Valerie hated his pedantry, she hated his arrogance, but most of all she hated his expertise.
Storyboardland was a place on the web for aspiring authors to post their stuff, and tradition held that readers who encountered typos or other errors would bring them up with the writer. Though some (who were in it for the thrills rather than the craft) brushed these off, Valerie didn't consider herself that shallow an artist and took every comment seriously. Countless times she'd been saved from posting stupid, often embarrassingly hilarious mistakes to a public site somewhere by the intervention of her peers on SBL.
A few readers took it a step farther and provided complete critiques of the stories; this was somewhat less welcome to most authors, since most of those individuals tended to be picky to the point of anal retentiveness. Such behavior was usually greeted with a "No content commentary, please!" response, and it was a measure of the good rapport SBL members had with one another that this was uniformly respected.
Not by him, though.
She had no idea who he was, where he had come from, or why he'd chosen her as a victim, but "Theodoric" consistently and uninvitedly offered a full-blown noun-and-verb-level analysis of all of her posted work. He even went so far as to dig up a three-year old thread which pre-dated his advent on SBL in order to ensure he had applied his red pen to all of her work.
It was frustrating and irritating, and she'd have long ago told him to go take a flying fuck were it not for the fact that his suggestions were, without exception, a tremendous improvement to each story.
She had privately asked him to stop editing her stuff, since she didn't appreciate his tone or attitude. This was a major pain in the ass, as his SBL account refused personal messages and email and she had to go to some silly, flashy website he owned, load some idiotic Java application, and leave a message that way. And it had been useless anyway, since he'd just replied with, "Stop posting it and I'll stop critiquing it."
At that point she'd decided to just ignore him and hope he would go away, but her curiosity at what he had found would get the better of her and she'd always read the criticism. Sometimes his advice was short and to the point: a simple "Rephrase this" was more than sufficient and much appreciated. She was thankful and did so. More often than not, however, his words seemed designed to belittle her, as when her bad habit of using the same word multiple times in adjacent sentences manifested:
The dress fell across her breasts perfectly, and the waist fit her as if it been designed for her. The men would be staring at her breasts all evening, she thought with a mix of trepidation and anxiety.
"Breasts ... breasts." I like 'em when there are two, but only in reality. Not in writing!
His sexual innuendo didn't stop there, though:
Sally shook her head, and it seemed to be as much to clear her head as to deny it.
"Shook her head ... clear her head." I know you've never heard this in your life, but Too Much Head!
It was stupid and bullish and she hated every moment she spent correcting her errors ... but she had to concede he was nearly always right. And all of her protests rang empty whenever she reposted a corrected version, as it then became obvious that she'd made the changes anyway despite her claim to be ignoring him.
He was useful, dammit. She could admit that. Why did he have to be such a jerk about it? She tried again to discuss his commentary by logging onto his website, focusing on the damned chat window and not the gaudy swirling colors in the background.
Friday 12:27 Hey, Val here again.
Friday 12:34 Hi, Val There Again!
Friday 12:35 Wanted to talk about your edits of my stuff.
Friday 12:48 Sure, what's going on?
Friday 12:49 Sigh ... Can you tone them down? Or just stick to the technical stuff?
Friday 13:19 Why? Is there something there that's inaccurate? Wrong?
Friday 13:20 Nnnnoooo. That's not the point. Your edits are good, but it's the snarky comments that accompany them that bother me.
Friday 13:37 Why?
Friday 13:38 Because they make me look like an ass!
Friday 13:45 If the booty fits... :)
She'd logged off the site, then, and not posted anything to SBL for over a week.
She was still writing, though, and worked on a story she was planning on submitting to Women's Literary Fiction Monthly. She knew it was good at its heart, but she also knew that it could use some assistance, so ultimately she posted it for feedback. And she got some: TemperMan corrected several typos, BMWdriver pointed out a plot hole and suggested a way to resolve it ... and then two days later a message was posted by her nemesis. It was long. She sighed and dug in.
The woman who was seating people didn't notice her waiting.
Some people call the "woman who was seating people" a "hostess".
Diane accepted a job as a recruiter. She loved her job, and tried to do it with as much verve as possible.
"Job ... job." I know you must like this word, but as with "head" in your last story, it's too much of a good thing. Try "work" in the second instance.
Mark thought Sally looked lit from within.
Tonight Barbie looked even more beautiful than ever, as it she were lit from within.
So both Sally and Barbie are lit from within? Is there a world shortage in glowing metaphors or something? Have you run out?
She felt the blood rush to her ears with the heat of embarrassment. Which was stupid-- she didn't know any of these people, really. What did she care what they thought? Self-esteem building platitudes didn't stop her from feeling the shame, though, and she had to log out of SBL in order to avoid ranting insanely in response.
She logged into his website to privately give him a piece of her mind, but ended up staring at it blankly for ten minutes before finally giving up and deciding she didn't have anything to say which wouldn't sound inane. Valerie switched off the machine, took a deep breath, and decided to get some reading done.
She didn't get five pages into her mystery novel, though, before she started getting distracted. By work stuff, of course, and somewhat by how long it had been since she'd seen Kevin outside of work. Or seen any man outside of anything ... especially his clothes. She was an attractive woman, she knew, she'd just been too busy to take advantage of it properly. Or for them to take advantage of her, properly. She grinned at this thought and began to take care of herself properly: blouse unbuttoned slightly, she cupped her breasts in her hands, sending the typical tickle down to her lower regions. Two breasts, she thought insanely. I like two as well. That put her in mind of her earlier mortification, but instead of freaking her out it was kind of turning her on even more.
It brought her to thoughts about sexual fantasies she used to have as a teen: being naked in school, and having all the other kids staring at her while she tried desperately to cover up. One hand slipped beneath the waistband of her sweat pants and into the moist confines of her pussy. "Mmmmmmm..." she vocalized, thighs tight against her hand to add more pressure. Putting a raw story out there for the world to see was not entirely unlike being naked in public. So what did that imply about the act of being edited? Possibility being brought to fulfillment? She probed with her fingers, bringing her own pussibility ... er... possibility to fulfillment, and enjoyed a quiet but pleasurable climax. Climax at the end of her tale, or at her tail end?
Valerie giggled at this, rested a moment, then sought an afternoon snack.
That night she tried again to reason with Theodoric on his website.
Tuesday 22:50 Okay, I acknowledge the value of your editing, and even admit I find it useful. If you can't be civil when delivering it, then can't you just deliver your criticism privately? Through email. Hell, even on your website.
Tuesday 23:03 Why? You're posting the story publicly, and soliciting feedback publicly. Should the response not be public?
Tuesday 23:04 In most cases I don't mind. But you're a rather harsh editor.
Tuesday 23:17 And you're my favorite editee. So suck it up and get over it. I'll continue to edit you publicly, babe.
Tuesday 23:18 Oh, gee. Why am I so lucky? Why don't you pester FLiboy or Istantinopole with your unsolicited edits?
Tuesday 23:21 Sweetheart, they are talentless hacks who will be writing fanfic and bad porn until they roll over dead. You've got real potential, and are worth the time to culture.
Tuesday 23:22 Culture? Am I a bacterium, then? Yeast?
Tuesday 23:47 No, doll. You're a pearl.
She'd been incensed then, and hadn't typed a response. His constant use of diminutive endearments for her grated. He hadn't earned the right. If she could have slapped the power button on her computer she would have, but as it was a Mac she closed it down and seethed quietly, ire unvented by physical expression.
.... There is more of this story ...