It is sometimes amazing to me how differently I view my work from how my readers do. Hunter and Fat Farm are examples of this. Both stories have generated a lot of negative feedback from readers. I wrote Fat Farm as a result of three challenges that I gave myself.
First, I wanted to write a story that told the experiences of a woman focused on a female perspective. I tried to focus more on the emotions she was feeling than on problem solving and the actions she took to change. I don't know if I succeeded in creating a believable female mindset through this story, but I would like to think so. None of the readers wrote that women didn't think that way. A lot of people wrote that no woman who had any self-respect would act like her. I agree, but Denise didn't have any self-respect at the beginning of the story.
Second, I wanted my character to have a realistic problem. On this point, I got a lot of feedback that her problems weren't all that realistic. That she wasn't that fat, that she couldn't have done the exercises set forth, and that no one could hate themselves that much. Maybe, maybe not. It isn't the reality that other people see that dictate our actions, but the reality that we see. I occasionally sit in the cafeteria where I work and watch a lot of women who are just like Denise was at the beginning of the story. They loath themselves and only see their fat. I speculate on what would be required to get them to change so that they would see themselves as human beings with all of the same flaws, problems, and glorious potential that we all have.
Third, I wanted the character to have to struggle to succeed. A lot of readers have remarked that my characters have it too easy. Some readers said that Dan from the Millionaire Next Door just floated along and everything just worked out right for him. No one could say that for Denise. Her growth was painful -- very painful. The pain was too much for many readers. I lost half of the readers who started to read the story by the end of the thirteenth chapter. (Hunter demonstrated the same loss of readership.)
My favorite characters in this story aside from Denise, were Dale and Candy. Poor Dale received death threats from many readers particularly through the first thirteen chapters. Then the tone of the e-mail changed as Denise's understanding of what Dale was doing changed. I worked hard at making sure that Dale's character and behavior didn't change throughout the story. It was Denise's perception of his character that changed.
What can I say about Candy? Everyone loves Candy. I like the idea of someone who views their contribution in this world as making it a better place for others with whatever gifts they have. She's a hedonist, but not extreme in it. She lives for pleasure and to please. Whether she pleases through cooking, sex, or massage are all the same to her. It is about letting others feel good, if only for a few minutes. I like that she values intelligence in people. There are too few people like Candy in this world. Pity.
Some readers have remarked on the low SOL scores that this story received. I am not surprised. The reasons for the low scores are understandable and predictable. There were technical errors (as is true in all of my postings) that would have been caught by having an editor (I don't use one). I know it bothers some that they are there. If I was doing this as anything other than a hobby of storytelling, I would go through a lot more effort to make sure that there weren't technical errors. (By the way, this story put me at over 18M of text posted on SOL. There's bound to be a lot of errors in that much text.)
The reasons for the low scores are much more basic than just technical story telling. There were a lot of people who really disliked this story. They found it depressing and, to tell the truth, there was a lot to be depressed about. The idea that there are women like Denise out there is depressing. In addition, there are a lot of readers who only come to SOL for sex stories and vote their frustration when the stroke value in a story is not high enough. Despite just about sexual variation being present in this story, it was not a stroke story.
I don't write stroke stories. As I've said before, there are only so many ways that tab A can be inserted into slot B. There are limits on how big breasts can be. There are limits on how much time people can devote to sex in the real world. If sex hadn't been such an integral part to this story, I would have left it out. Sex was a tool to create change and there wasn't that much 'happy' sex at that. I do like the contrast between the sex of chapter 2 and the sex of chapter 35.
The loose ends of the story will probably drive some people to distraction. This story is about Denise and not the supporting characters. If you want, you can just assume that everyone lives happily ever after. Just throw in a few twists and turns along the way and you'll have a good story.