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Networking with Writers: The Weeb is Always Wrong

AeternisJun 21, 2019, 10:47:27 PM

This is an expansion of a piece I wrote out last year to explain why a writing group I was in seemed so inclusive to some new members but so hostile to others. It is based on my experience there, but what happened so regularly there is sadly general behavior, both online and offline.

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Most aspiring and hobbyist writers have learned by the time you meet them that weebs are extremely non-serious writers who cling desperately to flimsy excuses not to improve. If you bristle at the idea of the use of "weeb" as a slur, congratulations; this post is for you in particular.

If the first thing you share with your writing group for critique is an anime-inspired piece of work, there will be a lot of people - anime fans included - who will avoid you and it. This is not personal, it's more like conditioning. Most already know what to expect – dull prose, low-effort plot tied together with over-the-top action, written by a hopeless slacker who has no motivation to improve. I am somewhat more extreme than others in this: Any time I start writing any selection and find any indicators at all, even protagonists with stereotypically Japanese-sounding names, I stop reading immediately. Too many people have tried to hide their weeb nature in the process of agreeing to get me to critique their writing.

You will not beat the averages, because if you could, you would almost certainly already have seen this trend already in your anime-addicted peers and distanced yourself from it.

Before you dismiss this point by saying that I just don’t understand, you should know that I am a fan of published authors who are open about their appreciation of anime and about how their work is partly influenced by it, most notably Larry Correia. It isn’t precisely the anime that is killing your writing; it’s usually that you don't consume any other form of storytelling content. You, the weeb writer who consumes nothing but manga/anime/light novels, are easily distinguished even in the first sentences of your work from someone like Correia (or his amateur-writer equivalent), a writer who likes anime but also reads real books and works hard on his fiction.

I have yet to read the work of any enterprising writer who is self-professedly “inspired by anime” who can produce character investment with a reader in text-only storytelling. Because the primary means by which cartoons and comics cause readers to identify with the characters is visual rather than textual, aspiring writers don’t usually notice that’s what’s happening – they often get the sense, while watching or reading their over-stylized, poorly drawn cartoons, that the reader automatically relates with the characters in a story. The subtle effects of visual methods of humanizing a character are less quantifiable, and thus easy to overlook. The weeb writer, as if hell-bent on finding any excuse to reduce the effort they put into their creative product, invariably overlooks it.

The result is that most weeb writers produce dull, mechanical prose where characters are never really worth identifying with, filled with wild, over-the-top events which are utterly soulless because they happen to automaton characters who lack any sort of agency in their situation. This tends to be paired with little or no motivation to improve, and an overwhelmingly cynical attitude about readers. 

For a critiquer, having comments which threaten to expose the need for the weeb to improve their craft dismissed along the lines of "the readers won't notice..." or "the readers really only want..." is extremely demoralizing. There are of course legitimate reasons to dismiss criticism, but weebs don't ever seem to know any of them. I've personally had enough incidents that I would now rather stab my eyes out with a pair of splintered chopsticks than critique even a thousand words of this sort of text, written by this sort of writer.

If you think you might fall into this group, there is hope. Sure, it's possible you're sincere about writing an engaging story and are unlucky that someone in the past ruined this for you a long time ago, but that's now your problem.

The recovery process starts when you open a few books which don't have any pictures. Put down the anime and read a proper novel. Don't just read it for fun (though fun should be a feature of the experience); watch how the author connects the reader to the characters and makes them human, without the crutch of images. Learn (by mimicry at least) how to establish drama without characters throwing galaxies at each other in 7000-word-long fight scenes. In other words, make your writing a little bit enjoyable to read before subjecting anyone else to it.

Obviously, that's easier said than done, and writing groups exist for writers to help each other. Just be sure you know how thin the ice is on which you walk, and take each step accordingly. If you go and get yourself pigeonholed as an irredeemable weeb, many of your fellow aspiring writers - anime fans included - will no longer help you with your writing journey.