This is a journal entry for my Follower Friday journal set.
While they're definitely popular works of fiction, reader insert stories often have a negative image in many writing communities. If you're reading this, you probably know I'm a reader insert writer as well.
Today, I'm not necessarily defending these types of stories as a form of literature, but instead, I'd just like to hear peoples' opinions on them-- why you like them, why you don't, or what you would change about them-- and share my own. I'd really love to hear some arguments as to why you may dislike them, but I ask you do so in a polite and constructive manner with your fellow commenters!
I'm going to start by outlining a couple common arguments I've heard opposing reader inserts, some of which I agree with, and some not so much.
1) It can be weird that you're being told what to do.
This seems like the make or break factor at times as to whether someone likes reader inserts or not. I think one of the most important things in reader inserts is to remember that despite being a bit of a fictional escape, just like any story, you want to aim for realistic reaction and dialogue. Would characters actually react this way? Would an actual person react this way? An alternative is writing in 3rd person POV, but even sometimes, people don't like reading them-- fair enough.
2) Mary Sues and Plot Clichés
Yes, the reader is often portrayed as a Mary Sue, and yes, it's definitely hard to develop a personality for a character who is different depending on who is reading the story-- what's the perfect balance between too vague and too specific? I do agree that there are waaaay too many stories where the world revolves around one character and everyone in their lives is working to ship them with whoever they're paired with. However, I think there are a lot of Mary Sues and Gary Stus in normal fiction and honestly, even famous works of fiction-- they just happen to be more prevalent in reader inserts as someone's "ideal". I don't think this plagues every single reader insert, but can be painstakingly common.
3) Lack of Creativity
This probably relates to my last point quite a bit, and of course, there are two sides to this as well. People seem to naturally copy what is successful-- what comes to mind is how some DreamWorks movies are eerily similar to Disney predecessors (A Bug's Life then Antz, Finding Nemo then Shark Tale, etc... I think Shrek was a DreamWorks masterpiece even though it's meme'd so much, but with some other movies I can't help but notice similarities). However, people also like to take "reader insert" quite literally, and they actually rewrite a canon scene but just with them in it, like competing in the Triwizard tournament with Harry Potter. That being said, there are some clichés that I absolutely love (and will probably write a journal about soon), and plot copying isn't the worst thing you can do, but c'mon, I'm sure you have a billion more different ideas in there! It does suck reading through the same stories over and over again, but I think once again, it's a matter of how many you have to look through.
4) Reader Inserts are Self-Indulgent
I have two words for you-- you're correct. Everyone has their reasons for writing, but I find a common path for reader insert writers is reading regular fics then wanting to be a character in them. Or at least, I started writing reader inserts because I loved the characters and imagined myself interacting with them, which evolved in trying to make a relatable character that others could use as well. So this may not apply to everyone, but hey, you're literally inserting yourself into the story, so I'm not really against this argument.
Just like other works of fiction can be bad, reader inserts can be some of the cringiest things you read in your lifetime. Each "type" of fiction definitely has its own problems (for example, shipping wars or dislike of shipping in general), and these are some that are definitely common with reader inserts. Believe me, there are a ton of tropes that I've seen in reader inserts that make me roll my eyes so hard, and there are probably many in my own stories that others find overused or poorly done as well.
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think these opinions are quite popular among the reader insert community and many would agree with them. Therefore, I'd really appreciate hearing some that disagree with any or all of these points, and why!
At the end of the day, reader inserts are a guilty pleasure for me, and simply another way to enjoy the fandoms I'm in. I don't think I'm a super skilled writer-- rather, this is just something I do for fun, as I like to imagine myself in the world of whatever fandom I'm writing about. I believe that in general, everyone has a right to enjoy whatever they want so long as it doesn't harm others. Everyone has a right to dislike certain types of stories as well! But I don't think it's right to discourage someone from expressing themselves in a healthy and creative way.
Reader inserts are a fun, daydream-y way to escape life for a while and imagine yourself in your favourite universes. They allow people to express their love for and get involved with particular fandoms.
And everyone deserves to be able to do that, don't they?
Skin by SimplySilent