Michaeline: Popular

Close your eyes and just go!

Popularity is a tight rope. Don’t look down!

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.

6 thoughts on “Michaeline: Popular

  1. You definitely can’t please all of the people all of the time, and I guess anything that’s strong enough to attract a significant number of likes will also be polarising enough to attract dislikes. I’d be very happy with 234k dislikes if the flip side was a million likes 🙂

    • Heck, I might even be able to hack 234k likes and 1m likes (-: I would have to do a lot of reasoning with myself, but . . . almost a quarter of a million likes? Gosh, that’s a lot of people when taken out of context! It’s still a lot of people when put into context. (I think I might have to hire a bodyguard, though! A million dislikes would be a lot of angry people . . . .)

    • Oh, that’s a good one! I’d much rather bump along on my book, not making waves. But I think as a writer, I am putting myself out there, people are NOT going to like me, and I’ve got to not take it as a personal attack, but rather that other people have different opinions and there’s room in the world for all of them. What matters is if I’m happy with what I’ve done at the end of the day.

      (-: May be slightly idealistic.

  2. Charlaine Harris, who wrote the Sookie Stackhouse telepath/vampire series set in Bon Temps, Louisiana, had lots of fans. She announced that she was ending the series after 13 books; she’d run out of things to say, and she had other ideas she wanted to write. That 13th book was a bit of a wrap-up and the mystery angle wasn’t as strong as the other books because of that, but the reviews on that 13th book were hellacious. I think on Amazon there were more than 1,000 reviews, and 950 of them were one-star. Nobody thought she’d ended it right, and everybody thought they knew the way it should have gone. The reviews have come up a bit since, but people did take that world of Bon Temps seriously.

    Fan reaction is probably a little different when you’re talking about a 13-book series or a single song, but when you create a world that people invest in, look out! And I suppose that even for a single song, if fans think you’ve delivered something that isn’t “you,” they’ll react. And if they don’t like it, they’ll react. And of course, some people will click the down-thumb button without listening to the song. Free country, and all that!

    • I enjoyed the first few Sookies, and then kind of lost track of the series because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I think I was also unhappy with the direction Bill took — IDK, it’s been awhile since I read them.

      (-: And I could be judgey and say, “That’s why authors need to plan for an ending point of some sort when they begin!” But, you know, three or four good books is a better track record than *most* of the authors I read. If limiting the Sookie Stackhouse series to a trilogy had killed her Girls, then it’s better to have three or four than zero. Much better.

      Positive spin day (-:.

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