Monday, October 11, 2010

Compliments You Hate?

Happy Monday, everyone!

Is there a compliment you hate to get?

Lately, I've been hating it when people tell me that they love my details. I've been getting compliments on my details since I started writing ten years ago. I used to love hearing it. But, it just makes me wonder what people think about my characters, my plots, my other words, everything else.


  1. hahahah! I love compliments...even the repeatative ones.

  2. Umm, you know very well how I feel about this...and yes, I do have problems getting the same compliment over and over and over. Sometimes I feel like that's the only thing I'm good at.

    "Your prose is lovely, but..."


    I do think I'd feel really bad if people stopped complimenting on the details because I'm quite happy with my details. I do get compliments on other things, and I'm sure you do, too, but many times they get drowned by the other more obvious things about our writing. We all have our strong points. I'm really interested to see what others say here.

  3. I can't say that I've ever hated a compliment. As long as there is sincerity there, it's a nice thing.

    But, I do get what you're saying. Maybe you are hoping that you have grown as a writer and wonder if getting the same feedback means that you haven't. I say don't worry. We all have different strengths in our work but that doesn't negate all the other aspects that are lovely.

    does that make any sense?

  4. Okay, I hear you. I won't ever compliment you on your details. :-)

  5. Yes and no.

    I really don't want to ever complain about a compliment. If there's something some one wants to say about my writing and it's nice, I'll accept it and smile and cherish that.

    So, there's no compliment I hate.

    But I do hate that the compliments are so narrowly focused, usually along the longs of, "such great characters," or "so wonderfully dark."

    What about everything else in the story? lol

    But then I say, "Jeez, dude, are you a compliment junkie? Get over it."

    And then I punch myself in the nose for saying that to myself.

  6. Yeah, thinking about it a little more, I don't think there are any compliments I actually hate. Hate is a strong word. I think I get more frustrated than anything else - more with myself than the person giving the compliment.

  7. BTW, Domey, for what its worth in the handful (three?) of your short stories I've read, the details would have been the last thing on my list to compliment.

    So rest easy.

    Um. Just realized how that sounds. Not because I hated the details. hahaha But because there are other things I appreciated more. Your creative use of time and space. Your use not of character externalizations of the external world to express the characters' internal condition. The subtlety you manage to give to symbols that might otherwise be overly bold. And so forth.

    And hopefully Michelle's aware that I like stuff other than her prose and her details, but if she needs reassurance I can give that, too... :)

  8. Okay, here's one: "This would make a great movie!"
    So, what are they saying? The story doesn't stand on its own as a novel?
    Yikes! Maybe I need to write better details...or something...

    ...but honestly, I'm grateful for any compliment...

  9. I'm with everyone else, love those compliments. I suppose the one that sends me into over-analysis of my writing is -- what a great twist.

  10. I love most compliments when it seems person is sincere, like Tess said.

    The ones I hate? The underhanded ones and the forced ones. Here are some examples:

    Compliment: Wow, you playing is so rhythmic, I can see you're also a percussionist.

    Meaning: Wow, you don't take much rubato and your playing is mechanical, which is not surprising since you are, after all, just a percussionist.

    If this person had said it outright, I would probably have been somewhat taken aback , but then we could have discussed my choices in rubato-taking and exchange ideas and learned from each other, no? But a seemingly enthusiastic compliment that didn't sit right just made me feel uncomfortable without knowing why. (It's only much later that I learned what that compliment really meant.)

    Compliment: Wow, Yat Yee, you modified your knife-hand strike perfectly.

    Reality: It is the simplest thing to do. Complimenting me on that is like complimenting me on how well I walk. Now if you could help me improve on something that is difficult, like get enough height to execute that jump-hook kick beautifully, and when I succeed, I am ready to take all the compliment you got.

    (I sound really ungrateful and demanding, don't I? Maybe I need to chill on this.)

  11. @Yat-Yee - I've seen some really dreadful knife-hands...

    But I know what you mean. It's like telling a writer that her grammar and punctuation are spot-on.

    Or a coffee barrista that his drip brew coffee is exceptionally well crafted.

  12. Christine, I just thought it was funny yesterday at my writer's group when everyone was telling me how nice my details were and I was thinking "Isn't there ANYTHING else after all these years??" :P

    Ooh, Michelle, the but is a great one! Yeah, I know I'm guilty of doing that. It's hard to disguise I guess! I like what you say about some elements being more obvious too. I think that's the case.

    Tess, that makes total sense, and you're understanding my frustration exactly. I hope it's true that I've grown in other ways!

    Judith! Ha ha! How about if you compliment me on my details and then give me a bunch of other compliments on everything else??

    Nevets, I've seen the youtube videos of you punching yourself. It's pretty funny.

    Michelle, Yes, it is more on myself too. It makes me question whether or not I have improved in anything else!

    Nevets, Wow, thanks! Part of this is just because I thought my own reaction to the detail compliment was funny yesterday at my writer's group. But, it is nice to have you say these things.

    jbchicoine! That's a GREAT example! That's definitely one that irks me. That's less of a personal matter to me, though, unlike the details compliment. The movie compliment makes me question the whole art form!

    Cathryn, Another great example! I think the great twist compliment sends me back to revisions about 100% of the time I get it. I don't want to become M. Knight Shyamalan.

    Yat-Yee, this is all just in fun. Don't worry about sounding ungrateful. But your examples are great. I am currently reading a book that I don't think very highly of. Then, I go and read all the blurbs in the back and the other authors are all pointing out how wonderful this element that I don't like is. I have interpreted these compliments as insults in disguise.

  13. When I was a teen, every time I'd let someone read a poem of mine, they'd tell me it was cute. Didn't matter what the subject matter, mood, voice; the poem was cute. I got so mad I wrote a poetic rant about how much I hated "cute" and "nice" as descriptors of my work.

    Finally I realized I needed to let people who actually know something about writing read my work, instead of just sharing it with the friends and relatives.

  14. Is it the same people saying this repeatedly, or are different people who read your work for the first time all coming up with the same reaction?

  15. any compliment with the words "delightful" or "charming" in it blows. bad.

  16. A compliment that frustrates me from writing groups is, "Good job! I have no suggestions for changing anything."

  17. I would love to say I have some compliments that I hate, but I haven't even gotten far enough into the game to receive any!

    I do, however, understand what you mean. It would be like every person who came to your house for ten years saying how beautiful your living room is, but never acknowledging anything else.

  18. I love all compliments that are honest and kindly meant, but I hate the ones that are really a backhanded criticism. This seems to be a trend here. I agree with Tess' assessment about why repetitious compliments on your writing can get old.

  19. I would have to agree, as long as a compliment is given sincerely then I'm happy with it (and feel all warm and special). But if I feel that someone is just saying something to say something (especially happens in writing workshops), then I tend to get "frustrated" no matter what the compliment actually was.

  20. Nevets,
    I know plenty of writers whose punctuation and grammar are far from "spot-on." :)

    As for compliments I hate, well, there's one personal one. I have long hair, and it is truly my only nice feature. I don't mind having people tell me they like my hair, but I get really tired of having folks tell me "Mine used to be that long" (because it's almost always wishful thinking on their part) and "You need to donate that to Locks of Love." Now, Locks of Love is a fine charity, but TELLING someone they need to cut off all their hair and donate it is like walking up to someone making a bank deposit and saying, "You need to donate that money to the Red Cross." Rude. None of your business. Get out of my face.
    As for comments on my writing, I hate the general ones like "Oh, it's just really good." Why? What part? Be specific!!!

  21. TraciB, that's an excellent point that the compliments (and our reception of them) depends on the person giving them. I hope no one ever calls my work cute. Well, maybe one of my stories can be cute. I wrote one about a French dog. :P

    Jeannie, I've always had people commenting on my details. I think maybe it's a sign that I should work more to balance the elements of my story.

    Chi, ha ha! I rather like charming. How do you feel about elegant? I think your work is elegant and emotional.

    coffeelvnmom, exactly. It makes me want to paint my living room black and hang spider webs all over it so that people will pay attention to the rest of my house.

    Lois, those backhanded compliments suck, don't they? Luckily, I feel like my experience with them has usually been in the context of a joke. At least I hope they were jokes.

    Jenny, good point. And this came up in a critique group, so it probably was a bit forced. Anyway, I became suspicious.

    Paperback, wow, I can see how the hair donating can be really annoying. It's yours. You should enjoy it! It also seems like a lot of work to have long hair, so you earn the right to keep it!

  22. Awwww... if it's most people's FIRST reaction, then I would take that as evidence that you truly do have a remarkable way with details that jumps out at people right away. It's probably very sincere, since "you have great details" isn't one of the usual polite responses to someone's work when you have nothing else to say. It doesn't mean other elements of your writing aren't good, just that your details tend to stand out right away. It takes longer reading and more thought for someone to be able to comment on broader aspects of writing.

    But... referring to your response to coffeelvnmom... maybe you SHOULD black out those marvelous details in a piece or two and present it to your readers as an experiment, to see what else they have to say! I suppose it would be an interesting exercise.

  23. Compliments that are not really compliments bother me. Sure, on the surface, the person is saying something positive, but translate what they are really saying and it makes sense why it bothers you:

    "That's nice!" *said sincerely* (Translation: "I would say that about anything you did, even if you vomited on my shoes, 'cause I love you and still treat you like a three year old.")

    "How nice." *said indifferently* (Translation: "I don't actually care, stop waving that in my face.")

    "Yeah, cool. That reminds me of a story I wrote..." (Trans. "Enough about you, let's talk about me.")

    "What a great story, and hey, it's fantasy, so it doesn't have to make sense, right?" (Translation: "It's awful, but so is your whole genre, so what more could you want.")

    "I liked how the character pet her dog." (Translation: "I'm desperately wracking my brain for something positive to say about this utter drivel.")

    "This is pretty good. You should do technical writing." (Translation: Get a real job, you bum.")

    And the worst part is that if any of these make you feel bad, you blame yourself for being ungrateful.


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