Forbes on Fiction: Audience and the Author, or Something

Forbes on Fiction: Audience and the Author, or Something


Audience and the Author, or Something

I was watching Vince McMahon in a slight stupor, having probably one too many Coke and Courvoisier (is that how I spell that? I don’t know, don’t give a shit you know the cognac, Jesus, man) and he was talking about paying attention to the consumer, and he knows, because he destroyed all competition so that now every wrestler in America is either an employee of his or just sits around in high school gyms shooting steroids and cursing Vince’s name like peasants in the east used to curse the Golden Horde.

Paying attention to the consumer. I don’t understand this. I spent my formative years as a vicious communist who spat on the name of capitalism until I found out how fun it was to have some money. I missed out on things like customer service, general decency, stuff like that. Paying attention to the consumer, well. I guess I should do that.

But what does that mean? Sometimes I think authors pay too much attention to the consumer. Now that sounds silly. Counter-intuitive. You should pay attention, right? You should think about how your audience, your consumer, thinks about the material and how’d they react. You should think about what they want to read about, right? Give the people what they want, right? That’s an American tradition, like apple pie and road trips.

Whatever, bro. I think naught. Look at the state of movies in America right now. There’s an awful lot of supposed blockbusters and films out there now that do “what the people wanted.”

And what do you get? Same old shit. These creations, involving hundreds of talented people on and off stage, with millions of dollars, churn out some regurgitated mess where every surprise is already known, where every “twist” is lame, where we all know the bad guys are going to lose and the good guys when and blah blah blah I’m already tired writing about this stuff.

So many films (and increasingly, gasp, books) follow the same old tired formulas time and time again. It’s because of this audience worship bullshit that’s out there. I’m sorry, audience. But deal with some change. You’ll like it. Remember, your whole life has been taking chances about stuff that’s weird or new. When you were a kid, you probably were scared of rollercoasters but found them to be awesome to do. Same thing with sex and drugs and armed robbery. Like me.

Authors and screenwriters should remember that all great successes were done even though they were scary to pull off. Think about it. Come on.


The Godfather.
You thought you were going to see a film about Marlon Brando being an Italian gangster with a speech impediment and what do you got? He was shot and out of the movie for like forty minutes, and you’re following around his son played by this nobody Al Pacino, who has to take the reigns. Interesting, yes? Formulaic? Nope.

Breaking Bad. A chemistry teacher becomes an asshole drug lord? And he just becomes more unlikeable as time goes on with little redeeming qualities other than using a robot machine gun to kill Nazis? What? Typical audience stuff for sure.

The Stand. So the end of the world is just the beginning of the story? Credits aren’t rolling, and the anti-Christ doom figure shows up, and the good guys follow around a 108-year-old African American woman from Nebraska who is a prophet of God?

Watership Down. Typical ultra-violent rabbit stuff that we’ve all read a million times.

Sure.

See what I did? Those films, shows and books, all huge successes, never ever played into audience expectations. True originality at work. There was no audience to work with before hand, no consumer base in mind (and good luck explaining the premise before they read/see it- think about explaining Avatar or Terminator 2 by only explaining the plot). The authors and writers of these works decided to basically do what they thought was awesome and go for it. Yes, it could be a major disaster a la Cop Rock with its singing police thing or whatever that tv show was, but it could be a chance to really break out of the pack.

Too many times, authors just want to do a paint by numbers and hope that the audience gets suckered into and digs it.

That works too. Unfortunately. Vince McMahon has millions of dollars doing the same shit over the last fifteen years since the end of the Attitude Era of the WWF (now WWE) and still rakes in cash. Fast and Furious will never die anytime soon. They play up to what the audience wants. Cars, muscles, explosions, quips sequel hooks, more quips. Guns. Every Michael Bay movie made.

Wait, what was my point then? Don’t know anymore. Shit. I guess you should pay attention to the audience and then not, or- maybe it’s because WWE has- I don’t know. Lost track here.

All I know is that if I attach my name to something, it should be original. Nobody is bragging about being a writer on the WWE. Or Fast and the Furious.

Pride means something, I suppose. This is America.

 Connect with Forbes West at the Benbow Inn: Forbeswestbooks.com
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