Hi, gang, Craig here with something that might be a little controversial. Great way to kick off a new year, right?
In fiction, we are responsible for everything. The environment, the economics, the characters, everything. It’s up to us to create all of it. Sometimes we set the tale in the real world, even if it’s in a fictitious city. Sometimes it’s a completely different planet.
The big point here is it’s your story to write, for good or bad.
Time to get to my point. What do you think of fandoms that insist on outcomes to storylines and other major changes?
We should all be so lucky as to have that kind of fandom, but it can become an issue. There were some who had the conclusion of the Harry Potter series all mapped out then campaigned for what they wanted. Some wanted Harry and Ron to become a couple, others wanted Harry and Hermione. Rowling held fast and wrote the story she wanted, including some of the character deaths. It makes sense that some would not survive what amounted to a small war.
Some of this came to me because an author friend recently had to deal with some of these issues. His was an internal struggle, but it was my catalyst here. Work with me, people.
The same issue is happening to a lesser degree with many popular shows. People get wrapped up in them and start insisting on specific outcomes. Lots of people wanted Carl gone on The Walking Dead, and now he is. Have any of you seen the wish list for Khaleesi’s mate on Game of Thrones? It’s nearly as long as the cast of characters.
I can appreciate fans wanting to be heard. Still, the author behind everything has to make the ultimate decisions, and I believe those decisions should not be based on external input. This is something I’ve read before, and it applies to beta readers and critique partners in addition to fans.
Add a recent beta project I undertook to the chemical cocktail discussed above, and that helps us get this post moving.
Now we have something new on the horizon—non-fans lobbying for changes to forward their own agendas. I’m seeing it everywhere these days. The most recent Fantastic Four movie cast a black actor as Johnny Storm. I read these comics from day one until I was a young man, and returned on occasion even as an adult. The whole concept seems forced for political purposes and does not serve the story at all. Similar things have happened with The Flash, and Iris’ family. This one wasn’t quite as big a deal, because they weren’t headline characters in the first place.
Today, fifty years in the making, Dr. Who is now a female. The Ghostbusters are women. So are the new gang called Ocean’s Eight. Splash is supposed to be getting Channing Tatum as a merman. Marvel and DC are making gender and race changes as they reboot characters for their respective film franchises.
People are cheering for these changes, but who are the cheerleaders? This isn’t the same as a fandom, and it smacks of the political agenda. Are those agents of change actually going to watch the reboots? I suspect these changes were campaigned for by people who are not fans and never will be fans. It feels more like people pushing for changes not to freshen the looks and storylines, but rather to advance a personal agenda.
And what do these changes lead to? The record behind the Fantastic Four movie, or the new Ghostbusters isn’t good. The Lobbyists will move on, but will the actual fans move on too?
Here is the deal. I will read, watch, or listen to an audio broadcast of a compelling character. I really don’t care who, or what, they are. What I don’t like is changing horses for no apparent reason. I’ve recently fallen in love with iZombie. If it premiers next year with a guy in the lead role, I’m done. Not because a guy can’t play a zombie who solves crimes by ingesting brains of the dead and taking on the victims’ traits, but because iZombie is currently a woman and doesn’t need to be revamped to suit the desires of a small percent of the population.
The gender bender in the new Jumanji movie worked out well. It was set up and explained quite well. I’m not a Jack Black fan, but if you need pee pee jokes he’s your man.
When the Lone Ranger becomes a Hindu, or Wonder Woman becomes Wonder Man, count me out. The characters have history, and that cannot be discounted. On the other hand, if you want to write original stories about new characters, I might read them. Just don’t try to pass them off as the originals. I’m totally in with Rey as a Jedi Knight—she is a new character with her own story to tell. She isn’t Luke Skywalker reimagined as a woman.
The rant makes for a post without the rest, but I’m going to come back to our original fiction. Feel free to comment on the rant if you like. But here’s my original point. When we create our characters, they have to stay in character. Your shut-in, career welfare recipient cannot suddenly be James Bond. You can actually get there, but it may take an extra chapter or two to get it into the plot. Up in the rant portion of this post, I felt pulled out of those stories to the point of losing interest. This happens in our books, too, and it must be avoided.
This isn’t the same thing as a character arc. There are stories where a fear of spiders is one thing the character must overcome to complete the story. If that isn’t part of the character arc, then they remain fearful of spiders.
Yes, you can write a Dr. Jekyll and Miss Hyde type story, as long as you make it part of the storyline. Don’t just change things fifteen chapters in without going back and setting it all up.
Use plants and payoffs to get the information to your reader along the way. Maybe Jekyll wonders who left the bag with bright nail polish and some strappy heels in his office. That kind of thing. Then when Miss Hyde makes her debut, she has bright nails and strappy heels.
As authors, we get multiple chances at our stories. We really don’t have to publish them until they’re ready. But shouldn’t we, and not a fandom, decide when they’re ready? Make sure you don’t pull readers out of the story by changing personalities or physical traits of your characters.