writers / writing

#IWSG–Unexpected Reader Reactions

This post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers).

This month’s question — Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?

I did have a 1/5 review that made no sense to me. The reader objected to females portrayed as powerful and competent. I do edge toward ‘super’ on these traits with my females, relying on the readers’ willing suspension of disbelief–that real life has shown us many stunning females even if that’s not all of us. Here’s the comment:

Female Role Not Believable

During a time when females were not leading tribes somehow a female comes to the forefront to lead her people to glory. Of course this book was written by a woman… it’s just not believable fiction. If she had been the woman of a young man who was trying to lead the people and it was that journey through her eyes, then that’d be believable. As is, it’s just another rehash of women performing a man’s role. Let’s re-skin something and put a woman in it instead of a man. Next thing you’ll know they’ll be making Top Gun with a gal… ugh.

A lot of the amazing accomplishments of my female characters have less to do with Wonder Woman strength than clever problem-solving. Luckily, I think potential readers will take this comment at face value. Really, if you’re looking for a weak, needy woman, my books will disappoint!

#iwsg #amwriting

@TheIWSG

More on #IWSG

Am I a Risk-taker?

Is my favorite reading genre different from what I write?

Blogging Friends


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021.

102 thoughts on “#IWSG–Unexpected Reader Reactions

  1. I wonder if the comment was written by a man. Lol. That’s one I’d ignore too, Jacquie. I got a poor review from a reader who said “I skimmed the book and didn’t understand what was happening.” Ha ha ha. What can I say? We can’t please everyone all the time. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a strange review, Jacqui. It must have been written by a man who doesn’t believe in strong women. And, who doesn’t realize your books are based on reality/history, not make belief. You’re right about readers taking this at face value. I wouldn’t worry about it at all as most readers of this review would raise their eyebrows instead of hitting the “this review is helpful” button.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jacqui, I’m reading the comment in disbelief! It shows total ignorance of the person who wrote it, lacks credibility and ultimately serves to shine a positive light on your book! The segue to Top Gun has me gobsmacked!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think your books require huge suspension of belief, Jacqui. Xhosa leads and is very smart but she relies on the physical strength of select males, including Nightshade, in many situations. There is also an underlying anger from Nightshade at her leadership role. For me, as a women whose been in corporate finance for 25 years [when I started my firm didn’t have a maternity policy or flexible work hours for women] I think these aspects are very believable. Women in leadership roles face far more criticism that their male colleagues. People almost will them to fail.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, that reviewer definitely said more about himself than about your book. Because of course we know all about how societies were structured in the prehistoric times. There’s a reason we have the word “matriarchal”…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t that true! There is a good cultural example with Bonobos, close cousins to earliest man. Even with Gorillas–females take care of families while males are off on their own. Who’s to say what the structure was for early man.

      Like

  6. Oh. My. Comments like this say so much about the commenter. Nothing about the author or her book. Scary, reading first hand how women are devalued by some…. For the most part reviews of my books are wonderful, but on one of my romantic suspense books, two people gave the book one or two stars, One person said, “Had to read for my book group. Enough said.” Really? Not enough said for me. Did the reader hate her book group? The other reviewer said she hates romance and therefore hated my book. I wonder why she read it, and I certainly wonder why she thought this was a “review.” Ah, thick skins are needed…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You really do wonder about comments like “I hate romance”. What? You were bored–that bored? Both of those, for you, potential readers will skip. I am one of those who reads a book. I might even pass on a book without a satisfying ending or one that preaches too much so comments are important.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing!!.. change is the law of life over the centuries and it is sad to say that there are a number of closed minded elements in today’s world societies in denial… and unfortunately technology has given them a voice… “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom” (Isaac Asimov)… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Obviously, someone stepped on that reader’s toe…which has nothing to do with your story or writing. If nothing else, your tale left an impression (bright side?)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, brother! These are the kind of reviews that drive me nuts because the reviewer brings his biases into the review rather than commenting on the actual writing. All this narrow-minded comment shows is a reflection of the reviewer rather than anything else. It would be like telling someone I didn’t like Old Yeller because I’m allergic to dogs and can’t stand them.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. The author of that review is a dick. Disregard it.
    I like reading about strong and powerful women. I know a couple of such women personally. Their lives are never easy, because so many male assholes think exactly like your disgusting reviewer.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So, is this one of these “Creationists” of whom we spoke last month? Perhaps said commenter should use Google. S/he would find reference to Cmdr. Becky Calder. Top Gun could, indeed, be remade with a female lead. Just.Kill.Me.Now.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Ack! Sounds like that was a reader with the ‘woman has her place’ mentality. Kinda irritates me reading it.
    And we’ve all got 1’s, which I personally consider a bane, but I try to remind myself if it’s good enough for Nora Roberts, etc etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I entered the BookLife book awards contest for my novel, “Einstein’s Compass a YA Time Traveler Adventure”. One reviewer said Einstein would never had done what I proposed. Out of 5 gave me a 1. My novel is historical science fiction fantasy. I called the CEO of BookLife and told him what I thought of his reviewer. They refunded my money.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I laughed through that entire “review.”‘ Sounds like some man-with-small-brain-and-big-jealousy read your book, angry that he wasn’t the hero. Books are not written about ordinary people – those are emails to our moms. Books are about the people who change the world, and those who change the world by being smart – they are my heroes.

    Keep writing, you know what you’re doing.

    Thanks for this very interesting post, Jacqui.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Glad I don’t have to live with someone who thinks like that. But you know, there’s no accounting for the crazy comments people make. It’s usually connected to their own life experiences and some of them are pretty sad. I had a woman comment that she’d like to have given me a 5-star review, but because the book involved domestic abuse and she had been abused herself, she could only give me four stars. Go figure!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. This reader clearly doesn’t know how things worked in various cultures across the world across various time periods… For example, in Ancient Egypt women had the same rights, education and chance at occupation as men — whereas in Greece at the same time, women were considered mentally incompetent to do anything on their own. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/623/women-in-ancient-egypt/
    Sigh. Clearly a misogynist judging by his use of “written by a woman” jab… And who is to say what a man’s role and what a woman’s role is at a certain time: just society.
    Anyhow, I LOVE your books. Ignore the ignorant trolls….

    Ronel visiting for IWSG day Whirlwind Publishing

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, this was a bad case of book-reader-mismatch. I’m kind of surprised, though, that it’s only one star, like a knee-jerk reaction review. Didn’t the reader think anything else in the book was worthy enough to warrant 3 or 4 stars?

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve often wondered if it might have been more like it is with wild horse herds – the stallion protects his wives and passes on his genetic material, but the lead mare chooses the pastures and routes between grazing grounds. Nothing to say humans might have once had a similar social structure.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Jean M Auel had a strong female protag who went against convention at every turn. Yet she’s one of, if not the biggest, name in the genre. While I’m not yet pub’d I’ve already tried to let it sink in that everyone is different and not every book is for everyone. There are some big selling books that I did not enjoy and would probably get eye rolls for admitting. If everyone liked the same thing, life would be boring. In this case, it’s a genre preference which you can’t change. I think that is much more acceptable than voice, writing style etc. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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