I seem to be in one of those moods again. You know the ones: where suddenly feel the need to change everything up, try something new (or bring back something old after I’ve freshened it up a bit). I think it’s because I’m on the back end of the Colossally Long and Really This Shouldn’t Have Taken This Damn Long project of releasing the Bridgetown trilogy. I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks quite sunny out there.
Which reminds me — the layout of this blog is rather dark, isn’t it? I mean, I like the look of it myself, but I feel the color scheme is starting to outgrow its usefulness. Book 3 is starting to kick up dust on the horizon on its way towards release (still looks like it’s going to be either very late this year, or possibly early next year, by the way things are going), and it’s got a much brighter outlook.
I’m thinking that in the next few weeks, I may change up the site here, make it a bit more warm and inviting. I’ve got the next few weekends wide open, so maybe some Sunday I’ll pop in and open up the shades!
I read a lot of webcomics first thing in the morning while having my breakfast and booting up the Day Job laptop, and I’ve noticed a very weird trend. In particular, it’s a trend dealing with the balance between the creator’s vision versus reader expectation. I first noticed this during my weekly reading of the Naruto manga series as it was being uploaded to various comic sites, in which a certain subset of fans were getting increasingly upset that the creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was driving the plot where they didn’t want it to go. A few fans ragequitting the series towards the end (which was nearing 700 chapters by that time!) in protest. Others going on lengthy Tumblr diatribes as to why Kishimoto was flat-out WRONG for writing his story the way he did.*
Fast-forward to the other day, when two webcomic artists, Mildred Louis (Agents of the Realm, a wonderful take on the magical girl trope) and Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life, an incredibly inventive supernatural/horror story) both started tweeting about readers who have recently contacted them, either through DM, site comment or email, letting them know how much they like their work…except that if you fixed X, Y and Z, and did A, B and C instead, it would be so much better.**
I could never quite understand why some fans would do that, especially to creators who are releasing their work on their own and not through any publisher or production company. Would you contact your favorite band’s lead singer on Twitter or Facebook to say you loved the new album but Track 6 sucks ass because it’s a bit too long and someone hit a bum note?
Why would you cross the line from appreciative fan to self-appointed Subject Matter Expert on someone else’s creation? Why would you want to? There’s obsession (like my discography completism, for instance) and then there’s obsession (NO NO! You can’t write *my* babies into a corner like that!!), and the second kind is really kind of creepy.
I’ve seen writers get this a lot too. I’ve gotten it a few times. Well-meant criticism, but really…it’s our creation, not yours. We’re trying to tell you a story we think you’d enjoy. You’re like Vern from Stand By Me, continually interrupting Gordie’s story about Lard-Ass Hogan and just pissing everyone else off.
Constructive criticism isn’t always about saying ‘you did X, Y and Z wrong; here’s how to do it better.’ It’s definitely not about saying ‘this wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be written, therefore it’s wrong.’ And despite your apparent knowledge about what makes a good story, you’re forgetting the most important part: you’re speaking from opinion, not experience. Your criticism isn’t helpful; it’s coming across as pedantic and selfish.
If you’re a professional editor at one of the major publishing houses? If you’re a pro artist who’s worked on your craft for years? Sure, that’s different. We all like hearing from the pros on what we can do to make our creation that much better. But if you’re just a Fan With A Very Important Opinion, not so much.
I know, I know…touchy subject. Just something I had to get off my chest.
* – Never mind that Naruto is, obviously, a Japanese story on numerous levels, and so the storytelling, as well as the character development, is going to be quite different from expected American storytelling norms. This seemed to be the one major point that the most vocal of this subset would often forget or ignore in their arguments.
** – I’m well aware that this could be mansplaining. Louis and Lepas didn’t explicitly state that’s what it was, so I’m not going down that route here, but it would not surprise me if that was part of it. And yes, I have seen it thrown at both male and female creators. Still, if it was mansplaining, that’s not cool either. It’s not well-meant criticism. You’re just being a douche.
WHAT IS MY NEXT WRITING PROJECT? I can year y’all asking me that through the intertubes (mainly because you’re about as sick as I am with me blathering on about the damn trilogy). I’ve got it narrowed down to three projects: another novel in the Mendaihu Universe, the time-travel idea I’ve had for some time, or the music-related novel I outlined a short time ago using my daily words. Each of them has merit, and I’m pretty sure the latter two will have a much quicker turnaround than the first one, so it’s still up in the air.
I’ll be making a decision quite soon, so as soon as I’ve made the decision, I’ll let you know. One of them may actually involve some reader participation of some kind, and I’m really looking forward to trying to get that to work. We shall see!
Until then, hope everyone has a gook weekend!