7 Signs of Trolling

The signs of a devious little troll out to trash your work are all around you.  Sometimes they are so glaringly obvious that it’s hard to not see them.  Other times the slippery little devils will sneak a trolling comment in without you realizing it.  Whatever type of troll or trolling comments you may get, there are a few signs that will clue you in on whether or not you have been trolled.

1.  incoherent babble or text speak – If it took you longer to decipher what the commenter wrote than it did for you to write the work that the comment appears on, chances are it’s a troll. 

2.  attention whores –  These will be comment after comment after comment from someone who will use every troll trick in the book to elicit a response from the writer or even the fans of the author.

3.  “I know you are but what am I?” – Comments like “You suck!”  “That was stupid!”  “Don’t quit your day job.”  “I hope no one is stupid enough to buy your book.”  It’s a subspecies of attention whore trolls who like to tell the author in no certain terms that the work in question was not any good.  Often times retorting with, “Okay, smart guy, since you are such a better writer than me, let’s see you post/print/publish your work for me to trash talk.  See how you like it.”  Usually the troll in question will start craw fishing like crazy in an attempt to not have to explain that they can’t write and were saying those things because they were actually jealous of all the attention your work is getting.

4.  LOOK AT ME!  LOOK AT ME! – Another subspecies of attention whore trolls seem to think that IF THEY WRITE EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS THAT IT MAKES THEM LOOK SMARTER AND THAT IT WILL GET THEIR POINT ACROSS.  THEY ALSO THINK THAT CONSTANT USE OF EXCLAMATION POINTS WILL MAKE THEM SEEM SMARTER AS WELL!!!!!!.  In reality, it really just makes the comments harder to read, usually having the opposite effect that the troll is looking for by causing readers and the writer alike to skip right over the comment (but we’ll keep that our little secret).  Basically it’s the equivalent of a 2-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.

5.  the hypocrite – These are some of my favorite trolls.  I write a lot of erotic fantasy, so the majority of my work gets posted on adult blogs, forums, and websites.  What I find absolutely hilarious is all the ‘morally correct’ people who will go on to these types of sites, break out their bibles and start thumping away in the form of comments meant to belittle the author.  Well I figure since they are already on their high horse, they can take the moral high ground and just not bother to go to sites that contain adult literature.  That way all the little pots won’t have to sit around debating their morality issues with all the little kettles.  Idiots.

6.  the moral high ground(er) – This is a spin-off of the hypocrite troll.  These are people who will sit and tell the writer, in great detail, exactly why their point of view is wrong and why the commenter is right.  These trolls especially like trolling articles, blogs, and other forms of opinionated writing.  They lay in wait for someone to say something that they do not agree with or do not like just to point out how “wrong” and “bad” the author is for having written such opinions.

7.  I would have written it this way – Okay, newsflash.  Writers do not mind people giving them an honest opinion on what they think would have made the story better, or how they felt about certain events taking place in the plotline, etc.  If it is honest criticism, then we don’t mind.  Don’t expect us to actually change what we have written, but we will keep it in mind for future novels.  But as soon as someone states, “I would have written it this way…” then our ears close up.  We do NOT care how YOU would have written it.  If you really think that you could have written it better, then you can feel free to go spend all the time and energy it took to develop the plotline, develop the characters and the world in which they exist, then write the story, hammer out the details, edit, proofread…There is a lot of work that goes into creating stories.  The funny thing is that of all the trolls who I have openly dared to go write that great idea of theirs since they seem to know so much more than me, not a single one has ever risen to the challenge.

These are not, of course, all the possible signs that you have a troll in your midst.  As a matter of fact, there are some people who will openly tell you that trolling is okay.  And if the forum/site in question allows such activity to happen without the offender(s) being banned, then you will most certainly be trolled to death.  There are even those people who will teach others how to troll and which sites do not ban trolling offenders.  Most trolls, however, simply cannot hold their temper after a while and will eventually start talking in circles.  Usually the point they are trying to make has little to do with the question/comment/story at hand.  The troll often runs out of steam after his (very simple and often times idiotic) point has been made.  Continuing to bring the troll back into the argument/discussion usually causes him to get flustered and resort to name-calling, etc. 

Trolls are not normally use to anyone making any type of witty come-backs to their flippant comments and are easy to squash if you keep calm, collected, and make your points very clear and concise.  Remember, however, that the average trolls are not very smart so using a large vocabulary and talking above their heads will often be enough to ge them to start talking nonsense.  Also be prepared for them to insist that they made a valid point and that you are the one not making any sense and/or have failed to hold up your end of the argument.  Don’t worry, most smart bystanders will recognize the troll for what he is and join in on the berrating of the troll.  If, by chance, someone actually agrees with the dumb-ass troll then rest easy knowing that the supporter is probably a sock puppet of the troll you are having the discussion with.  And if it’s not the sock of the troll in question, then it’s just another troll who recognized the mating call of his fellow troll and came to answer the call of the moron.

When it comes to trolling comments on a story, however, it’s safe to say that anyone who is not giving an honest opinion but is writing anything that has the sole purpose of infuriating the writer is trolling the work in question.  This does not mean that the person will always have nothing but rosy things to say about the work.  But here is how to spot the difference.

Troll Comment:  “You suck!  This was terrible!  You call yourself a writer?  Better not quit your day job.  I could write a better story in my sleep.  And what the hell is a wereanimal?!  Where’s you rip that piece of garbage from?  I thought that was a clothing line for children.  Are people seriously stupid enough to actually read this crap? (author’s note:  obviously they were since the troll read it!)  I hope no one is stupid enough to buy your book.  What a ripoff!”

The above comment is nothing more than mindless drivel stated by an attention grabbing reader who has nothing better to do with their time than to troll stories with the expressed intent to annoy the writer because he/she is jealous of the author’s writing ability.  Let’s compare it to a comment that actually has some merit.

Non-trolling Comment:  “Okay, this was really badly written and I’ll tell you why.  There were tons of misspelled words, incomplete sentences galore, and I had a really hard time following the storyline.  The dialogue was cheesy at best, and who came up with the names for these characters?  I think it could really be something great if the grammar and spelling was cleaned up a bit and the storyline more coherent.”

Did you spot the difference?  The second comment is certainly not pretty, but it has merit to it.  The commenter isn’t just saying negative things, but is giving reasons on why he/she thinks the way he/she does.  It may be still be criticism, but it’s constructive rather than deconstructive.

Now that you know more about how your trolls think and act, you will stand a better chance of brushing off the comments that have little merit to them.  Just remember, it’s much better if you will simply “not feed the trolls.”

Trolls can be Fun!

As they old saying goes, ‘you can’t please all the people all the time.’  As a writer, you will quickly learn the brutal truth of this statement.  I have already made the statement that you will come across those readers who will have nothing better to do with their time but sling shit at you to see what sticks.  These people are known affectionately as ‘trolls.’  They come in all shapes and forms.  For the most part, they are quite easy to spot because they will be spewing little more than destructive criticism.  The type of comments that they may leave could be:

                1:  an attempt to point out every minor mistake that your work has in it, even mistakes that do not actually exist, in an attempt to make the writer look like an idiot and themselves seem superior;  these comments could range anywhere from typos to discrepancies in the storyline

                2:  a personal attack on you or your work, usually something along the lines of “Don’t quit your day job because you suck as a writer” or “You should try taking some writing classes to see if they can help you improve because this was really bad.” 

                3:  an attempt to point out how unoriginal your plotline is, poke fun at the names of your characters, give a lot of tips on how ‘they’ would have written it (I have yet to figure out why trolls think writers would give a rat’s ass how they would have written something when 1.  they didn’t write it and 2.  they aren’t writers in the first place)

                4.  any variation of these comments

                5.  comments that are designed to make you out to be a bad person because they do not agree with your point of view/opinion

This is not, of course, all-inclusive.  Trolls can be the occasional asshole who just wants to leave their own two cents worth on a work in an attempt to gain attention by either the other readers or the writer.  Some will even use the writer’s work as a way to make themselves seem like a more morally/politically correct person because they do not agree with the topic/opinion/view-point of the writer and waste no opportunity in playing hypocrite by pointing out all the perceived reasons on why the troll thinks the writer is in the wrong.   They can also be a person who makes it their life’s work to follow a writer around and leave deconstructive comment after comment after comment on a writer’s work.  Again, it’s usually for no other reason than to gain attention and to see just how mad they can make the writer.

Trolls are really the internet’s version of bullies.  And like a bully, the best thing to do is to ignore them.  Some of us like to say, “Don’t feed the trolls.”  They are, after all, merely attention whores.  You take the attention away from them, they will get tired of trying to get your attention and eventually move on to someone else who they can elicit a response from.  And then, of course, there are those of us who like feeding the trolls.  If you are really good at sarcasm, have a knack for twisting someone’s words around and using those words against the original owner, and can really think on your toes, then playing around with the trolls in a ‘word fight’ can be fun.  I have discovered that most of them are not actually that intelligent, and the few that I have come across that actually did have an IQ above that of a kumquat, did not know enough about writing or the specific genre that the story in question was written in to keep up with my witty banter on the subject matter.  Under most circumstances, once you get the upper hand on these trolls, they are quick to scurry back under their bridges.  They prefer picking on those authors who will not fight back or who cannot hold their own in a word war.

And sometimes, if you are really really lucky, you will come across your very own stalker troll.  I had this happen to me once.  This little tale is the reason why I cancelled my Facebook account.  Now let me point out that since this happened, my ‘psycho fan’ (a term of endearment, mind you) has apologized for her actions, but I think my experiences bear repeating if for no other reason than to let other writers know that their own experiences, feelings, and reactions have merit. 

I learned the hard way to keep my personal accounts (like Facebook, Twitter, etc) separate from my accounts used exclusively for networking my writing career.  But back in the ‘good old days’ I would occasionally post the status of my writing career on my personal Facebook page.  My close family and friends already knew that I was a published writer.  When this happened, I had just been befriended by a woman who said she was interested in the fact that my profile stated I was a writer.  Things were great for the first few days.  It quickly became apparent, however, that anyone who did not share her views or opinions became an instant target for her rants.  (I’ll talk more about those types of trolls in a minute)  Since I have been writing for twenty-eight years I have become accustomed to having people rant on and on about how much they disagree with what I have to say, so I paid it little mind.  Then came the day that I posted the synopsis for the novel that I am currently working on.  The next thing I know my Facebook notebook page is filled up with comment after comment from this woman bashing everything about the novel.  That in itself did not really bother me either, since I know that not everyone will like my ideas.  But then she created this lovely little note on her Facebook page basically slinging shit about me personally, making it sound like she knew me personally when she didn’t, and giving bad reviews of my published novels that she had not actually read.  I don’t mind bad reviews, but I draw the line at people making assumptions about me and my work that are unfounded.

To make a long, involved story shorter, I discovered a whole new type of troll that day.  In addition to the ones who just like using your work to gain their own 15 minutes of infamy  and those who like annoying writers to see how upset they can get them, you will have those trolls who will target you for no other reason than the simple fact that they do not agree with your point of view.  Some of these trolls will be content to merely state their opinions and leave it at that.  Others will make it their mission to harass the writer about the same point (or multiple points) over and over again. 

If you stay in the writing game long enough, you will eventually come in contact with a troll.  If you are a really good writer (or a really bad one), you will come across a whole tribe of trolls in your writing career.  The best thing you can do is ignore them.  They tend to be attention whores so when you take the attention away from them (by either not responding to comments that you have no control over or not posting comments that you do have control over) they often slink back under their bridge…or at least go find another writer to harass.  Unfortunately, this will not work with all trolls.  Some trolls are determined to catch the attention of someone, anyone, at any expense, and will not cease their trolling comments regardless of what you say, or don’t say.  With these types, there is no right or wrong way to handle them.  Chances are they are going to harass the writer regardless.

So what should you do when you come across your very first troll?  That is entirely up to the writer and the situation at hand.  But most experienced writers will tell you, “Please don’t feed the trolls.”