Discussion: Do Episode stories influence young readers?

I’ve always thought that whether we like it or not, everything we do on this platform will send out a message. Some people will ignore it, some won’t even notice, but there might be others who get influenced by it. Since I’ve seen different opinions about this, I decided to turn this into a discussion:

  1. Do you think Episode stories influence young readers?
  2. How would you define the difference between promotion of themes and portrayal of themes?
  3. Is it OK to write anything as long as it’s within the guidelines?
  4. If you are a writer, do you take great consideration into what message your story might be sending?
  5. Can you mention any story that clearly has a great message that might be a positive influence on its readers?
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Yes, but some probably way more than others and of course, depending on the reader it probably changes what they really register and take with them for life

This is something I struggle with defining because it’s very vague. I think generally if you are told to make someone look hot when CCing them though, that’s a good place to start drawing a line at when you’re promoting something (like gang leaders, for example). I think often though, that when an author is trying to teach a lesson about something, it takes the whole story more or less to get there. Which is all well and good if it were a book or movie but in episode, is so common for stories to be abandoned or only updated once in a blue moon that it can seem more like promotion of something simply because it’s not completed. So that’s why I feel the line here gets so commonly blurred.

Well, I mean technically I guess so. But I truly wish some people would ask themselves if just because they can, should they? It’s a moral thing I guess, but I personally do take issues with people in this community who write about things that, despite being “ok” as per the guidelines, are still morally grey.

I really really really started taking this seriously when I was featured last year. Before that, I was a smaller author who didn’t care so much what people were interpreting from my story. I think I still had a few subliminals in there anyway, but after being on a shelf, I was getting a lot of messages and people were sometimes telling me how young they were and that made me realise how much influence I had and what I could put it towards. I actually now double check a lot of scenes to make sure that they’re not sending the wrong idea to readers… Or if they are, that there’s consequences and/or resolutions to follow so that the message to take away is a good one.

I think Amanda Michelle’s stories are good for this. Fixation, Reality, The Jungle and Equality all debunk a lot of themes that other epsiode stories seem to promote often.

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It definitely had a small impact on how I perceived physical beauty when I was in junior high school. Growing up in a for-the-most-part non racially diverse country, women with lighter skin color are perceived as more beautiful and feminine. I think reading interactive stories had been an integral part of my change of perception towards that, and now I’m just feeling sorry for the :poop::poop: who still believe in traditional standards.

I have a pretty extreme example for this: Lolita. While the novel portrays an unconventional and disgusting theme, it doesn’t necessarily promote it. The ending itself, in my opinion, is a message that the kind of “love” the protagonist had for Lolita is absolutely wrong and would never work. Promotion of themes, however— is glorifying the topic being portrayed. For example, making innocent murder seem brilliant, without an element to remind readers that such behavior is immoral.

I think the guideline itself doesn’t have a clear enough description of what can and cannot be be portrayed. So I don’t have a strong opinion on this🤷‍♀️

Absolutely. Reading can change someone, moreover when it’s younger people. Even if a main character in my story chooses to go down the wrong path, I try to make sure the readers understand the indecency of it.

I wouldn’t call it positive or the opposite, but Adventures Away: Argiyon kinda made an impact. When you’re a leader, everything comes down to you, and your crew will follow.

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I think all forms of media are going to influence someone whether it’s in a good or bad way. My main issue with this (not with this thread, Annie!) is that when people often talk about things influencing readers they appear to be talking about the app as a whole such as: “this story is a bad influence for readers.” What readers? Young? Old?
In short, do I think stories on here can be influential? Yes. Do I think every single person is going to be affected so we should treat all stories like they’re someone’s worst nightmare? No, sorry I don’t.

To me promotion is more positive while portrayal can be both positive and negative. I think promotion is the act of trying to push readers towards something. Such as using language to convince them a love interest is attractive or putting certain things as endings. For example: having the ending be married with a baby even though not every person wants or can have that type of life.
I also agree with @amberose on having readers cc the love interests as attractive. To me that’s a pretty clear indicator that we’re supposed to see them as “attractive” and “good/ideal.” I mean, if I was told the other person in a story was a manipulative a-hole I’d make them look like burnt garbage.

Truthfully, even though I believe in the creativity of writers and letting people express themselves: no, I don’t. I think there’s definitely a line (no matter how fine it really often is) that shouldn’t be crossed here. However, my range for what I think teens-adults can handle as a whole is fairly broad. This also reminds me of a contest entry I read an episode of. I don’t mind more “adult” aspects in episode stories (within guidelines of course) but this story was making me uncomfortable so I can only imagine how it might have made other readers feel. In my mind this is an example of a story that really doesn’t belong on the app, because if my dirty mind can’t handle something than bless the more innocent people.

I think if I spend too much time worrying about the messages I’m going to stress myself out and my work is going to suffer. However, I do my best to stay within the guidelines and I have made sure to try and use my two romance stories to show a new way of romance that’s not based on “being dominated by the mentally abusive bad boy.” I also have tons of moments of accidentally realizing I’m creating a “message” so I guess by default I kind of do? I definitely want to show romance in good ways that’s realistic while still interesting because I do get sick of abusive and problematic love interests getting romanticized so much.

I’m not sure if I’m answering this right, but to me Dripping Mascara by @GenevieveM fits this fairly well. Her mc Shelley is anything but the basic “cookie cutter” we often see and the romance that’s portrayed (while not always perfect) is realistic and definitely anything but toxic. I think these two things alone (though the story is so much more than that) are incredibly positive on readers and other writers even, because they show something different from the normal, sometimes problematic storylines on the app.

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1. Do you think Episode stories influence young readers?
Absolutely. While some people think “it’s just entertainment” there is some level of influence, even if the story is in the fantasy genre and has no realistic elements.

2. How would you define the difference between promotion of themes and portrayal of themes?
Portrayal of themes shows things that aren’t necessarily right, but not in a glamorizing way. Promotion of themes highlights themes as “good” or “correct”.
I really liked @Licorice example of Lolita (which has been referenced in two stories I’ve read which portrayed some of the same themes).

3. Is it OK to write anything as long as it’s within the guidelines?
That’s touchy, because the new guidelines really cracked down on things that just shouldn’t be written. However, there are certain things that are often misrepresented and while the topic itself might be okay to write about, the way it is portrayed by certain authors is wrong.

4. If you are a writer, do you take great consideration into what message your story might be sending?
Not a writer, so I can’t comment on this one.

5. Can you mention any story that clearly has a great message that might be a positive influence on its readers?
Speak by @J.Miley It addresses some very heavy themes in a very realistic and accurate way without glamorizing any of it. There’s also an overall positive message in the story that I know has helped me, personally, along with many others. She took her own experiences with trauma and mental health struggles and created a story to show hope, never giving up, and finding happiness in your own way. I felt myself very connected to the MC, and felt that even though she wasn’t writing my story, the story spoke directly TO me. It helps to show readers who feel very alone with our struggles, that we really aren’t alone.

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I believe in the influence of culture and fiction upon everybody to various degrees and that it happens in various ways. Anybody who falls into more vulnerable groups (young, abused, looking for security because you don’t know who you are or what you’ll do to survive in this world, etc.) even more so.

To me, promotion of themes comes down to reader consumption. Good authorial intent isn’t enough if the author failed to adequately work into the narrative why we shouldn’t agree with x story theme. It’s a little like manslaughter, right? You didn’t mean to kill them, but somebody’s still dead.

And yeah, people will disagree on how much is enough to constitute a difference. I think narrative’s important. If you’ve planned it from the start, there’s going to be clues on what theme is the wrong thing to believe in or act upon. It shouldn’t be an eleventh hour deal. At that point, an author’s note isn’t enough. A “hey, I write what I want and people can take it how they want. I’m writing realism and real life and people are flawed :)” sure as hell isn’t enough.

So… how do you clue people in? It’s more art than formula. I think characters - in this case, the ones we’re meant to like or agree with the most - being against x negative themes can help indicate what the author values. Another way to do it is to have the narrative punish the characters who are in support of it. How you need to do it all depends on the story, the themes, and the characters.

I also think people who are attempting to do portrayal of theme rather than promotion should prioritize communication with their audience. Don’t make them guess when it comes to your own mouth.

Anytime you’re putting your work in a public sphere, no, it’s not okay to write just anything and make it available for consumption by other people. Your message matters, your audience matters, your impact matters. You’re responsible for it.

Episode might let you portray something, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job or practicing due diligence.

I do. There are things in my outlines I’ve reconsidered, adapted, or cut out entirely because I didn’t think the audience on Episode would take away from it the things I wanted them to.

There are some stories of great emotional wealth and thought on this app and the names all escape me at the moment, but I always thought Kay Elle as an author handled her stories with a lot of grace, humility, and care for the audience. To me, it’s always okay to make mistakes as long as you work from a place of good intent, can take feedback and make changes without a fierce protectiveness of your own authorship, and try to always indicate your intent to readers/actively work in support of the themes you believe in.

That doesn’t mean you need to be afraid of writing or publishing. Episode is unique in that we can go back and fix our mistakes every step of the way, something impossible for published books that get finalized.

It all comes back to attitude and intent. If you only care about yourself and what you will take away from your own fiction, it’s obvious to anyone looking a little closer. But we can be active in caring for one another and looking out for one another while still writing stories that mean a great personal deal to our inner selves.

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I’m so glad I made this thread, and I hope a lot of people will see these amazing replies. Thank you everyone, you have no idea how happy I am to see opinions like this :pleading_face:

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  • Do you think Episode stories influence young readers? Yes I do and Instagram is full of proof that it does and it’s scary
  • How would you define the difference between promotion of themes and portrayal of themes? Promotion of themes is advertising where it’s gangs drug use showing them in a good light portrayal shows the same things but more realistic and gangs are clear bad guys ect
  • Is it OK to write anything as long as it’s within the guidelines? Yes I do as long as it passes the guidelines it’s none of my business
  • If you are a writer, do you take great consideration into what message your story might be sending? Haven’t published but yes I do that’s why I’m waiting for the adult app (won’t be sex driven but it gives me more freedom and not worry about pushing mature themes).
  • Can you mention any story that clearly has a great message that might be a positive influence on its readers? Not a lot austentatious is the only one that comes to mind with a decent LI who treats the MC with respect.
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Yes, definitely. It’s a game but it still influences young readers. Although all kids aren’t the same, a lot are easily indoctrinated or manipulated by things, for example the film 13 Reasons Why is a horrible show which send bad messages left, right and center. A lot of kids/teenagers were manipulated into thinking that the film was a good one. Not going to go into detail with that one, but overall, Episode stories definitely are influential. Why else would there be trigger warnings if they didn’t impact real life or cause some sort of PTSD?

Promoting a theme is just showcasing it in whatever way you chose to showcase it. Bad or good, you have still shown a theme and promoted its ideas. Portraying a theme is different, as you need to know how to properly portray something so that it doesn’t send the wrong message. It doesn’t just apply to kids, but also adults. Adults can also be manipulated (maybe not as easily) but they are still vulnerable in some ways.

I think it’s fine. If your stories abides by the rules then I see no reason for it to be considered a good story. It just depends on how often you do that. For example, you’re not allowed to type full on swear words, but you can censor them. If an author went along with this guideline but used a curse word every 3 seconds then that brings up the idea if cursing that much is even necessary. Another example is when an author decides to put in descriptions of romantic acts, like “he grabbed my collar” or “he put his hand on my thigh” (I’m cringing so badly). These are within the guidelines but if the author continually uses this cringy way of writing then it conveys an idea if writing like that is completely necessary. Both examples ultimately ruin a story.

I haven’t written many stories, but I know how I should portray certain things without my story being problematic. For example, if for some reason I was writing a mafia story (:roll_eyes:), I wouldn’t make narration like “make the abusive gang leader hot!!!”. I would somehow have bad things happen to the bad character, and not let them get away with everything (that depends on how realistic I want the story to be).

I’m not sure I’ve read any stories that have a positive influence on its readers, however I can recommend a story which portrays its theme incredibly well. I think Her Protector is one of the best stories I have ever read, just because it portrays the thriller/psychotic theme so well. I won’t go into detail in case of spoilers but it is so well written and the atmosphere I got when reading it was so unsettling yet cool. I can’t really describe it, but the plot twists are amazing and at the end both characters get what they deserve.

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1. Do you think Episode stories influence young readers?
I think stories of any kind have the power to influence any age group. That’s the magic of story telling and why it’s been an integral part of our evolution. Long before there was the written word, there were stories told around the campfire to convey important ideas and information. However, influence can be both good and bad. This is where critical thinking comes into play. While it’s true that critical thinking skills generally are more developed in older individuals, I’ve know children who immediately picked up on when people were trying to manipulate them, and I’ve known adults who couldn’t think their way out of paper bag. Like everything else, it applies to some, but not all.

2. How would you define the difference between promotion of themes and portrayal of themes?
Promotion by definition means “activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of a cause, venture, or aim.” So, to me, promotion of themes occurs when someone write about topics in such a way that it encourages others to see the activity as good and worthwhile. There’s only positives and no negatives. Portrayal of themes is more even handed. It gives a realistic and honest representation of an issue and looks at the various pros and cons. To put it simply, promotion encourages, while portrayal informs.

3. Is it OK to write anything as long as it’s within the guidelines?
I see this the same way I see comedy. In my opinion, there’s nothing you can’t joke about, so long as it’s a good joke. Write about whatever you want within the guidelines. But if you’re going to be going deep into the weeds and pushing boundaries, then it better be for a good reason and it better be well written.

4. If you are a writer, do you take great consideration into what message your story might be sending?
I don’t think too much about it, but I think that’s because I don’t write about anything too controversial. Though I certainly make sure no matter what I write I’m not promoting harmful ideals.

5. Can you mention any story that clearly has a great message that might be a positive influence on its readers?
Loving Me by @Jewel_s. It’s a wonderful, well written story about what it means to live with anxiety and the portrayal is spot on. Not only does the author discuss the subject matter in a realistic manner, she also includes various mechanisms you can use to help deal with it. I think anyone who suffers from anxiety would learn a lot of helpful information by reading it.

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Does the stories influence the youth? I personally don’t think so, I started reading stories at like 11 or 12 and I was a huge fan of gang and pregnancy stories but like I knew it was unrealistic for those type of things to happen where I lived and I also know getting knocked up in high school was wrong as well, now I’m 19 and I would still read those stories but for some reason my episode app hasn’t been working since like last year but I don’t think it influences honestly

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As a comedy writer I can assure you that there are quite a lot of things I would rather not joke about. But I agree that you have less to worry about if you write in this genre, because readers will know your content is not meant to be taken seriously

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I didn’t mean to say that I personally would joke or write about anything, I understand my limitations as a writer, and I know there are some things that just aren’t in my wheelhouse. I was using jokes as a simplified example vs. complete stories as a complex example for the purposes of answering the question. Just because I can’t do it doesn’t mean someone more talented couldn’t. Though I don’t doubt that there are probably people who think they are capable who are far from it, which could be problematic.

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Baleigh, as always you just melt my heart! Thank you so much for sharing such earnest and thoughtful reflections of my story! I appreciate it deeply. You really know how to make someone and their work feel special :heart:

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Anytime, Gen! :heart::smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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This means so much to read you feel that way about my stories, thank you :hugs:

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:blush::heart:

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Bump :penguin:

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bump

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Yeah. And I find it quite irresponsible to pretend otherwise. Of course we are all influenced by many forms of media. But I think one of the unique aspects of Episode is the lack of separation between reader and writer. Young people aren’t necessarily regularly interacting with their favorite book authors or TV show writers and directors, but they are regularly interacting with Episode authors. And that makes everything feel a bit more personal and can contribute to the stock readers put into the stories they read and the messages those stories send.

Anyone can say they don’t think Episode stories (or any media) really impacts them or other readers, but it doesn’t make that statement true. If you’re reading a bunch of stories where - for example - the LI is relentlessly aggressive and ignores the MC’s boundaries, you’re seeing that as normal. It becomes difficult to see that behavior in your own life as problematic when it occurs. And I think if young readers are looking up to adult writers, they are trusting that the adults are putting something into the world that mimics reality in some way. It’s not that everyone will think they’re going to fall in love with a Bad Boy Mafia Leader or their school teacher, but that they will have difficulty assessing the problematic dynamics in those themes and tropes that occur in other types of environmental and interpersonal relations. And that’s alarming.

All promotion is a portrayal, but not all portrayal is promotion. That being said, promotion doesn’t have to be strictly intentional. Anything that normalizes toxic behaviors and relationship dynamics at the end of the day promotes those behaviors and dynamics, regardless of the author’s supposed intention. An author may say, “well, it’s just a fantasy. I wouldn’t want someone like that in real life.” But like - if that’s true, why bother putting it out in a way that people should accept as desirable? I do notice sometimes authors will say that their stories are intended to show the dangers of x type of person or relationship, but it feels so hollow. Especially when people are invested in those tropes. If no one gets the point, the point didn’t land. And more likely, it wasn’t really the point in the first place.

You can portray a lot of difficult topics in many ways. But we should all be careful about the “realism” we’re trying to portray. Yes, abuse happens. People struggle with mental health. People are taken advantage of. But if you’re going to write about those things, then all the context clues in the characters’ actions and values should be present if your intent is to examine them critically and offer insight into why they’re problematic. I do think some things are just always unnecessary. A big one is how SA is portrayed. I just don’t think we ever need to see the graphic details. But if you want to write about the reality of recovery, you can focus on how a character processes and moves through trauma by showing how their experiences have shaped their worldview and how - as they work through that trauma - their worldview can change over time. That’s just an example, but it applies to any topic that is potentially triggering and otherwise very sensitive.

No. Lol. Maybe on a technical level, but I really don’t care about the technicalities. Especially since while there are “guidelines” they are not enforced equilaterally. Every time I say something of this nature, it gets a response of “you’re just trying to ban people from blah blah blah.” Look, I’m one person. I can’t ban you from doing anything. I can’t stop you from writing about anything. But you can damn well bet I’m gonna keep criticizing the choice to write about these topics in culturally harmful ways. We’re all products of our environments and experiences. If you recognize that, then you should recognize that having the technical right to do something doesn’t justify doing it.

I haven’t published anything on Episode, but I’ve been writing for the better part of 15 years. And the answer has always been yes. I’ve used writing a lot as a way of processing through my own traumatic experiences, so I would never tell anyone they can’t write about potentially triggering topics under any circumstance. But I have always worked to send a message of support for the most vulnerable and of clear reproach of abusive, offensive, and otherwise harmful cultural dynamics as they show up in media. Not every story needs to have one specific moral that everyone should understand in exactly the same way, but readers should always be able to figure out where an author stands on certain issues. And this is another instance of where “show, not tell” comes in. I don’t care if you’re saying “well, I don’t support x y z” in your author’s notes. I’m always mindful of the impact that what I write may have on other people. It is possible for us all to mess up from time to time - and surely I have - but those are moments for growth. And I think if any author isn’t willing to consider the feelings of their most vulnerable audiences, then it’s worth reflecting on why it’s more important to be “right” than it is to be just.

Well, there are a couple different avenues for this. Part of it depends on how readers connect with characters. I agree that Reality by Amanda Michelle does a tremendous job of breaking down what is scary and problematic about getting wrapped up in a ~bad boy~ romance, and it’s clear all along what the intended message is.

But even if you look at something like One of the Girls by Amberose, the subliminal messages often point towards criticism of harmful dynamics that are nonetheless socially acceptable. It’s done in a humorous way, for sure, but to me it’s always been clear that not only is there a lack of endorsement for those tropes, but a specific disdain for them as well. Even when the characters do something messed up, they do get called out on it and you can see all of them grow throughout the story.

I also really appreciate the messages in When Love Takes You In by MerryMary. It offers a lot of perspective on the kinds of support children need and deserve and looks at the difficulties of feeling powerless to help someone before realizing that there are things you can do. I think if anyone can read this story and say, yeah, that’s the kind of care and concern I need(ed) from my parents, my teachers, my doctors, then they can recognize what they are lacking and what kinds of qualities they want to put into and get out of their various relationships.

A lot of stories that show the messy realities of humanity don’t necessarily (and shouldn’t, really) show characters getting everything right all the time, but they are at least starting from a place of genuine care for other people and admitting to their mistakes and changing their behaviors. Some things are unforgivable and that’s fine as far as not pushing a narrative that people need to forgive and forget everyone who’s caused them harm. But for many of us, having connections with people means there’s always a risk of hurting someone, even accidentally. But we take those moments and change our behavior because we recognize the intent doesn’t negate the impact. A lot of stories display those dynamics without the main plot being to send that message.

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