How Useful is ANTS?

You ask me, Overlord and Onyx Equinox score high on each, but they aren’t as popular as I would like.

“Popular” is what I take issue with here, as if popularity is a measure for quality, well, Pokemon has the greatest story of all time.


My stories score pretty well generally, I think, but probably not so great in satisfaction. I’m a big fan of sort of offbeat, anticlimactic, bittersweet endings, where sure, a lot of stuff happened, but somehow none of it was the right stuff and there’s no happily-ever-after. Not even in a satisfying way—I actually really like leaving things messy and unsatisfying. E.g. “Yeah they saved the world but the main couple breaks up at the end” or “Character spent the whole story actively resisting character development and they Did The Thing their conscience was telling them not to do the whole time.”

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If it’s a “surefire way to make a hit”, they never work. You wind up chasing the wind. Or your own tail.

But: if it’s about following a bit closer to mainstream interests? I expect SOME method to help most people…as long as there is a consistent weakness.

I don’t expect most of it to help me, at all, when it’s way too specific.

“Write this type of guy!” Eff that, he’s stupid.

“Don’t be this colorful in your writing!” Eff that, half the dry humor I express is in being plain weird, so if you’re saying that most people won’t get it? I knew that walking in.

“Don’t use words that are outside your natural vocabulary, to keep it mainstream.” But my language comes with wordsmithing, a long history of etymology, and theological debate over multi-use definitions, IPA of phonetic sounds, a heavy hand in science. The years I didn’t write stories, I was crafting very light theological resources for forums to explain why certain definitions couldn’t be excluded in arguments, reading textbooks, explaining current scientific theories and their breaking points to people a step down on “in the know” while those a step up were probably grinding their teeth, mind you.

I mean, I’d be more a modern CS Lewis with F-bombs. I don’t see how that’s going to make me more popular. I think it’s far more likely to make both camps recoil in horror.

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There is a difference between messy and unsatisfying and having no conclusion. I hope you understand the difference.

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Interesting, but I fail to see how it connects with ANTS, unless you’re saying that the overall tone of your work is audience repellent.

I do!! My stories have a clear ending. There’s a point where nothing else needs to be written. It’s just not the ending readers particularly want, and while it’s a conclusion, and everything plays out, it’s not satisfying, exactly, more just sad.

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Sad can be satisfying. You seem to forget that.

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What readers? Do you have hard stats?

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It can be, depending on the reader.

In one of my stories, the main character has had a plan and ambitions since they were little. But right before they’re about to leave and pursue them, their world starts to fall apart, and they’re starting to realize the job they want isn’t all that moral. They also fall in love and, for the first time, have a reason to stay in their hometown.

The characters are engaging and relatable, there’s plenty unique about the world (fantasy-dystopia is still not as common as it should be), and the tensions absolutely run high. But in the end, just as everything’s getting messy and hectic and going to tatters, the main character makes the choice everyone hopes they wouldn’t, and the story ends. It’s a fully-formed story, but the MC dodged their character development and it ends on sort of a cliffhanger, but one that doesn’t need to be resolved. It could be a satisfying ending for some—it is for me, I know—but in general, I don’t think it would be considered satisfying.

I’ve had a few beta readers for this story. The general consensus has been “I hate this ending but goddamnit it feels right.”

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You contradicted yourself. This is your insecurity talking.

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And cliffhanger means sequel, which means more money!

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You don’t think it is “considered satisfying” but your beta readers said that it “feels right”.

Think about that.

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It could be my insecurity, for sure. Endings that aren’t bluntly hero-saves-the-day or everything-ends aren’t that common.

The right thing isn’t always satisfying. Does the ending fit? For sure. Is it honest to the characters and true to the story? Absolutely. But it’s bittersweet and leaves a lot of unfulfilled things behind because the story ends so abruptly, but I also don’t think it could be written any other way.

Anyways. I think the ANTS model is accurate, but it also kind of just seems like common sense. I didn’t learn anything from it. I did like that it wasn’t genre- or age-rating specific, and that it didn’t shove in stupid, writer-preference commentary the way some “get popular!!” Guides do. I also think it’s probably right about why my story isn’t all that popular—the ending isn’t satisfying, and goes out of its way to avoid being satisfying.

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I would not see that as a bad thing.

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Common sense is not so common. I have seen a lot of mediocre animated shows that lack all four elements.

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