I know you guys think we are in the 21st century and that we are far too sophisticated to believe in mythical creatures, but I am here to share a real threat. Lurking beneath the digital highway?
There be trolls.
Trolls? Yep. Trolls. Not the cute fuzzy ones with twirly hair that go on the end of a pencil, either. I am talking mean, nasty, ugly, “take a bite out of your billy-goat @$$” TROLLS. BLOG TROLLS. Most writers have a fear of trolls. It is embedded deep within the collective subconscious to fear these nasty creatures of spite and hate. But, I hope, with some proper preparation, you can resume zipping down the digital highway unafraid…though I do advise you to stop at a later point to hose the trolls out of your grill.
Leave them there and they stink up the place.
Before we talk about how to handle trolls, I think we first need to discuss exactly what a Blog Troll is.
What is a Blog Troll?
Many writers believe that we should all live in a pink fluffy land of cuddles where everyone thinks our words are golden nuggets of sunshine. Our comments section is not a place of debate *GASP!*Au gauche! The comments section is a perk for our peeps…to make is easier for them to declare, far and wide, our unrivaled awesomeness.
Duh. Everyone knows that.
You might be thinking. Kristen! Why are you blogging about this? It’s easy to spot trolls. They are the only ones who disagree with me, the only ones who doesn’t affirm how I’m the best thing since kitten calendars.
Yeah. I do agree that all of you are the best thing since kitten calendars, but we need to put on our Big Blogger pants and be professionals. Just because someone disagrees or has a different point of view does not automatically make the commenter a troll. It is HOW the person comments. Disagreement is fine, but it should be respectful.
Just Because Someone Disagrees, Does Not Automatically Make this Person a Blog Troll
I know that, as an expert, it can be tough to teach without speaking in general terms. There are ALWAYS exceptions to just about everything. Thus, when I blog about how heavy use of flashbacks can make readers have epileptic seizures, I KNOW I am going to get the standard, “But la la la used flashbacks and she is now a bazillionaire who regularly bathes in diamonds and stacks of crisp Benjamins.”
Yep, got it.
And, truth be told, I don’t mind those comments because I do feel that part of honing our craft is to not just learn the standard, but then to go and study the exceptions as well. Why DID that writer get away with nine thousand adverbs when the rest of us would have been egged and stripped of our Word privileges until we’d read Strunk & White? Looking to anomalies is useful. So when readers politely point out exceptions? No problemo.
We Should Be Secure Enough to Defend Our Position as Needed
If we are blogging on factual things, we do not need to be omnipotent, but we should be competent. This really applies to a lot of the NF authors out there. For instance, I am not the Oracle of All Things Writing, but if I am going to blog about the craft??? Yeah, I should know it well to defend my position should I need to. I generally don’t defend unless I think a commenter has made a point that might confuse readers.
For instance, I had a blog about hooking readers and how passive goals like “staying alive” or “running away” were a tough sell. It is better to have an active goal and will make plotting far easier. A commenter chirped in that I was wrong, and that “The Great Escape” was a classic and an exception. “The Great Escape” actually wasn’t an exception, so I made sure to address that comment. (For those who are curious, the story goal of “The Great Escape” was not to escape or to run away, but rather to create a diversion to reroute the Germans away from the Allied forces–tangible and active).
Debate is Healthy
Now, I don’t consider that commenter a troll and am happy he took time to bring up that example. It made me think and I do believe it was a great example that helped those who were following the comment thread. There are some movies and books that seem like they might be “getting away with” passive plot goals, loads of flashbacks, or any some other literary faux pas, but if we look closer, we often see the screenwriter/writer is not as big of a rule-breaker as we might have first thought. OR, if the screenwriter/writer DID break some rules, often I can take a moment to explain HOW the writer broke the rule and WHY he got away with it.
I have had a lot of commenters bring up points that made me think, and the good debate actually made me stronger. There have even been times I have changed my position or opinion due to a commenter. If we aren’t learning we’re dying.
All blogs can benefit from debate. If a commenter disagrees, take a moment to really understand what he is saying. Sometimes you might be surprised. Blogs thrive and die every day due to the blogger’s relationship (or lack thereof) with readers.
So now that we have established that disagreement is good, even healthy…what IS a Blog Troll.
Your blog sucks and you should DIEEEEEEEE!!!!!
Blog Trolls are Disrespectful
We can disagree without being an equestrian derierre. Bloggers are human and make mistakes. We all have bad days. I recall a commenter back a few months ago just absolutely razed me for a handful of typos. Little did that person know that my aunt had slipped into a coma and died over the weekend. I was exhausted and distracted and honestly didn’t see the mistakes. Yet, there was nothing in my five typos that warranted the reaction, which brings me to my next point…
Blog Trolls are Often Emotional
We all get emotional, but Blog Trolls? They get PSYCHO emotional. I once wrote a really funny blog that posited the question, “Are we being responsible novel parents or dead-beat book daddies?” The blog was about WRITING. It was a HUMOR post, not a commentary on separation and child-custody issues. Aside from the use of “dead-beat book daddies” I talked about BOOKS and WRITING.
Anyway, out of nowhere I had a commenter morph into a LUNATIC. He ranted that I was a man-hater, then proceeded to insult every other person who’d commented and even hunted me to Facebook and insulted every person who talked to me on Facebook. Then, when I deleted his comments and booted him from my Facebook, he started his own blog—I KID you NOT—Kristen Lamb the Face of Misandry (which means man-hating, btw. I had to look it up, too).
I wish I were kidding.
What to Do About a Troll?
Don’t take it personally. The world is full of jerks. Look at the bright side. You could be them ;).
Accept that Not Everyone Will Love You
Awww. *sniff* I KNOW! This almost makes me cry. To think that not everyone thinks I am awesome? Well they must be sick, right?
Yeah, I hate to say it, but there is no law of the universe that dictates everyone must love us. No matter how hard we try, there will always be a percentage of people who just don’t like us. For me, it is a far, far, far, almost statistically meaningless percentage…like a mere .000000009%….okay, yeah. I know I can’t please everyone.
For you NF people establishing expertise, just expect the commenter who tells you that you have the brain of a monkey and that you are a loser poseur fake. My favorite comment like this? Kristen, you have to actually BE an expert at something before you can claim to be an expert. Yeah. OUCH. Oh well. It happens *shrugs*
But, how do you handle a Blog Troll?
Start with being kind. Few things diffuse someone who has blown an emotional fuse quicker than a dose of kindness. Just like that guy had no idea I’d had a death in the family, I have no idea what might have been falling apart in his life. This is one of the reasons we shouldn’t take things personally. It really isn’t about us. That nasty rant likely has more to do with the pile of bills, sucky job, or nasty divorce than it has to do with us or our content. All of us have shown our @$$ at one time or another. If we want grace from others, we should be quick to offer forgiveness and patience.
If you make a mistake, be quick to admit it. We are bloggers not God. Yes, being writers make us feel a lot like The Big Guy, but unlike Him, we screw up. If someone points out where we are wrong…and they are correct? It is a bit embarrassing, but not the end of the world. Just politely thank the commenter and take the mea culpa. Most people won’t remember if we screwed up. They will, however, remember if we screwed up and then spent three weeks arguing and trying to cover our mistake.
The Troll who ranted about my five typos? He did have a legitimate complaint, kind of. The blog was about editing and I had several glaring typos (granted the post was actually NOT about line-editing, but rather content editing). But, I corrected the oopses and thanked him for his diligence…and then watched with a huge grin as a handful of you pounced on him, slapped him around and made him mind his manners.
Y’all ARE the best thing since kitten calendars.
Don’t feel the need to approve haters. If someone is emotionally out of control and disrespectful, don’t feel the need to let them in. Commenters need to feel safe to voice an opinion and Trolls can make people afraid to comment. Relationships are about setting boundaries. I know Piper Bayard e-mails Trolls and tells them she has trashed their comment, but then tells them that if they will voice their disagreement in a more respectful way, she’d be happy to approve them.
Good fences make good neighbors.
Don’t Defend Unless You Need To
I have a saying. “People have the right to be wrong.” Sometimes a commenter is way off base or rude. Just move on. Many times your loyal commenters will pop the offending troll on the snoot and remind them that piddling in the comments section is rude.
Focus on the Positive
Trolls offer us perspective and humilty. Like leeches, turkey buzzards and lice all serve a viable part of the Earth’s ecosystem, Blog Trolls offer balance to the blog ecosystem (like scaring away the uncommitted). But, just because Tazmanian Devils serve a purpose in the Circle of Life doesn’t mean we should include them in the petting zoo. Same with Trolls. Focus on all the kind and supportive people. They deserve our attention more anyway ;).
So what are your thoughts? Do you agree with my definition of a “blog troll?” Have you had an experience you’d like to share? Any tips for handling these beasties of the web?
I LOVE hearing from you guys!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!