So, on Thursday I wrote a post on adding nuances to your world in order to increase the level and feeling of reality in your stories. I believe that this is important. Fiction should be rich, detailed, nuanced, and deep, and this is especially true of speculative fiction. However, there is a flip side to that coin: you are not perfect, and you’re world will not be perfectly detailed. Even modern fiction writers and non-fiction writers deal with this. As authors, we get things wrong. Understanding this and being able to deal with it is incredibly important, especially in the modern context. If you look up any popular movie recently (and many popular novels) you can find entire websites dedicated to explaining, in detail, every single flaw in the work. Youtube is currently filled with videos, often a hour or more long, explaining the many problems that ‘destroy’ Star Wars, The Avengers, Captain America, etc as movies, and you don’t have to look too hard to find the same kind of material for historical movies or movies about current events.
Now, what should strike us as odd is that most of these are created by fans of the movies/books in question. For instance, I have a group of friends who get together once every year or two to marathon the Lord of the Rings movies. Of course, they spend at least half the night bitching about everything that was done wrong and how Peter Jackson ‘ruined’ the franchise… which should lead us to ask why they are staying up all night to watch twelve hours of apparently horrible moves for the sixteenth time. Simply put, the modern world is most critical of what it loves the best. If you make a horrible movie that no one wants to watch, such as that terrible dragon/snake war movie that I can’t even remember the title of… it was probably something like ‘Dragon/Snake Wars,’ then chances are that there won’t be any videos on youtube tearing it apart.
So, the first thing you need to consider as an author is that any fan who is telling you everything that you did wrong in you’re novel is 1) way too invested in you’re writing, and 2) actually read your novel and will almost certainly read the next one. We’re specifically critical of the things that we love, but we’re generally critical of the things that we hate. For instance, Daredevil was a stupid movie: bad casting, bad acting, bad writing, bad fight scenes… the cinematography was okay I guess. I feel no need to go into any detail about what I am critical about in this example because I hated the entire movie. I actually avoided Batman vs Superman because they cast Ben Affleck as Batman… which was just a bad idea all around. From everything I’ve heard I didn’t miss anything. Again, notice that there was no specific criticism there?
Now, in the Lord of the Rings Movies it annoys me that the army of the dead are at Pellanor Fields and that there were no scenes with Tom Bombadil or the Barrow Wights in the first movie. In the Hobbit Movies I’m frustrated at the way the relationship between Gandalf and Galadriel is portrayed and the way they handled Radagast the Brown (maybe… at least the poop-face hat thing). Notice how my criticism was very specific here? That’s because I really liked the movies overall and actually have specific criticisms to make after watching them too many times. I don’t think that Peter Jackson ruined the franchise. Actually, I think he did an absolutely fantastic job with all six movies (and yes, I liked most of the stuff that was added into the Hobbit movies… except the elf-dwarf love triangle… that was weird). However, Peter Jackson wasn’t perfect and he didn’t make perfect movies.
When you’re dealing with fans you will have to remember that they are being specifically critical because they liked your work. They are fans, not rabid monsters out to destroy your sanity (though it can certainly feel that way sometimes). When you are being a fan, remember that whatever you’re talking about isn’t perfect because it wasn’t written, filmed, directed, acted, painted, etc by a perfect artist who made a flawless masterpiece. Of course there are plot holes, you signed on for that when you decided to read or watch a work of fiction (or non-fiction… in non-fiction we call them logical fallacies or factual errors). So, consider how you are coming across as a fan. If you are choosing to read a book or watch a movie for the umpteenth time then chances are that you really like it… do you come across that way?