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Lessons from the Aether: Tumblr and the Fan/Character Trap


Tweet of the Day: A World Without Science Fiction

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Social media allows fans to congregate, share their passion and clamor for more of the stuff they like. Tumblr is such a place, but due to the nature of the social media site, most expression from different fandoms are reduce to pithy paragraphs and gifs about their favorite characters, with an (un)healthy dose of shipping said characters. Any author who comes into contact with fans of their work through these and other social media sites could be tempted to give in into their supplications and fill their work with endless characters moments that have nary a thing to do with such minor things as plot or character arcs.

Author, I know you want to expand your success, but for the love of your work, do not fall into this trap.

No.

But why not give the fans what they want? After all they are the ones who buy the books, watch the films, keep the fires lit in those long dark nights between installments, play the endless video games sequels and generally put their hard earned money in your pocket.

There are several reasons why you should not do this:

  1. To write in this fashion is like watching a game through the highlight reel. You may get the best moments of the match, but you see them without context. What made that 3-point basket with zero seconds on the clock so exciting was that the team had been behind through out the games, closing the gap but never catching up until the very last second. The same thing happens when you give into the desire to give a character more funny lines or amp up a given romance between characters.
  2. Which brings me to romantic plot tumors. Fan love their ships, and I don’t mean three point sail boats here, but relationships. They want their favorite characters to smooch their other favorite characters, because it would be totes hot. Fine, but when you go for the highlight reel approach to writing, the romantic subplot takes over, infest the main plot (unless the main plot is romantic or is someone else romance), and sends the story completely of the rails.
  3. And talking of rails, we reach the bottom of the bottomless pit, where you find the millions skeletons of derailed characters. Those interesting characters with their nice character arcs, you know the ones, who then find themselves falling (or being pushed) into said bottomless pit after one too many snarky quips, to many declarations of undying love for their fans chosen beloved (regardless of age, sexual identity or other pesky considerations), and carrying the idiot ball over the proverbial cliff.
  4. Give the character the idiot ball and watch your story follow the same path. In order to satisfy the (perceived) cravings of the fandom, you will end up twisting the plot into knots just so that the characters can have those cutesy, tense or otherwise gif perfect moments worthy of social media.

But here is the kicker, the problem is not with the fans. They are simply doing what they do best, delight in their passion. Your job is to continue to deliver solid stories with relatable characters your fans fell in love with. They will take care of extracting the best moments for their eternal enjoyment.

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