I’m Kat! Professional Storyteller & Neurodivergent Creative

When someone’s shade 😒🫤 is unintentionally helpful

Published 10 months ago • 3 min read




‘Guys don’t blush that much.’

It’s the comment from a peer on a 2017 Romance anthology that started me on the road of what I do today, Reader.

But why am I talking about it? Because most storytellers hate reviews. They’re considered at best, a necessary evil and at worst, something to send you into a doom spiral. Especially the critical ones.

But are all critical reviews hate mail? Or can they actually be—gasp—helpful?

And how do you separate the helpful from the haters?


In 2017 I was part of a Romance anthology and one of the agreements of participation was that we all partner up and peer critique our partner’s story. I’d never been part of an anthology before, so I was super excited.

Now the partners were assigned at random, so I’d never met this lady nor was I familiar with her work.

The first thing I learned reading her work, BDSM fiction was 100% not the genre for me. I did not enjoy a second of that story. But there was nothing wrong with the actual writing itself. It just wasn’t my cup of coffee. As such, I put a lot of time and care into my peer critique.

She, on the other hand, was a far less skilled reviewer. Let me explain.

This was before I switched to writing Boys Love—as in stories with Male/Male pairings. So my story featured a male lead but with a female love interest.

Now because of what she writes, she was expecting my male lead to be the dominant Alpha Male archetype. I don’t write that. I’ve never written that. And I have no intention to.

That’s not to say there’s a problem with that type of character or the readers who enjoy that fiction. It’s just not what I create.

But instead of realizing that in the first page or so that he was a different sort of character, this storyteller spent the entirety of the story—35,000 words worth!—complaining he blushed too much. Seriously she marked every single time. It was ridiculous.

In her entire critique, she offered nothing helpful or constructive to improve my storytelling or further myself as a writer.

Or did she?

Because here’s the thing, Reader. I was salty about what this storyteller had said about my male lead for nearly 2 years until I thought about it a little more and I realized some things:

  • The majority of Romance readers want a particular kind of male lead, but it’s not what I want to write.
  • Trying to fight a genre trend so massive is like trying to swim against a tsunami.
  • The characters I liked to write were already beloved character archetypes in another genre.

So in the end her seemingly unhelpful criticism of my story was the best thing that ever happened to me as a storyteller.

Now how do you spot the difference between helpful and hateful for yourself when it comes to critiques and reviews?

Well, helpful reviews usually follow the…

“I didn’t like it because…”

“Or the story didn’t work because…”


Basically, they offer evidence as to why they didn’t like your story or how it failed their genre expectations.

Even though that storyteller’s comments seemed unhelpful, what she was really saying was my story failed her genre expectations.

Now haters will just say it sucked, you sucked, or other entirely unhelpful or intentionally hurtful things to push their social or political agenda.

Basically, they’re using their words as a stick to beat you with. And not cleverly either.

The important thing is to ignore the haters. And to see if you can glean any useful insight to improve your writing or the promise you make to readers from those who took the time to actually review your work with a critical eye.

And who knows, Reader, that critical critique might just set you on the road to where you were always meant to be as a storyteller.

Your cohort in storytelling,

Kat Vancil


PS 👉 The story that appeared in this Romance anthology isn’t the one that became Predestined. But I do have plans to turn this one into a Boys Love as well since it’s also out of print.

PSS 👉 I completed my Camp NaNoWriMo challenge at 51,672 words! Did you take up the Camp NaNo challenge this year, Reader? And did you make it to the finish line?

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I’m Kat! Professional Storyteller & Neurodivergent Creative

Here to help you vanquish those story construction obstacles, slay that imposter syndrome clawing at the back of your brain & stomp boredom flat with heart-pounding Boys Love fiction. Join the Saga and choose your inbox obsession, whether it’s helpful advice to get your writing unstuck or an episode of my weekly Boys Love Fantasy series to devour during your coffee break.

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