I feel like a pay for the fan fiction I read by reviewing.
If I liked a story, it made me smile, cheered me up for a few moments, distracted me at work, or made me effusively happy for an afternoon, I always review it. I squee, I compliment the authors writing, and I try to pick out aspects that I truly think shined.
I usually take time with my reviews. Or if I don't have time I at least writing something short. Something to let the author know... your work was seen and you made me happy for a brief time.
Sometimes I don't know what to say when I review. Sometimes an author's writing is good with beautiful imagery, scene structure, dialogue, and grasp of character. So good that I think: 'Well, f$#* what's the point of even writing this pairing? I can't possibly compare.' And sometimes the story just doesn't float my boat. Perhaps it's too AU or the characters seem too OOC or it's not a plot I'm interested in reading. (Maybe it's not rated M/R/NC-17, and we all know I need my porn.) Then I don't review. Preferring to discreetly hit the back button. Otherwise, I leave a stilted review beginning with 'while this isn't my usual cup of tea' which only serves to make me look foolish and gives the writer no glory for the work they've produced. And sometimes (FF.net I'm looking at you here) the story just isn't good. Or it isn't good yet. The first chapter was promising but the work never continued. Occasionally, deep in my cups of adulthood confidence, I'll leave a constructive criticism review, gently suggesting some rewriting. But much of the time, I hate to yield the poison pen for all the good it might do. I don't want to be the one to send that missive, waiting to explode in unhappiness, to a stranger's inbox.
I feel obligated to review. I'm getting all this entertainment, all these moments of happiness, for free. They distract me from real life issues. They provide the quiet solace of happy endings missing from my life. I'm quickly approaching my late 20s (ugh!) - reading fan fiction gives me an excuse not to do my laundry.
If I don't review I feel like I'm stealing that joy. Is that weird? Wrong? I work in the entertainment field, yet never feel guilt about not paying for a published work. After all, I know those folks already got paid. A whole lot of paid. (I've seen them driving their Ferraris, Maseratis and Land Rover's here in Hollywood. They are not suffering one tiny bit from piracy.) And after all there's billions of other people buying or paying for their work.
But I feel like I need to pay for my fanfic. I imagine the writers laboring away at their laptops in college, with young children, after a long day of work to produce a labor of love. They give their work freely to the world, expecting nothing in return. (But totally wanting reviews, we all do).
I want to reward that.
But what does all that adulation mean? When is it only cheap plying for another chapter, another work? I think I've written that every story I've read in ASOIF fandom is "beautiful" so far. And yes, I've been relatively astounded by the consistency of quality fic out there for this fandom. (Where are the 12 years writing lamentable anatomically incorrect sex scenes? C'mon there's some in every fandom.) But what does it mean to find each story beautiful? I know I like them all, but am I too superlative in my adjectives because it's de rigueur in fandom? Am I just coaxing the author to update faster, providing me more of the fandom drug that soothes my raging addiction? (Yo, seriously. I chain read fan fiction stories all day. My job kind of requires you to read a lot.)
I'm starting to wonder whether my reviews are worthy. Sure, they replenish an author with sugary feel-good carbohydrate compliments after a long writing run. But are they so much lip service, paid out of a feeling of requirement, after I stumble upon the story?
Is reviewing enough? Should my reviews be more of an accurate judge of the stories merits? Is my humble background of a few creative writing classes truly able to give proper critique to folks who likely have masters, and doctorates, and professional credentials?
Is it okay to just write "beautiful" and be done with it?