The Power of Fans

Sometimes, it’s amazing what fans are capable of, both bad and good.

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Last month, I read a WSJ article about readers’ reactions to the end of the Southern Vampire series written by Charlaine Harris (upon which True Blood is based). Yes, Sookie Stackhouse’s books are ending. And people are not all that happy about it. Apparently, True Blood/the Southern Vampire books have garnered a cult following that just doesn’t want to let go. Sadly, the series ending was leaked before the book even came out, and angry memes popped up all over the internet (i.e. Boromir’s face with the words “One does not simply f*** with ones readership”), Harris received threatening e-mails, and she decided not to tour to promote her book due to the tidal wave of angry True Blooders.

On a different side of the spectrum, there’s going to be a Veronica Mars movie. You remember Veronica Mars, right? Teenage noir murder mystery, starring Kristen Bell? Yeah, that one.

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On March 13th, the creator/actors of the Veronica Mars tv show launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund making a movie. The campaign broke two Kickstarter records, according to a New York Times article on the project:

It was the fastest campaign to reach its goal ($2 million in under 12 hours), and it had the greatest number of supporters in Kickstarter history (91,585 people donated $5,702,153).

So, fans basically created a movie! That’s amazing. And, yes, I’ll definitely be seeing it.

Both the fans of True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse and the fans of Veronica Mars impress me. Sure, there’s a heavy dose of crazy in there on the fringes, but how cool is it that people love these characters, these stories so much that they are willing to step outside their normal, everyday lives for them?

In my opinion, very cool.

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Talking the Talk: the Social Impact of Storytelling

Last week, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how much of our conversations are becoming dominated by discussions about TV shows. The article talks about this change and debates whether spending twenty minutes at a party arguing over the ethics of various characters in Game of Thrones or the sexual couplings in Girls is a good or bad thing.

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(amusing picture courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)

And it got me thinking about how storytelling has evolved over time. Now, I’m not talking about the journey from cave paintings to webisodes. I was thinking about the changes in what books people read and what shows they watch – and how they bring the media they’ve digested into social settings.

For instance, many Americans (such as myself) no longer have patience for books that have a slow start-up and then ponderously make their way toward the finish. Many books we consider classics cannot be replicated nowadays because no publisher would take them on. Everything I read about writing stresses the fact that editors and agents judge a manuscript by the first fifteen or so pages. Those same sources reiterate time and time again how important it is for authors to start with a strong hook that delves right into things. Readers – the majority, anyway – want to jump right in to the point where things are getting interesting, to have a fast-paced narrative that hooks them and keeps them at the edge of their seat.

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I’m one of them. When I reread The Eye of the World months ago in anticipation of the final book in the Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light, I kept having to restart because it begins so slowly – in my opinion – that other books kept distracting me. I couldn’t help but wonder: if Robert Jordan had tried to get a publishing contract for this book today, would any editors have taken a chance on him? What about Tolkien? What about any of the “greats”?

Meanwhile, television shows are more accessible than ever, with more variety than ever. As it becomes more and more difficult to get movies into Hollywood, television is beginning to provide a viable alternative. TV shows are starting to trust us to follow complex plots, multifaceted characters, and long story arcs. I, personally, love this transition in television. There are some things that are better as a TV series than a movie, and we are able to see a lot more character growth if we have years of weekly segments rather than two and a half hours.

It’s pretty clear that the types of stories we seek and the way we want them told to us has changed as our culture has changed. Over the past few decades, society has become less patient. We want things as soon as we know we want them – which is now. The number of Attention-Deficit Disorder diagnoses are through the roof, too, which means that it takes more and more to grab our focus and keep it there.

So it actually made sense to me that we are not only watching more TV, but also talking about it. Storytelling is social in nature. We want to share our experiences and reactions with others. Because of this, there will always be a hunger for a good story. How it is told – and in what form – may change, but the very human interest in stories isn’t going anywhere.

Now, who wants to debate the merits of Sherlock versus Elementary with me?

A Dose of Reality

Listening to podcasts (i.e. Writing Excuses) and reading author’s websites (i.e. Brandon Sanderson’s page, David Farland’s page) has been really helpful throughout the writing process.  It’s also been moderately depressing.

The truth is, writing is just a part of it.  I’m starting to look at publishers, thinking about online followers, and mulling over ebook possibilities.  There’s a lot to think about besides whether or not my fantasy novel can handle an antagonist with Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

Researching the business side of writing has also given me a better idea of the timeline.  Originally, I joked (okay, somewhat seriously) that I would be accepting a deal with a publisher by Christmas.  Well, that’s probably not going to happen.  A lot of the publishers that I’m planning to submit to take 4-6 months to get back to you once you land on their slush piles.

So, if I finish my rough draft of Augira by September 15th, that means I’ll be waiting (and working, blarg) until February before I start neurotically searching mailboxes both physical and digital for a response.  However, I’m not discouraged.

Sure, the process takes longer than I thought it might, but, hey, what better time to work on the sequel?

P.S.  I am 15% done with Augira‘s rough draft!  WOOHOO!  I’m starting to pick up speed, and I may actually finish before my deadline!