up with a super-bland character who gets yanked around by the plot rather than doing anything.

I prefer second-person fics when they take the Homestuck approach: "John Egbert is having an adventure. Pretend you're John."

I didn't write any of that.
VeryMelon SUPER SOMETHING ELSE
SUPER SOMETHING ELSE
Nov 20th 2016 at 1:15:17 PM

I don't find them interesting enough to read.

ThriceCharming The Suce Is Loose from Texas Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
The Suce Is Loose
Nov 20th 2016 at 3:27:00 PM

That's too bad. I find them really stimulating, emotionally speaking—provided I can ignore the inevitable spelling and grammatical errors. I wish the reader-insert genre were more highly regarded so that better authors would want to get in on the action.

Karalora, in my fanfic, I made no effort to define the reader's appearance or even gender, but I did use the [your name] convention, because I thought it'd be weird if the characters never addressed "you" by name. What would you suggest doing instead?

Check out Return to the Past, a Code Lyoko recap podcast by me and my friends!
Nov 20th 2016 at 3:46:14 PM

It work for games (where you can control the player) and to lesser extent, animated simulation (VR and the likes), but in literature.... It's bit weird for me, at least. Undefined 1st person view works better for me.

Nov 20th 2016 at 9:18:32 PM

unless the story is literally about me being strapped down and carted around to view things, then it would work horribly.

Third person or first person works because the reader knows that they merely have the perspective of a different person. If the character does something they wouldn't do, that's no problem so long as they understand why.

If you try to tell me that I'm doing or thinking something I would never do, that's a recipe for complete disconnect and instant-trash-bin.

ThriceCharming The Suce Is Loose from Texas Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
The Suce Is Loose
Nov 20th 2016 at 10:35:28 PM

It's fine if you don't like reader-inserts, but don't you think that's a little unfair? You can't reasonably expect a random stranger to characterize you accurately in their story. Besides, it feels like you're missing the point. Reader-inserts aren't meant to be complex or that true to canon, let alone real life. They're candy by design. They're all about quick-n'-easy, zero-frills Wish Fulfillment, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

If the spelling and grammar are on the level, the canon characters are recognizable, and the Hello, [Insert Name Here] character behaves believably like a human being, that's all I ask. Willing Suspension of Disbelief comes into play here, too.

EDIT: Self-Insert Fic has a Tropes page, but Reader Insert Fic does not. Should I pitch/make one?

edited 20th Nov '16 10:42:17 PM by ThriceCharming

Check out Return to the Past, a Code Lyoko recap podcast by me and my friends!
Nov 20th 2016 at 10:42:39 PM

Well, I liked this one Carmilla the Webseries fanfic I read once, told as if you were Carmilla, so it can work if you're pretending to be someone else, not you as you are, and CYOA stories. Those are probably the only cases it works, though.

Nov 20th 2016 at 11:58:53 PM

Its a mix for me.

What? What is this?
Nov 21st 2016 at 5:31:59 AM

[up][up][up] I think you just answer your own question. You can't just put someone else in someone shoes and expect them to behave like you envisioned. Every people different; they have their own view, faith, experience, moral code, favorite food (I'll never understand people who can gush on veggies)....

"But it's wish fulfilment!". Well, your wish, not mine, and not always the same. Example: If you meet a highwayman, what you gonna do? Kill him? Punch him into A Twinkle in the Sky? Convince him to give up his heinous ways? Rob him blind an then kill him? Rob him blind, make him show his watering hole, take everything not nailed (and crowbars everything nailed), and then kill him? Rob him blind, kill him, and then recruit him (necromancy is underrated arts)?

Personally, I'll rob him blind, and then use shapeshifter spell to get all the fun that I can get.

Nov 21st 2016 at 8:55:46 AM

Well, there is not a trope specific to Reader Insert fic, but a number of them are listed under Second-Person Narration

And probably they belong in there, as second person fiction is a hard pill to swallow by itself and is fairly uncommon. Not to discourage you, by all means necessary write, write, write away, don't let voices on the internet to tell you what to like.

Now there are many pitfalls to second person narration. It is by itself self-alienating, unless the "you" in the fiction closely matches the actual you, you need to disassociate from yourself, which defeats the whole point of being yourself the protagonist. Now a possible way around this is to make the "you" in the fiction as bland as possible, but there is a loss of agency that still hampers the experience, and the interactions suffer and become artificial and awkward.

Something as simple as gender has a hard effect on this. Gender makes up a very important part of all person to person interactions, that is why it is a big deal in real life. Pick one, you alienate half your audience by forcing them into unfamiliar interactions, don't pick one and all interactions become machine-like. Probably the best method is "you the reader are this character in cannon"

Forgive me for not being a walking stereotype. Saint Ryouga
amitakartok Relationship Status: Don't hug me; I'm scared
Nov 21st 2016 at 12:01:15 PM

They're candy by design. They're all about quick-n'-easy, zero-frills Wish Fulfillment, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

EVERYTHING is wrong with that.

That right there is the reason why so many shit-quality fics exist. Why Sturgeon's Law is a thing.

ThriceCharming The Suce Is Loose from Texas Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
The Suce Is Loose
Nov 21st 2016 at 3:30:04 PM

[up] I emphatically disagree. It's perfectly okay to enjoy both a rich sirloin from a gourmet restaurant and a sundae from McDonald's. The enjoyment I get from the latter is no less "valid" than the enjoyment I get from the former.

[up][up][up] But it's not my Wish Fulfillment either—it's one-size-fits-all. Which is fine, if you can suspend your disbelief. If I'm reading a One Shot where the whole point is that I get to meet and befriend a favorite character, all I ask is that the reader-insert character behave like a believable human being. I don't need the author to tell me what I look like, where I come from, or what my convictions are. I already know all that stuff.

edited 21st Nov '16 5:45:30 PM by ThriceCharming

Check out Return to the Past, a Code Lyoko recap podcast by me and my friends!
Nov 21st 2016 at 4:53:22 PM

Um, @Thrice Charming, are you sure you want to point to my post instead of the one before it?

Forgive me for not being a walking stereotype. Saint Ryouga
ThriceCharming The Suce Is Loose from Texas Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
The Suce Is Loose
Nov 21st 2016 at 5:45:04 PM

Oops. Edit'd.

Check out Return to the Past, a Code Lyoko recap podcast by me and my friends!
Hyp3rB14d3 Rawr! Relationship Status: In another castle
Rawr!
Nov 21st 2016 at 6:56:54 PM

This is a genre better filled by quests than fanfic. The readers literally vote on the next action, resulting in greater reader participation, which often leads to more motivated writers.

Currently running Ryouga Hibiki vs the Multiverse and The Cursed Armor of Magical Girl Destroyer Cupcake over on Questionable Questing.
Nov 21st 2016 at 9:03:56 PM

[up][up][up][up]

and that's what you don't seem to get. It ISN'T one-size-fits-all. It's all-squeezed-into-one-size. Nor is it wish fulfullment for anyone except the author. Forcing the reader to have the same wishes as the author doesn't work.

You somehow seem to think that your wishes are everyone's wishes, your desires are everyone else's desires. They're not, they won't be.

Write it for yourself if you enjoy it, just don't expect anyone else to like it. Forcing your preferences on someone else is the easiest way for them to hate it.

Murataku Like, Neil Pye, man. from Straya Relationship Status: Who needs love when you have waffles?
Nov 22nd 2016 at 3:24:11 AM

I can't get into them. They're usually romantic and/or sexual, and reading about characters doing that stuff to me puts me right off. Also I act out of character for myself, the [your name] thing knocks me right out of the story, and I get too much into details like "Hang on, how does this person even know me? Why are they talking to me? What the hell?"

For example, I've seen Riddler/Reader fics. Where he's being friendly and even lovey-dovey towards the reader. And the whole time I would think "Wait, what? Why would he even be talking to me!? This doesn't make any damn sense!". So it feels out of character for the characters as well as for myself.

Which might be harsh, but those are my feelings on those fics basically.

Cliff was a pretty good sport about this, really. (Might wanna turn your headphones down)
Vampireandthen In love with an Uptown Girl from Northern Ireland Relationship Status: A teenager in love
In love with an Uptown Girl
Nov 22nd 2016 at 5:15:55 AM

You have no clue how many I have found which involve sex........

Please allow me to introduce myself, I am a man of wealth and taste. Nice to meet you, hope you can guess my name.
ThriceCharming The Suce Is Loose from Texas Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
The Suce Is Loose
Nov 22nd 2016 at 2:27:58 PM

[up][up][up] If you're that offended by a reader-insert that doesn't perfectly reflect your personality, you stop reading and look for a different one that's more to your liking. That's what we do with every other genre of fanfic, isn't it? Don't know why you're so up in arms. Take it down a notch.

[up] and [up][up] Yeah, the biggest "problem" with reader-insert is finding one that isn't romantic or sexual, if that isn't what you're looking for. They're in the extreme minority. The canon characters being OOC can also be a problem, but unless it's really egregious it doesn't bother me that much. I'm looking to indulge in a fantasy, not to see something super realistic.

Check out Return to the Past, a Code Lyoko recap podcast by me and my friends!
Nov 22nd 2016 at 10:09:21 PM

Lol. Is that how you react to criticism? I'm just giving you facts, and you take that as a personal attack or something? If you can't handle that, you probably shouldn't post things to the internet.

stop reading and look for a different one

Yeah, and that's exactly what I'm saying. There will be plenty of people who will stop reading, purely for the reason that the story is told in second person.

You keep saying "it's fantasy! It's wish fulfillment!" as if that is some kind of saving grace. Guess what, that's what pretty much all of fiction is. Do you know why second-person stories never have commercial success beyond a few choose-your-own-adventure children's books? (None of those have ever become highly recognized or classics either). Not in fanfiction, not in commercial fiction.

It's not because nobody thought of them before you did. It's because people don't like reading them. Telling the reader what they're thinking or feeling when they're not is exactly the way to make someone disconnect from your story and stop reading. The only audience you'll find would be the people who think exactly like you do.

edited 22nd Nov '16 10:11:42 PM by willyolio

ThriceCharming The Suce Is Loose from Texas Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
The Suce Is Loose
Nov 24th 2016 at 5:55:15 PM

What are you talking about? I'm telling you to stop being so unnecessarily hostile, which isn't an unreasonable reaction. Besides, I didn't invent the reader-insert genre (I just happen to enjoy it), so I don't even see how I'm being criticized...?

Is this your first day trolling, guy? You can't bust out the "U MAD, BRO?!" unless you actually elicit an emotional reaction.

Check out Return to the Past, a Code Lyoko recap podcast by me and my friends!
Nov 24th 2016 at 7:40:53 PM

lol. I'm not being hostile at all. I'm just stating facts.

You're just taking offense to facts. If you find facts offensive, you probably need to stay away from the internet. You start a thread asking Yay or Nay and when people say Nay, you call it hostility. Wow. When people give you facts that are counter to what you want to hear, you call it trolling. Hahaha.

edited 24th Nov '16 7:41:56 PM by willyolio


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