For some reason this week I’ve been thinking about the difference between good and popular. Lois McMaster Bujold fans will see a parallel between honor and reputation here, and if you need a little boost for your own good/popular contemplations, I highly recommend the cast recording of Wicked – the whole musical plays with the concepts of good and evil, popular and unpopular, and the public and private perceptions.
But anyway, since I haven’t gotten much beyond, “Well, both would be good,” I’m going to turn my attention to something else that caught my eye.
The more popular something gets, the more hate something gets. My daughter was listening to a One Direction song on YouTube and pointed out that even though it had more than a million thumbs up, it also had 234,000 thumbs down. It’s easy to imagine a million fans enthusiastically voting positively, but it’s kind of mind-boggling to think that nearly a quarter of a million people felt strongly enough to thumbs down the video. (Or a smaller quantity decided to vote early and vote often, but still . . . that’s a lot of effort put into an opinion.)
We can see it in our own business – many best sellers draw a lot of flak. They get bad reviews, people rant about them on internet forums, and they are parodied and held up to public ridicule. But still, those DaVinci Codes, those Harry Potters, those Twilights get a lot of love.
And in order to provoke such a bad reaction, there must be *something* in there.
The only moral of the story that I see is that as writers, we should write what we like. We should make it readable to ourselves, and then turn it out into the world as many times as we need to.
Nobody knows what will make it popular, and if it’s good enough for us as writers, that’s a very important kind of good.