Friday, August 29, 2008


Last night I spent a little time, while on hold on the phone, looking at Breaking Dawn reviews, commentary, and the author's official responses to a couple of different issues.  That along with my (minimal) experience with detractors has gotten me thinking about fame.

It seems like a lot of fame is no fun.  For whatever reason people feel a need to own something of what you have.  Maybe it's a control dynamic?  I'll try to get a little more specific here to illustrate.

One example is that the readers of a book series felt the book didn't end the way they wanted.  Fine.  That happens a lot in fiction.  Some people like happy endings, some people like tragic or non-standard endings, some require a strong twist or some sort of surprise/revelation.  Often the kinds of endings are incompatible.  My personal fave?  A happy ending with a down note--there's a cost, a heavy price and the hero usually doesn't get to enjoy the full fruits of his or her efforts, or achieve his/her personal goals completely, though overall the world is a better place.  I like happy so I let the hero live in that improved world and reap the benefits thereof.  Other folks like the big, happy ending where it all comes together in celebration, with no big price tag.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one such that I really enjoyed.  But I prefer Chocolat.  The price was the loss of a friend, and more subtly, a small loss of magic and the loss of the ability to help other villages, other people, though overall the immediate world of the village is a better place full of freedom and life.

Bitter readers, instead of accepting that this is the way that the author wrote it and satisfying themselves with analyzing what went wrong and where, are demanding their money back.  Um, sorry?  They bought the whole package when they bought into the series, with no guarantees that it'll come out the way they want.  A good comparison made has been clothes.  It's unethical to wear a dress to the prom and then return it because you're not going to be able to use it anymore.  Or a sweater that you wore once and decided you didn't like the color.  Presumably these readers tried on the fit--read the opening, the jacket cover, read some reviews online, and in the case of this particular book, read all the books prior.  They have no grounds to return a 'faulty' product no more than I have grounds to return a CD after listening to it and deciding all but one song on the CD was crap.  Art, music, clothing design, dance, culinary arts and so forth are not a one size fits all!  There's no fault in different tastes.  You'd better decide within the first bite if the chocolate cake you ordered is going to work for you.  It's not fair to refuse to pay for it after you've eaten most or all of it.

But most of all, the reader can't control the writer.  They can influence and inspire writers, but ultimately it's the writer's choices they're buying, not their own.  The writer makes a gut call about a story and writes it the best they can.  I think writers that don't listen to their audience are being foolish, but we all know that going too far the other direction creates a work by committee, and those rarely come out well.

Another thing people do in a fame situation is to try to disparage or elevate the celebrity disproportionately based on their own agendas.  I see this happen all the time.  A famous lawyer who happens to be a bachelor recently reported on an interview that not only is he criticized irrationally, but he's been attributed with good works that he never did.  Like chickens pecking at a red spot until they create a wound deep enough to kill, some people will take a small issue and turn it into a huge problem in their minds.  We see this with politicians but also with artists, writers and other people of fame.  They'll also take a small positive quality and make it gawd-like--and the celebrity has nowhere to go but down from there (not to mention it's very isolating.)

I've talked before about knowing what you're getting into as a writer.  In the highly unlikely event that you or someone you know becomes famous, don't imagine it's all going to be happy happy joy joy.  Be careful out there.  Your average person isn't mentally and emotionally prepared for fame, and once you're on that big pedestal there are lots of directions and long distances to fall.


The Moody Minstrel said...

Hear hear! You said it!

Another thing I really hate is when someone with far less experience, credibility, and established presence in the field than me thinks he can just jump into the conversation as if we were members of the same peer group and start telling me how to do my work.

But you know, Kami, you really should go with the unconditional happy endings. I mean, that's hot! That's what people really w...what's that, Mr. Better Judgment? Oh. Um...never mind.

Kami said...

LOL. Yeah. Ask my husband sometime about how much I hate being told what I should write! With the artistic stuff, it has to come from the inside. Like poo. Hopefully my poo smells like roses. :)